“Perfectionism is procrastination in a great outfit.”
Being too hard on yourself is like turning two bowling balls into a pair of shoes and wearing them around; totally unnecessary, guaranteed to slow you down, and you’re going to fall and hurt yourself. You might think it’ll give you a great booty, but there’s way more safe and effective exercises than bowling ball shoes.
Many of us know that the human brain is wired towards negativity. This is called a negativity bias, and we evolved this way to keep us safe from being trampled by woolly mammoths.
We also know, however, about the concept of neuroplasticity, which means we can rewire our own brains. This means if you struggle with self criticism, self doubt, negative thought loops, etc. you can make new pathways.
I had the pleasure of opening up an old diary box the other night, and was shocked to read some entries from over ten years ago. I couldn’t believe the things I said about myself, and how harshly I judged myself! In retrospect, I see the correlation between self criticism and paralysis- the more critical I was of myself, the more I held back in my life, relationships, creativity, etc.
I was judging my body for not looking photoshopped, for jiggling, and having body hair (like a gasp- human being!) I was judging myself for judging others, for not having a booming freelance career as a twenty year old, for resting, for where I grew up, for what I was wearing. I felt like there was something wrong with me for having student debt, for being single. I even felt ashamed for wearing boots with a slight heel because who did I think I was? What the actual fuck? Ah, the insecure, still-developing brain of a twenty year old healing from trauma.
In the same entry, I was still aware of the dysfunction, aware that it wasn’t healthy to be so hard on myself, and aware that I wanted to change, and that I didn’t like how it felt to be in that mental space. A decade later, so much has changed. When you let go of those impossible standards and relentless self criticism, it really does feel like taking off a pair of lead shoes.
Back then, when I was stuck in my self criticizing ways, I would have deemed myself selfish and greedy for wanting to make money. I would have felt shallow for dressing up in a way that makes me feel good and expressive. I would have thought it was self absorbed to want to put my art and writing out into the world.
When I was stuck in self- criticism, I was constantly making myself smaller so as not to be noticed. I was afraid to shake things up, to draw any attention to myself. I was pushing away people who were kind, open and loving to me, and allowing people who disrespected me to get close to me, because I didn’t respect myself.
I wasn’t creating much because I felt paralyzed in my own fear of being not good enough, so why even bother? I was so scared to create, because that meant baring my soul, and I didn’t think I could handle the rejection because I was rejecting myself, so if others rejected me too, I’d have nothing left.
When you love and accept yourself, rejection from others still stings, but you know you still have your own back, which softens the blow immensely. I know because I’ve been on both sides. When you are rejecting yourself, rejection leaves you in isolation if you don’t have your own back.
Have your own back.
We mistakenly think if we can’t do something perfectly, or excellently, that there is no purpose in doing it at all. The purpose is in the doing. Creating is life. Even if it doesn’t make you rich and famous and come out perfectly, the value is in the doing, and in the becoming. You’re never going to be brilliant at anything if you’re not willing to suck a bit first.
Don’t be fooled by the Instagram effect- you don’t see the cluttered closets, dead plants, rejected drafts, screaming fights, cellulite, and hormonal acne on the ‘gram. We’ve all got it, don’t be fooled into thinking you are somehow more flawed than anyone else. You’re not. It’s all balanced in the end, and flaws are just a part of life- we’ve all got ’em, and the sooner you accept them, the sooner you can get moving with the important stuff.
You are enough. You are so enough, you are fabulous, gorgeous, magical, and worthy of being seen, being loved, and living out your most authentic experience here on this Earth. Put reminders around your house, write it in lipstick on your mirror, get it tattooed on your arm, or set reminders on your phone. Eventually it will set in. Myself and so many others are living proof.
Lift yourself up the way you would someone else. Choose to see the positive in yourself and others. This doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement, but it does mean you need to value what is. It does mean you need to give yourself pats on the back, and forgive yourself when you’re sloppy, or if you flop altogether.
We all go through seasons in life. Sometimes you will go through a string of failed relationships that make you wonder if something is wrong with you. Maybe you will be unemployed for a period, or broke as shit even though you are working hard every day. Maybe you will be chasing your dreams and facing crickets and rejection. Life always moves in seasons, we all experience these humbling phases, and they are opportunities to grow, not stew in your perceived inadequacy.
Everyone goes through challenging phases. Rarely do people post about them on social media. Be gentle with yourself. Have compassion for yourself.
How to Stop Being so Hard On Yourself
See and Talk to Yourself Like a Child
Remember yourself as a kid, and see that little kid, innocent and not knowing any better, learning about the world through fresh eyes. Would you tell that kid they were fat and stupid? I hope not.
