I guarantee you can think of at least one experience where you felt like you weren’t good enough or a time you wished you could have done better. We’ve all been there.
I’ll be real with you. This used to be a daily occurrence for me, and I thought I was the only one who had this voice inside my head, constantly telling me I wasn’t good enough. I used to spend so much time agonizing over every mistake I made on an exam, every awkward thing I had said that day, and everything I should have said or done instead. Over time, as I continued to grow, I began to open myself up more to the people around me, which helped me to realize how many people are also struggling with their own harsh inner critic.
So what is good enough? Why do we constantly feel like we don’t measure up? And how can we validate ourselves in a way that helps us accept our shortcomings, while still acknowledging that there is room for growth?
I’m here to tell you that you are good enough and that even if there is room for improvement, you are deserving of self-compassion.
Where Self-Criticism Comes From
Self-criticism can have roots in many sources. We can break this down a little and look at social pressures affecting people at a societal level and other causes that are affecting individuals.
For example, let’s look at social pressures caused by hustle culture. Hustle culture is the idea that prioritizing productivity above all else (including self-care) is the key to success. I think we can all acknowledge that hustle culture tends to reinforce the idea that we have to constantly be productive to achieve big goals and ambitions. The biggest lie that it teaches us is that we must sacrifice our mental and physical wellbeing to “earn” our place in the world. To be perceived as successful and valuable human beings.
On top of all these pressures at a societal level, many people have also been raised in families with overly high expectations or are surrounded by people who are critical of their choices, actions and accomplishments. It can be such a challenge to feel proud of our achievements and confident in ourselves when people are constantly searching for and pointing out every mistake and imperfection. All of this can become internalized and can contribute to perfectionism and the development of a harsh inner critic.
Another cause can be seeking out external validation and comparing ourselves to others to measure our sense of self-worth. Think about social media for example. On social media, we tend to see highlight reels of people who are constantly achieving big things, leading exciting lives, and appearing flawless and happy in every moment. When we compare ourselves to other people, we may begin to feel insecure because we may perceive them as having something that is missing from our own lives.
The Impact of Self-Criticism
So what is the impact of all this in a society that pressures us to be perfect? We all have significant pressure on us coming from all different directions, which can result in us comparing ourselves to others or being compared to other people by those around us. Often we can end up struggling with perfectionism and feeling like we don’t measure up, leading to low self-confidence and self-esteem. It is clear that holding ourselves to impossibly high standards can have a negative impact on our wellbeing.
How to Let Go of Your Inner Critic
If we are going to let go of the negative inner voice telling us we aren’t enough, where do we start? There is definitely a long road ahead with ups and downs and setbacks along the way. As a student (whose opinion is not a professional opinion or substitute for one), I’m going to offer you a few pieces of advice that work for me.
- Learn to treat yourself with compassion. Imagine you just completed an enormous task and you feel disappointed in yourself for how it turned out. All you can think about is where you went wrong and how you could have done better if you had just done things differently. Acknowledge that it is okay to make mistakes. Embracing and learning from imperfections is part of the growth process. Remind yourself that you may have been able to do better, but in the moment, you did the best you could.
- Stop demanding perfection from yourself, especially if perfection is not a standard that you hold for others. You deserve to treat yourself with the same patience and kindness you show to the people around you. It takes time and space to grow as a person and reach the goals you aim to achieve. Understand that you are on your own unique path and that you will get where you want to be on your own timeline, with dedication and perseverance.
- Understand that no one ever really lives a perfect life. While some people have more to deal with than others, you can never tell what anyone is going through when you only see the best that they choose to present to the world. Stop comparing yourself to people whose circumstances are different from your own. You have your own set of experiences, you have your own gifts and talents, and you have your own way of interacting with the world. All of this is okay.
- Focus on Self-Growth. Instead of punishing yourself for your mistakes, look at how they have helped you learn and grow into an even better version of yourself. It is worth the risk to have a chance to gain knowledge and experience that will help you navigate through life in the direction of your goals. Self-growth is what you gain from the process of making mistakes. By learning from your weaknesses, you develop your strengths and begin to tap into your full potential. You grow as a person when you reflect on the past and use the experience you gained to improve the future.
Trust me, you are good enough exactly as you are. You are beautiful. You are amazing. If you look for the good in yourself, you will have a chance to explore and discover new aspects of who you are as you continue to grow into the person you want to become. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Let yourself make mistakes. You are human, and most importantly, you are not alone. You are doing your best and that is more than enough.
Article written by: Leah Brown