Am I good enough?
It’s the time of year where resolutions have been made and when we probably have our greatest resolve to keep to that new fitness regime or eating plan; to be more organised; to balance life better and make more time for ourselves/others.
This is great for those people who find this a useful way to get themselves back into gear with personal goals and thrive on the newness of a fresh year. But for those people who have already become disconnected from the originally well thought out and desired resolutions, hopefully this article will resonate with you and give you some other ways to approach this.
I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, I think you can start doing something different to help your own physical and emotional health and well-being at any time - yes, even on a Wednesday lunch time. Here’s a shock announcement, it doesn’t have to be the first day of the month or a Monday when you decide to start doing something new!
What is more important to my mind is that we make our personal goals worthwhile, achievable and flexible. All too often, life starts to happen and the best of intentions can fall to the side and leave us feeling frustrated, unmotivated and angry with ourselves.
Feeling annoyed or let down with ourselves, if left unchecked, can create a lot of emotional disturbance. This in turn can start to chip away at our self-esteem. Before you know it, that inside voice is nothing more than a bully telling you that of course you’re not good enough, you could do better, you could be better.
Well the whole point of resolutions and goal setting is to give yourself something to aim for, which is about personal development. But if all that happens is that you miss the mark early on and then start telling yourself how rubbish you are, you will hold yourself back and reduce the possibility of getting back your focus on what you were originally trying to achieve.
So how do you avoid the pitfall of getting stuck in a cycle of self-blame and criticism?
Why not try some of these strategies, see if any of them work for you:
We live in a society where comparing ourselves to other people’s lives is an almost automatic process. We make massive assumptions about other people and their lives, often how they must be so much better than us or ours because ‘they seem so confidant’, ‘they’re so pretty’, ‘they have nice things so they must have lots of money’, ‘their bodies are perfect/their skin is flawless’, ‘they’re so buff’ and a million others.
Layer in social media and other people’s posts and pictures in particular - and this gets ratcheted up 1000 notches! Remember, whatever you see in someone else’s photo - whether everyone looks deliriously happy and it’s a picture perfect snapshot of someone/a group/a family … it’s literally that … a snapshot, a moment. Then the moment passes and the image of perfection that might have been projected from it goes just as fast.
It’s too easy to look upon other people, without really knowing what goes on in their lives, what being in their shoes feels like and to then think we just don’t measure up.
We base these assumptions on nothing more than a feeling that is usually borne out of us not feeling like we are good enough - so we look for evidence from other people to prove this to ourselves. But it isn’t evidence. Remember it’s one tiny moment in time.
Focus inwards - not outwards.
Don’t believe everything your brain tells you!
The prior point brings me nicely onto what to think about the stuff your brain tells you. Well, firstly, you don’t have to buy into every single thought you have. In fact, your brain is biased. Even though it’s your brain, it can be sneaky and actually work against you.
Thoughts don’t reflect the complete truth or the full reality, they offer a selection of possibilities and *newsflash* you can choose which one you go with. Without getting too bogged down in neuroscience, there is this little almond shaped part of your brain called an amygdala - although technically we have 2, one in each hemisphere. Anyway these amygdalae are effectively your internal smoke detectors or security guards - they are constantly surveilling you, your body and your environment to be on the lookout for anything that could cause you potential harm. You can’t stop this from happening, it’s a hardwired process that has evolved within us since we were cave people.
Let’s take an example where you are making some toast for breakfast and the bread gets caught in the toaster so a little part of it burns. You smell burning … your amygdalae will send a message to your brain to tell you something is on fire and will start a response process (often called fight/flight) because there is a potential threat to you i.e. a fire. In most cases, the sensible part of your brain (prefrontal cortex) will be online at the same time and will be able to send a message back to the amygdalae to say, “chill out, it’s toast that got caught. There’s no fire, we’re all fine”. You carry on with your day. If you didn’t have that sensible part of your brain online and instead relied solely on responding to the alert your inner smoke detector picked up on, you’d be in full panic stations mode and dealing with a much bigger, scarier situation (which actually wasn’t real). It’s the same principle when our brain gives us other messages, like ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you could be so much better’ or even worse, more abusive things that we say to ourselves.
Whilst those mean messages aren’t coming from that big burly internal security guard, they are still coming from your brain and you can choose to ignore them, remove them or transform them into something more encouraging that you can do something with.
Would you speak to someone else like that?
Seems pretty simple this one; think honestly about the stuff you say to yourself and consider whether you would genuinely say those things, in the same way, the same amount of times to someone you care about. I would hope the answer would be no.
There is nothing wrong with setting standards for yourself, having expectations for your life and holding yourself to account if you don’t meet those targets.
It’s the way in which we hold ourselves to account that can cause us more problems. If you choose to do this with kindness, respect and care then you take a step away from branding yourself useless, a failure, good for nothing and all of the other labels we often happily grab for ourselves.
So one way to influence our own outcomes - especially when we are not where we want to be - is to practise thinking and talking about yourself kindly, compassionately and with understanding. It isn’t about letting yourself off the hook if you genuinely have some key goals you want to achieve, but it is about becoming your own personal cheerleader. When a friend comes to us who is feeling down about themselves or something they’ve done or said, we wouldn’t usually tell them how stupid they are and that they deserve to feel so rubbish. We would probably try to pick their mood up, point out the good things about them or help them to problem solve how to fix whatever it is that has happened. So why not adopt this approach for ourselves too?
So, in summary. If you did make some New Year’s Resolutions and you’re acing them - well done. Make sure you are celebrating every success.
But, if you feel you are already falling short of what you wanted to reach for yourself, don’t fall into that well trodden pit of self-critical talk. Think about how to move back towards your aims, what do you need to help, who do you need to help you?
Re-plan and move on again with a secure connection to yourself that lifts you up instead of tearing you down.