We have over 50,000 thoughts a day and for many of us it can feel like we are listening to a broken record of painful messages. How often do you criticize or judge your self, tell your self that you have to be hard on your self or you won’t succeed? Are you afraid to let your self off the hook, even just a little, for fear that if you do then you will become lazy or give up and you won’t do well, get in shape, succeed at work, impress someone, be likeable or valuable, etc.? Do you feel guilty about wanting to take a break or slow down? Are you uncomfortable having compassion for your self or taking in compliments?
If so, then you are not alone.
These self-critical strategies may have seemed effective at one time, however, they can create a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, sapping your energy and joy from life.
You might say to your self “It has to be perfect!” or “I can’t make any mistakes” or “If I rest and take care of myself then I am lazy and worthless!” It’s as if we walk around with an enormous gavel over our heads hanging by a thread, just waiting to slam down upon us. Yet, we are the ones holding the scissors, cutting the thread, and inviting the crushing blow of self-judgment. We would rather endure exhausting days filled with doing too many things rather than slow down and listen to our bodies and our gut when they say, “that’s enough.”
We become attached to this harsh way of thinking about our selves and erroneously attribute it to our success. Therefore, we feel afraid to stop and try something else, like compassion, acceptance, or saying “no.” It takes strength, courage and vulnerability to be willing to try a different approach to life.
It is not only possible to enjoy success while also being kinder, more compassionate and patient with your self, it is also a key factor in really thriving.
When you are being harsh and self-critical and it is causing stress you can ask your self if you would talk to or treat your best friend, partner, or child that way. If the answer is “No!” then it is a good reminder that you are likely being far too hard on your self. You can build awareness of your ongoing negative cycle of thoughts and cultivate a different way to respond to stress and challenges and meet your goals.
How different could we feel if we loosen our grip on extreme and perfectionistic thinking and instead strengthen our impulse to be curious, compassionate and more objective? I have witnessed so many people who bravely let themselves off the hook and enjoy the freedom, energy and happiness that comes along with it. I am confident that you can do it too.
Dr. Baker has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She moved over 20 times by the time she was 13. She studied and adapted to her environments and wore many masks to fit in until she learned how to thrive by owning who she was and showing her real self to the world. She hopes to inspire and inform others as they own and embrace who they are. Go friend your self!