by Vanessa Pawlowski, Psy.D.
I work in counseling with a lot of successful people who hold themselves to very high standards and who care deeply about their significant others, friends, and families. What I have noticed is that when we push ourselves really hard to try to be successful, sometimes we do not wind up showing ourselves the same care that we do for our loved ones.
Does this sound like you? Maybe you hold yourself to very high standards that you keep falling short of. You analyze yourself throughout the day and keep finding more and more things to criticize yourself for. Where is your softer side when it comes to you? It’s time to start treating yourself the way you deserve to be treated. Here are some simple ways to start.
• Change your negative self-talk. Have you noticed how you talk to yourself? Would you talk to anyone that you cared about like that? Especially if you struggle with anxiety and depression, or with eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, negative self-talk makes everything so much harder. You can feel hopeless and think that things are never going to get better. Sometimes to get started, I suggest that people begin with saying more neutral statements to themselves and then work up to more positive ones. For example, you might say to yourself, “I can’t believe I am late, what is wrong with me that I can’t even be on time?” A more neutral statement would be: “Everyone is late sometimes, but if I keep being late all of the time, maybe I need to try to do something different.”
• Be okay with not being perfect. You probably have many roles to juggle – and it is impossible to be perfect in one of them, let alone all of them. When others make mistakes, you may find yourself able to forgive and forget. Why does the same not apply to you? If your self–worth is tied to being perfect, then you are setting yourself up to feel bad. There is no way to win in this scenario.
• Show yourself you care about you. As it is in our relationships with other people, so it is in our relationship with ourselves: actions can speak louder than words. So while it is good to keep your negative self-talk in check, it is also very important to take time out consistently to do things that take care of you. This is not being selfish. This is you sending yourself a clear message that you are important and deserve to be taken care of — not pushed to the brink of exhaustion and burnout. Stop waiting for others to take care of you first before you start doing it for yourself. It can be as small as giving yourself an extra 10 minutes to get ready in the morning so you aren’t rushed in the morning, to as big as planning a nice vacation. The important thing is that you start and that you work towards making it a regular practice. You shouldn’t choose to take care of yourself only when a crisis forces you to.
Feeling better about life in general means that you need to feel at peace with yourself too. Otherwise you will not be able to feel the way that you keep hoping you will feel, regardless of how many external successes you can point to. Finding a softer approach with yourself is one way to transform the way you feel about yourself from the inside out.
Vanessa Pawlowski, Psy.D. is a psychologist with her own private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. She specializes in working with highly successful individuals who struggle with anxiety and eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. She loves empowering women to feel differently about their body, their work, and their relationships!