Recently, I started to get really down on myself. If I’m honest, it had been building for a while. My instinct when negative emotions arise is to stuff them deep, deep down where no one will ever find them, then pretend everything’s fine for as long as I can.
When I quit my job last year to pursue writing and blogging full time, I knew I was in for a rollercoaster ride, and I wasn’t wrong. Some days are great. My inner voice is all “You can do this! You’re going to be so successful and everyone’s going to be so proud of you!!” Then there are days where all my efforts seem to grind to a halt, and my inner voice is all “You don’t know what you’re doing. Everyone else is so much better at this. Why are you even trying? You’re going to fail, and everyone’s going to judge you.”
My inner voice can be a real peach sometimes.
It didn’t help that, on top of trying to navigate my new career, I decided I needed to become Wonder Woman in all areas of my life in some desperate bid to control something. I quit smoking. I decluttered my house. I started a new weight loss program. I was writing a novel for a while. My sister was expecting her first baby, so I wanted to be THE BEST sister in the world to her. My mom was recovering from neck surgery, then a few months later she quit her job, so I wanted to be THE MOST supportive daughter.
I had a lot going on. My to-do lists had to-do lists.
When it all comes crashing down
Little by little, though, I realized my life was not falling into place the way I wanted it to. My business was progressing, but not as quickly as I wanted. Spending all my time trying to build my income started eating into my ability to thrive in other areas of my life. I couldn’t always keep the house clean or the yard work caught up. I wasn’t hitting all of my weight loss and fitness goals (in fact, I was actually gaining weight). I started to feel like I wasn’t there for my family and friends as much as I wanted to be.
In short, I felt like I was FAILING. As a self-professed perfectionist, I’m not okay with failure. I find it devastating, in fact.
The sad thing is, this wasn’t the first time I’d felt this way. Placing impossible standards on myself, then getting upset when I can’t meet them, is pretty much my thing. The difference this time, though, was that I’d learned to recognize what I was doing.
I wasn’t actually failing. Far from it; from a rational viewpoint, I was doing just fine. The only reason I felt like a failure was because I was judging myself way too harshly.
I was being impossibly hard on myself for no reason.
We are our biggest critics, aren’t we? We judge ourselves constantly, and we always come up short in our own minds. This harsh self-criticism often leads to anxiety, despair, and feelings of inadequacy and failure.
If we can learn to go easy on ourselves, though, we can strengthen our self-esteem and reduce our anxiety. We can begin allowing ourselves to learn and grow from our mistakes, rather than judge ourselves for making them. We can let go of the impossible standards and start making room in our lives for what matters.
So, what does it look like to go easy on yourself? How do you begin letting yourself off the hook?
I’ve come up with three simple things you can begin doing today to start yourself on the path toward self-acceptance and kindness. These steps are meant to be a process. As in all things, you’ll want to strive for progress, not perfection.
1. Be your own best friend
The next time you catch yourself in the middle of a harsh criticism of yourself, stop and picture your best friend, sister, co-worker or mom. Choose anyone you really care about and want the absolute best for. Would you ever speak to her the way that you’re speaking to yourself right now? If you caught her talking about herself that way, what would you say to her? Go easy on yourself. Transfer the kindness that you show others to yourself and stop the negative self-talk in its tracks.
2. Stop worrying about other people
Focusing too much on other people can screw with our heads and make us feel like what we have isn’t enough. Maybe you’re not as well-off as Polly Perfect down the street: your house isn’t as big as hers, your car isn’t as new as hers,or you don’t have the money to go on fancy vacations like she does.
Her success doesn’t lessen yours though, does it? You’ve got great things going for you too. You’re just focusing too much on what she has and not enough on what you have.
Worry less about the things others have or have accomplished in comparison to your own life. Worry less about what other people think of you. Run your own race, and worry less about what everyone else is doing. Their path is not your path. This isn’t their life; this is your life.
3. Re-examine your priorities
Wanna know something that I’ve learned the hard way? You feel like you’re failing on all fronts because you’re trying to DO TOO MUCH. You have to let some things go. Identify your priorities. Work on those priorities every day. Anything that falls outside the bounds of those priorities? Drop it like third period French class.
Once you’ve let go of the insignificant stuff, take time to celebrate your victories. Even if you haven’t accomplished everything you’d like to, you’ve accomplished plenty. Take time to acknowledge that every day. Before bed, try writing down three things you achieved that day, or three things that went well or that you’re grateful for. Also, try writing down how accomplishing those things made you feel. You might be surprised to discover that what you think is important to you actually isn’t.
You don’t have to live with the impossible standards you’ve placed on yourself. We all have so many irons in the fire at any given time, and if we aren’t absolutely killing it, we tell ourselves that we’re failing or that we can’t do anything right.
But, friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You have accomplished so much, and if you would only go easy on yourself, you would see what I see:
You are amazing and you ARE killing it.
Negative self-talk and feelings of inadequacy can really throw you off your game. This idea of learning to go easy on ourselves is so important to me that I created an entire e-mail course to help you strengthen this skill!
You can sign up here, and I’ll send you a new strategy to start letting yourself off the hook each day for 5 days. These strategies are designed to be completed in just a few minutes a day.
Learn to go easy on yourself and let go of the feelings of inadequacy and failure that are holding you back from living a life of freedom, gratitude, and grace.
Will you join me in the Letting Yourself Off the Hook E-course?