You are not perfect and you are enough.
Have you ever sat with a close friend, partner, or child who is struggling with feeling that they are ‘enough’ and you wish they could see themselves the way you see them? You see that their struggles and imperfections make them genuine and authentic people, and their thoughts and ideas make them interesting and worthy.
Sometimes that’s how people see you. They wish that you could see yourself the way they see you. They wish you could see that your imperfections make you genuine, interesting, and worthy of love and friendship.
The problem is that if day-in-day-out you focus on the things that make you feel ‘not enough’ and are very critical of who you are, there’s not a lot of time left to recognize the meaningful and good things about your life and who you are.
So, how to break the cycle and start accepting yourself as you are?
(1) Understand the link between thoughts and feelings. It can be hard to recognize at times, but our thinking impacts the way we feel. If I think: ‘I’m not enough,’ it makes sense I don’t feel enough. If I think: ‘I made mistakes today – I’m such a failure!’, it makes sense I feel angry, upset, and disappointed. However, if I think: ‘I made mistakes today. Everyone makes mistakes. I am trying my best,’ I’m likely to feel calmer with more self-compassion and more self-acceptance. Change your self-talk. Each time you go to criticize yourself this week, try saying to yourself: ‘No one is perfect. I’m doing the best I can with what I have today.’
(2) Acknowledge the things you do well. Focusing on what we can’t do (or haven’t done yet) maintains our feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and ‘not enough’, whereas switching our focus to what we can do helps us to cultivate appreciation and acceptance of who we are. Write down three things that you did well today (no matter how small). Don’t let the good aspects of the day fly past in one thought; try to sit with each point for a couple of minutes to consider what was good about each of those things, why it made the day slightly better, and how the good thing came about.
(3) Switch your mindset from outcome-based achievement to effort-based achievement. Have you ever set a goal for yourself, only to reach it, and then felt it wasn’t that important and you needed to set an even higher goal? These unrelenting high standards keep our brain focused on ‘perfect’, but if you keep raising the bar, you’ll never get there. I’m not saying you shouldn’t aim high, but don’t reward yourself based on outcome. Instead, reward yourself based on the effort you put in that day. By rewarding and encouraging yourself to try hard, you are acknowledging that effort in and of itself is a worthwhile personal quality, and research shows that people who reward their efforts rather than outcomes are more likely to persist at difficult tasks.
(4) Take care of yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a best friend. Encourage yourself to go for light exercise, eat well, stay connected with others, and get enough sleep. If you are critical and demanding of yourself, remember that it is very hard to go about your day when someone is mean to you all the time. Try to build that compassionate self-talk by talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend if they didn’t feel they were ‘enough’.
Accepting ourselves as people who are interesting, enough, and worthy of love is a difficult task, but as with anything it won’t change without effort. As Einstein once said: ‘We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ No matter how doubtful you are that accepting yourself is possible, try an experiment where you wholeheartedly try each suggestion above every day for a week, and give us feedback in the comments’ section on how your experiment went.
Bridget @ Hot Tea, Travel, and Thyme x
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