Hello everybody, welcome to episode 30 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and I’ll be honest, today’s question on being hard on yourself gets me so amped up I want to run through a wall right now. I’m excited to get to this one. It’s simple, but I have a lot to say about it, so do me a solid and stay with me through the end. Let’s get it going…
QUESTION: “There’s a saying that if you treated your friends the way you treated yourself, they wouldn’t like you. How do you stop being so hard on yourself and cut yourself some slack instead of holding an unreachably high bar for yourself?”
Being Hard On Yourself: A High Bar of Success
If I had a nickel…
Yeah that IS a popular saying and one of the few that I find pretty useful sometimes. It’s interesting that you start the question that way, though. So let’s think about that saying in a different way. So right now you’re talking about success, essentially. You’re talking about holding yourself to an unreachable high bar of success in one way, shape or form.
What role do you figure your friends or the people around you play in that? Are the people in your past or present environment that you interact with or look up to as apt to being as successful as you are in whatever it is they do? I have a feeling they are.
It’s important for all of us to consider that what we have or currently do put into our brains is what comes out of them. If your main contacts are intelligent, successful people and these are features that you pay extra attention to in them, then your tolerance for people in which those qualities are lacking is going to be pretty minimal and your tolerance for yourself in times that those qualities are lacking is going to be minimal.
The Problem with Being a High Achiever
This is an especially slippery slope when it comes to high achievers because of these ideas like “surround yourself with those who want you to succeed” and “be around the people you want to be like,” etc.
A lot of us go out of our way to surround ourselves with successful people for our own benefit, and because we see them only through the lens of success, it’s easy to overlook the other 99% of these relationships, most of which has to do with how happy they are in spite of their accomplishments. There's often an unusual pressure to succeed.
Not saying you’re necessarily guilty of this, but what I am saying is that unless there’s a certain event that took place once upon a time that has subconsciously caused you to a put an unreasonable amount of emphasis on success, the chances are it’s been planted in you by a lot of time around people for whom success is natural or people who demanded success of you.
Whatever the case may be, it’s now your responsibility to neutralize success if you stand a chance at demanding less of yourself. This is something that will include two parts: questioning and action. Let’s talk about questioning first.
Let’s have you question the success in others or this version of success you see in others that you pressure yourself to replicate.
Success in Others
When you look at others who perform the way you pressure yourself to perform, what’s underneath? What’s the other 99% of them that we mentioned a little while ago? Ask questions of other people such as: How does success negatively impact others? What are some examples of times in which failure has to unexpectedly led to great outcomes for others?
Does the success in others come with the same flip side of high personal expectations? Is success ever met, or is there a never ending pursuit for more? What success in one area is replaced by success in another area?
You might literally ask other people these questions, that can be a very good tool. But at the least, theorizing about the answers or figuring them out for yourself just by observing other successful people around you can give you some insight.
A lot of these same questions can be geared towards you, as well. How is your drive for success taking away from you? It’s clear that you can see it’s impacting your peace of mind, but get more specific if you can about times, events and triggers.
The Benefits of Failure
When has failure ended up serving you well? Maybe you failed to get into a school or get a job you were reaching for, and in settling for your second option you made the best friends you could ever ask for. Do your actions involving success reflect the amount of emphasis you think is worth putting into it? What about you would still be worth loving if you were unsuccessful in several or all of the areas you seek to be successful in? Have you taken the time to love yourself outside of your successes?
These are really important questions to ask, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it’s not nearly impossible to answer these questions of oneself without cognitive biases so if you do choose to question yourself in this way, it might be worth your time to ACTUALLY like set up two chairs, ask the question in one chair, then move to the other when answering it. Anything you can do to get outside yourself and ask yourself these questions as a second party would be highly beneficial.
How to Overcome Being Hard on Yourself
Now, as for the practical steps to overcome this that go beyond questioning, I’ve gotta think that the only way for someone who is constantly trying to succeed to neutralize their idea of success is to practice failing at things on purpose. Yeah, you heard me right. It’s time to take the plunge, fearful or not, and practice failing at some things.
The more you want to be successful at them, the better. As a naturally success-driven and I can only assume a naturally successFUL person, I promise you’re not going to lose your ability to succeed. You’ll only lose a little bit of your ego. It’s time to consider what you consider failure, and what failures are worth integrating into your life so you can create a healthier relationship with failure.
I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that failure’s important because you learn from it, I’ve said it a 7,000 times through 20 something episodes and everyone already knows that anyway. But you have to trust in it.
1. Trust in Failure
You have to trust in failure. What failures can you indulge in? How can you introduce desirable difficulties into your activities, so that you continue to learn but in a good and realistic way?
Maybe if you’re a soccer player and you’re right footed, the next time you play, try only using your left foot. You’ll probably laugh a lot and find that afterwards, you’re still alive and doing just fine. Maybe you have deeper impressions of failure that can actually help you here. Maybe you haven’t gone to therapy for this because you feel that’s a sign of not being able to handle yourself – failing yourself. If that’s the case, then guess what? Time to go to therapy. Not saying it is the case, but you see what I’m getting at.
2. Adjust Your Lifestyle
Questioning success is step one. Is your environment only pushing it on you further? What’s the flip side of success when it comes to others and when it comes to yourself?
Answers to those questions and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly is how action begins. Action based on that reflection, combined with making failure more of a presence in your life is a sure fire way to start balancing these feelings.
3. Practice Self-Compassion
Last but not least, remember to be kind to yourself. You can do this by practicing self-compassion to combat any chronic self-critical tendencies that you have.
This kindness that you show yourself can make a big difference with how you process negative experiences and events.
Man, I enjoyed that one. Thank you VERY much to the person who sent it in, and I hope I covered all the bases.
It’s funny, I feel as though a question like this is one of those questions that’s at the root of, or is the foundation underneath so many other questions that come in. Really important stuff.
As you know, if you have your own questions that you’d like answered on the show, we’d love to have them so please don’t be shy and email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thanks again for listening everyone, hope you’ll tune in next time, and have a wonderful day where ever you are.