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If You Are Extremely Hard on Yourself, Read This

Being too hard on myself is a recurring issue. I am in an industry that demands perfection, and it’s difficult not to make that my focus. The grief I often give myself stems from feeling like I am not good enough because I have health issues. That compare and contrast game began with feeling the need to be as accomplished as my high-achieving siblings. From the time I was young, I wanted to reach the level they were at; I tried to measure up.

Everyone in my family has a unique career — law professor and associate dean, an engineer who can make a boat from scratch in his garage, a successful salesman. Growing up, I had this doomed feeling hanging over me like the constant threat of a dark rain cloud. It followed me everywhere, reminding me that another storm would come.

I’ve read all kinds of things online telling me not to strive for perfection, yet I’ve been in situations where I have failed to do this or that and was verbally ripped apart. Living with a disability has often left me in a state of “I’ll never measure up,” or with the looming fear that “I’ll mess up again.” With or without a disability though, we’re all human, and nobody is perfect. At times things go awry, and it’s part of life.

It’s important to remember that things don’t always go as planned. We can’t always nail it. However, we can strive to do our best. Being hard on myself has been such a hurdle, and my internal dialogue can rip me apart. Everyone always tells me that I need to be kinder to myself, but it continues to be a struggle. When my inner dialogue starts spiraling like a funneling tornado, I slow down, change focus and do something to quiet my thinking.

I’ve failed to recognize how much I’ve gone through, overcome, and am still battling and working every day with my health. Chronic pain is not easy to live with, and each day I have pain to some degree, sometimes minor, sometimes major. When I am hard on myself, my stress increases and so does my pain. I am always mindful of the thoughts in my head, and it helps to write them out and see the areas in my life that need improving.

Tearing yourself down only hurts you more. I can get so mentally exhausted from the pressure I put on myself to appear together and always with the program. It’s better to be open and honest with the people around you and yourself, but at the same time, give yourself a break. Changing the way you communicate with yourself will make a real difference in your life.

Getty illustration by Ken Hill.