When was the last time you woke up in the morning, greeted yourself in the mirror, and told yourself that you were beautiful, wonderful the way you are, and worthy of love and happiness? Have you done this recently? Have you ever done this?
Among most people I know, myself included, this type of inner narrative rarely takes place. When it does, it’s often the result of years of focused inner work, and kindness directed towards oneself. More typically, most people I know tend to be harder on themselves than others might be, somewhat (if not a lot) perfectionistic, and struggling with an inner dialogue that has come to be known as the “inner critic” or, more simply, those gremlins.
It’s been said that we are our own worst enemies, and though that is so often true for women, men are not immune to the ravages of self-doubt. Too often we hold the perceptions and judgments of others in higher esteem than our own. Sometimes our inner voice is negatively influenced by those others, and sometimes it is our own inner critic that sabotages us. The need to be impeccable in every aspect of our lives isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the Four Agreements is: “Be impeccable with your word,” and what a lovely thing to strive for. Having high ideals is healthy. Berating yourself because you don’t measure up to some imagined or extreme standard of perfection is not.
Having high standards for oneself fosters determination and ambition, a hunger to keep going. It only becomes detrimental when we allow negative thinking to seep into our minds, when we compare ourselves to others and fall short, when we end our day thinking we somehow didn’t measure up.
So how can we begin to silence that critical voice inside? Choosing positive mindsets as part of a healthy lifestyle, such as: “ I did the best I could today and I’ll try again tomorrow,” or “I am working towards what I want and I won’t give up,” is a good place to start. Taking time to review what went well for us on a given day works, too. It’s a rare day when we don’t do something well, no matter how insignificant we may think it is. The point is that setting realistic expectations and being our own best friend strengthens us, empowers us.
The pressures of everyday life are enormous, and women especially face a unique set of challenges. Everywhere we look we see models and women on magazine covers and television, fashion magazines telling us what to wear, lifestyle magazines telling us what we should have achieved by the age of 30. The message is that it’s not enough to simply enjoy our lives and the things we accomplish, large or small. We’re taught to compare ourselves, as if we’re in constant competition with others and with ourselves. This creates a cycle that detracts from our sense of wellbeing, creating an environment where nothing will ever be good enough.
Accepting that we aren’t perfect and that’s okay is key. It’s liberating. None of us are, and that’s the wonderful thing about being human: we get to constantly learn and evolve. Freeing ourselves of the constraints of perfectionism gives us permission to be uniquely ourselves. Instead of criticizing yourself for what you didn’t do today, or that task you didn’t complete just the right way, think about the people who made you smile, think about the kind words you spoke to someone in need, think of the impact you are making in the world by sharing your spirit with others. The more you embrace your inner beauty and authenticity, the more freedom you will have to become your best version of you. There’s no one better to be.