We live in a technology-driven society that never stops. Were constantly bombarded with my life is perfect messages on social media. Its no wonder that so many of us feel like were not measuring up.
But what is it that were not measuring up to? Perhaps we need to take another look at how we measureour worth. Perhaps achievement, traditional markers of success, and being perfect arent the ultimate measures of our worth. Perhaps valuing these things is actually causing us to hate ourselves.
Im sure youre intimately acquainted with self-criticism — one of the hallmarks of perfectionism. Perfectionists never feel good enough. Were never satisfied with our performance or even our effort. We create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and when we inevitably fail to meet them, it serves as evidence that were not as good as everyone else. Perfectionists meet this sense of failure with harsh self-criticism.
You might think being hard on yourself is necessary, as if it will motivate you to do better. But criticism usually leads to shame, not to greater motivation. In other words, criticism makes us feel worse about ourselves and we cant do better when were cutting ourselves down.
Many of us find it easier to love others than to love ourselves. Sometimes we’re truly quite awful to ourselves. We subject ourselves to a harsh inner critic, unhealthy relationships, toxic substances, and self-mutilation because were convinced that were different and inferior, instead of that were flawed, but completely lovable people.
Youre probably hyper-aware of your faults and shortcomings, but quick to dismiss your strengths and positive personality traits. Perfectionism gives you an inaccurate perception of yourself. Youre internally obsessed with your imperfections and failures while trying to present a perfect persona to the rest of the world. This inevitably leads to a negative view of yourself and harsh self-criticism.
- Have realistic expectations. Its not possible to do everything perfectly, so dont set yourself up to feel bad with this unrealistic expectation. Use progress as your measuring stick instead of perfection.
- Acknowledge your strengths. As a perfectionist, youre so hard on yourself that you have trouble noticing your strengths. You dont have to be good at everything, but we all have strengths. You can explore some of yours here.
- Accept your weaknesses or imperfections. Just as we all have strengths, we also all have weaknesses. Some we simply try to accept because we cant change them and some we work on improving, but we dont have to be ashamed of our weaknesses or ruminate about them because its normal to have imperfections.
- Self-worth isnt based on success. When you explore your values and think about what matters most, you recognize that people dont have to be perfect, or winners, or successful in order to be loving, generous, creative, or hard-working. Successful people arent the only ones who are worthy; realizethat it isnt your accomplishments that matter most.
- Turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, try seeing them as opportunities to learn, grow, and do better. Instead of beating yourself up emotionally, ask yourself what youve learned.
- Dont count on others to make you feel worthy. Self-worth should be an inside job. Youre giving away your power if you let other people determine your worth. Value your own opinion.
- Keep negative people at a distance. This is challenging for sure (you can read more here). But if others refuse to treat you with respect, you can choose to separate yourself. Its hard to leave unhealthy relationships when you feel like a failure and think you deserve lousy treatment from others. This is why you have to work on both the inner and outer critics at the same time.
- Practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. We all screw up. Most of us just dont talk about our biggest failures and our insecurities, so its easy to think that everyone else has it together and youre the only one struggling. Self-compassion is the opposite of self-criticism. Its a way to give yourself grace for being a flawed individual whos trying the best s/he can.
- Challenge your negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is automatic and well ingrained. Before you just assume its accurate, check-out the negative things youre saying to yourself. Are they true? Whats the evidence? Do you really believe them or are they things other people told you are true? You can create new beliefs about yourself based on your own experiences and your own values.
We all deserve kindness from others and from ourselves. You can decrease self-criticism by gaining a more accurate picture of yourself seeing your strengths; acknowledging your mistakes and seeing them as learning opportunities instead of dwelling on them; setting realistic expectations; remembering self-worth isnt based only on performance; and offering yourself compassion and forgiveness. Being kinder to yourself is likely to help your productivity and goal achievement, improve your emotional health, and strengthen your relationships.
2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Bay on Unsplash.