Being hard on ourselves is something most of us do without even really thinking about it.
For years this was a serious struggle for me. I would not give myself a break. Every morning, looking in the mirror, I would be constantly disappointed and unhappy with what I saw. It wasn’t just my body image—it was the whole package.
I felt like I wasn’t making a difference in the world, and I didn’t feel that I had any value.
Of course, that was very far from the actual truth. In reality, I had a lot of amazing things going for me in my life. And as the mother of six kids, that in itself should have made me realize I was doing good things and making a difference in the lives of others.
But, unfortunately, that’s not the way I saw myself.
I was my own worst critic. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who struggles with that problem.
Many of us are way too hard on ourselves. We set the bar so unreasonably high that we tend to feel permanently inadequate most of the time.
Research has shown that when women go to apply for a job, they feel like they have to meet every skill on the list of requirements before they’ll even consider applying. When the truth is, it’s very rare that you’ll tick every box.
We need to stop seeing ourselves as mortally flawed and instead recognize the good that we offer to the world simply by being who we are—flaws and all.
Here are four reasons we need to stop being so hard on ourselves.
Each and every one of us adds value to the world.
Sometimes this can be really hard to see, but we need to start looking for the value we bring into the world. What you look for, you’re going to find. We need to stop looking for our flaws and focus more on our strengths.
There are things that only you bring into the world that no one else can. For example, no one else has your smile. Share it often and find places where you can use your smile to brighten someone else’s day.
There are choices we make every day that impact the world around us.
When you look at your life from a different perspective, you’ll be amazed at the small things you do that are already making a big difference.
There is no such thing as perfection.
We are all humans having a human experience and no one is perfect—no one. We are all doing our best to move through the world the best way we know how. It’s not going to be a perfect shot for any of us.
And now that things are crazy with a pandemic and the world is becoming increasingly polarized, navigating life is even more difficult.
But part of the difficulty in life is our own expectations—especially those we place on ourselves. We feel like we need to have everything perfect before we can launch our business or live our passion. But the reality is that it will never be the perfect time and you will never have the perfect plan.
We need to have the courage to do the things we are passionate about without the expectation of perfection. That expectation we place on ourselves is debilitating. Obsessing on perfection is what keeps us stuck and unable to move forward.
Progress is always better than perfection. If you can keep progress as your focus, you’ll move forward even when circumstances are less than ideal.
Letting go of perfection is one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself.
Comparing yourself to others will steal your joy.
One of the most significant ways we are hard on ourselves is in the way we compare ourselves to others.
Comparison is not only dangerous but, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It’s almost impossible to be happy when we never feel comfortable in our own skin or never feel like we are enough.
As I said before, we all have value and none of us are perfect—even the person you are comparing yourself to. You are the only you there is, and there are things that only you can do.
There is no need to compare yourself to anyone else. You are exactly who you need to be right where you are.
Celebrate others for the good they are bringing into the world and celebrate yourself for your own contributions. You be you and let others be who they are. That is how we will experience the greatest joy in this life—imperfections and all.
Being hard on yourself doesn’t just affect you.
For me, understanding this has had the greatest impact on how I treat myself.
When my daughter was thirteen years old, I was getting ready for a holiday party. As I put on clothing that was a little too tight because I had gained weight, I felt very uncomfortable and very self-conscious. In that frame of mind, I began muttering under my breath my frustrations about it.
As I was verbally abusing myself about the weight gain my daughter could no longer stay quiet.
“You need to stop being so hard on yourself,” she said, “You’re beautiful! You’re amazing just as you are. How can you expect me to love my own body when you don’t even like yours?”
Her words were a wake-up call to me.
When we are hard on ourselves, whether we are talking bad about ourselves to ourselves or talking bad about ourselves to someone else, other people hear it and it affects their own perceptions.
From that moment on, I vowed I would start seeing myself differently. I realized that when we are hard on ourselves, it doesn’t just affect us, it negatively affects the people around us.
If we want to build our children up, help them to believe in themselves, and encourage them to feel comfortable in their own skin, we have to stop being so hard on ourselves.
It begins with us.
Research from the Dove Self-Esteem Project found that 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough. This includes their looks, their performance in school, and even their relationships with friends and family. By the age of 17, 78% of teenage girls will be unhappy with their bodies.
Interestingly enough, the same project found that just 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful—4%.
How can we change these staggering statistics?
It starts with how we look at ourselves and our own mindset.
Because whatever perceptions we have, those are the perceptions we will ultimately pass down to the next generation of women, whether we are aware of it or not.
We are each remarkable, unique, and UnOrdinary.
We are Extraordinary.
And we are more than enough.