Talk to yourself like a best friend
If your best friend came to you bummed out about not being able to find a job, would you tell her it’s because she ain’t shit and with her experience, you wouldn’t hire her either, ’cause she’s a big fat phony! No, you would probably encourage her to keep trying, remind her of her badassery and gifts, and help her trust that the right fit was on it’s way.
Remind yourself you are awesome regularly
There is literally no point in going through life thinking otherwise. Of course, humility is a beautiful and necessary thing. This isn’t about wearing a cloak of fake arrogance and walking around like you are better than everyone. This is about realizing your inherent worthiness, unique gifts, talents, and beauty, and NOT HIDING IT. This is about loving yourself and living in a way that feels free, easy, good, and explosively you.
Some ways you can remind yourself you are awesome are: make some art that reminds you. My journey to self love and healing from my eating disorder started with making a little piece of art that said “you are beautiful in every way” and taping it to my mirror, so that I would see it every time I wanted to pick apart my body and it’s “flaws.”
I currently have a card on my mirror from a bestie that says “You are the cats meow” as well as a painting I see first thing in the morning that says “You are divine.” You’re damn right!
You can get a tattoo of a heart or another symbol that reminds you about the importance of self love.
Set an alarm on your phone. It can say “You are divine” or “Hey, beautiful” or “I see you.”
Buy a piece of jewelry you wear that reminds you to love yourself, and to go easy on yourself.
What to do when negative and critical thoughts pop up? SOMETHING ELSE!
This has been a game changer for me. When we get stuck in critical thought loops, it’s rare that we are able to think our way out of them. Of course, changing the thought does get easier with time, but it requires mental discipline that might not be there at the beginning of your journey, and it’s something that is not always readily accessible.
The best tool I’ve found is to move my body instead: putting on music and dancing around my house, going for a walk, doing yoga, doing the dishes (takes my mind off and makes me feel better after) take a drive, go to your favorite art gallery or somewhere else that lights you up when you visit.
It is best to deconstruct these negative thoughts later, when you are feeling better. One tool you can use is to list the limiting/ criticizing thought and then look for and list all the reasons it is not true. We look for evidence for everything we tell ourselves, so start finding the evidence of the good shit. It’s there if you look, I promise.
Set goals for yourself, and break them down into actionable steps. Set deadlines, but be flexible. Whether you want to be able to do ten push ups, grow your own veggies, read a book a week, or build your own seven figure company, you can.
Make a List of all the things you’ve overcome and done that make you a total badass
This one is actually really fun. When you list them you’ll realize you’ve been on some fun adventures and realize how much more you are capable of.
Learn to Self Soothe
Self soothing is a cognitive behavioral therapy technique whereby you consciously learn to soothe or calm yourself during times of distress. This technique works well with visualizing your child self. How might you soothe a child over a similar distressing situation?
This one seems super woo-woo and crazy, but it is something actionable you can try to literally tap the bullshit out of your body. It’s a method of gently tapping energetically sensitive areas on the body (much like how acupuncture works) while telling yourself new stories and forgiving yourself for not being perfect.
Getting in the habit of starting your day right will change your life. If you can devote at least 15 minutes in the morning to doing something to care for yourself, you build momentum in the right direction. You can meditate, journal, exercise, orgasm, put on music and dance while you get ready, make a gratitude list, read.
Scrolling in bed on your phone until the last possible minute before you are late is not ideal. It happens, though, so go easy on yourself, but it’s up to you to fine tune what makes you feel good in the morning and to keep that rolling throughout your day.
Let Yourself Off the Freaking Hook
Get in the habit of forgiving yourself, because no matter how spiritual or full of self love you are, you will continue to mess up and make mistakes and have bad days and lazy days for the rest of your life. Life is not linear, it’s cyclical, and our “best” is going to vary greatly during the seasons of our lives. Get in the practice of forgiving yourself quickly and often. Ruminating on mistakes and shoulds and slip ups slows you down. Remember those lame bowling ball shoes we conjured up? Take them off and be free!
Remember There is Nothing to Prove
You are an inherently worthy, magical, beautiful soul and being. You don’t have to prove your worth. You don’t have to look like an Instagram model, always do the dishes immediately, go to Yoga, make green juice, and accomplish a mile long to-do list every day. Don’t let social media fool you into thinking everyone is doing this, or worse, that those who are are better off.
You are beautiful exactly as you are, in every single way, and you are always exactly where you need to be. Trust the seasons of your life, and learn to trust yourself. Free yourself from your own impossible expectations and live your life.