Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Often the way we speak to ourselves can be very harsh and demeaning. We use absolute statements of expectations which leave little to no breathing room. We use words like "should", "have to", "must" which leave no area for imperfection. Everything "has to" be 100%. We tell ourselves things like, "I have to be there for my friends""should never let anyone down" "I must lose weight to be attractive"these expectations when unmet, they usually are unmet, can lead to a lot of guilt,shame, trepidation and low self-esteem.
We think of us as failures if we can't measure up a 100 out 100 every single time.
We need to embrace the grey, embrace the less than 100, embrace the imperfect.
We even start measuring others to the same level of unrealistic expectations. We say things like, "she ought to have been there for me" "he should have been at the bar like everyone else" "they have to reply to my messages within minutes of receiving it every time". This can make us feel angry and frustrated it may cause us to feel unhappy with the people we love because they are not behaving according our expectations and pre-decided notions of perfect responses. Changing this simple aspect of our thoughts can improve so much in our lives.
How to be kinder to ourselves?
Change the sentence:
If we try to change the construction of these statements to something kinder which gives more leeway to realistic expectations we may be able release a lot of the pent up anxiety, guilt, shame and fear that we carry around with us.
Perhaps instead of "I have to be there for my friends no matter what" it could be "I am there for my friends when they need me, I help as much as I can"
There's breathing room in the second statement for times when we just can't do much to help or when we have to say no due to some of our own issues, troubles, appointments etc. Just giving our self this much relaxation and leash of imperfection is enough to make us feel a little less guilty and a little more relaxed.
The way we speak to our selves or the way we construct our thoughts place a demand of perfection on us. We don't need to be anything but our imperfect, vulnerable selves. Perfection isn't what strengthens our relationships with our self and others, it is our strive towards progress and improvement that makes us and our relationships (mentally) healthy. Embrace your imperfection and move forward.
Be your best friend:
As I have written in the post on self-compassion, be your best friend.
If you won't say it to a friend, don't say it to yourself.
We deserve our own kindness and compassion as much as other's deserve it. When speaking to our friends we use words of kindness and language filled with love and affection, why not be our own friend and use similar language of kindness.
Do we really need the unrealistic, perfectionist expectations in our life to be worthy? Can't we be celebrated and appreciated for doing our best at 60% when we are unable to give a 100%? A little kindness in the language of our thoughts can prove helpful in improving our mental health.