Hey guys! What’s new? How’s your week been?
So, I wanted to talk about how we can be really hard on ourselves, causing the very effects we are working to avoid. We end up experiencing more stress, worry and self-loathing, over failing to meet our goals. But in a world where doing more all the time is the norm, how can we treat ourselves with the upmost kindness and understanding…?
Often the idea of being hard on yourself is something that isn’t taken that seriously. In fact the opposite is true. We are mostly encouraged to be really tough on ourselves ensuring that we strive to be and remain the best. After all, you don’t get anywhere being a slacker!
And I’m no different. After a series of fuck-ups, I made a promise to always be the best that I can be. This mostly referred to academia, and then to the world of work. It became deeply embedded into my psyche, so much so that I thought that until I reached certain goals I was a nobody.
A harsh and problematic way of thinking, I know, but I felt this was the only way to stay on my desired path of greatness. And being hard on myself was simply part of the process, a necessary evil in order to excel.
Besides if I criticised myself first, it would leave little room for others to bring me down (they did it anyway), but you get my drift! So, for any little mistake I made, I mentally flagellated myself for it and ignored any small wins.
And this is something I see among many young people. We begin with good intentions to clamp down on the laziness and procrastination to meet our goals.
But this self-discipline can turn dark, causing much more stress, worry and negative physical reactions.
It wasn’t until I experienced a quarter life crisis (QLC) that I realised my way of thinking was going to hurt me in the long run. The grace that I used to grant myself when I messed up, actually allowed me to get over things faster. Instead I came down hard on my shortcomings, focusing on negative outcomes rather than all the other great ones.
And a study by Women’s Health found that by indulging in so much negative self-talk, it encourages us to think we aren’t good enough and shoot down any praise from others or even ourselves.
Though, this isn’t healthy in the slightest! Psychiatrist Ashwini Nadkarni, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who studied 161 adults between the ages of 17 and 34, measuring their capacity for self-compassion, said : “You might think [being self-critical is] motivating, and in the short term, it can be. But in the long run, the things that you tell yourself—I should be a better mother, I should have a better job—are demoralizing.”
And I completely agree. My QLC made me see how much mental self-harm I was causing, based on a warped idea of what success is meant to look like.
Yet, how do you stop such negative thinking on its tracks? Well, researchers alongside, MD Nadkarni, note that people who are rich in self-compassion typically possess better emotional health. They benefit from higher life satisfaction, and a lower risk of depression and anxiety. They also tend to have a sunnier outlook, and to cope better when crap (inevitably) happens.
Essentially, those that tend to do well, embrace their growing process, understanding that perfection is impossible to achieve, but progression will still happen. I came round to this way of thinking eventually, taking stock of all the things I’d learnt.
It wasn’t easy breaking out of that negative bubble, but once I did, I saw my ability to adapt in the hardest of situations get so much better. In the end I took more leaps of faith on things I wanted to do, without worrying so much over potential mistakes.
So, when the urge to indulge in some self-condemnation over a mistake or failure hits you (and it often will), remember that it will only hinder your journey rather than help it.
Want to know if you’re being hard on yourself? Take this test.