Life can be tough, no doubt, and a lot of us have a tendency to be incredibly hard on ourselves. We judge ourselves pretty harshly and belittle our worth for every little mistake, even things we have no control over. We narrow our sight on perfection and become blind to progress, therefore, leaving more space to degrade our every flaw. We build up so much self-criticism, we can't even take complements from others, let alone have compassion for ourselves.
We paint a picture of ourselves. We create an ideal image of how we want people to portray us and see us. You could say we have a collection of 'masks' we wear in front of others. For most, it looks like this; a happy-go-lucky, controlled and polished picture of society. But a lot of the time those 'masks' cover up feelings of utter worthlessness, self-hatred and vicious personal judgement.
Even though we are portraying ourselves a certain way, much of the time we still feel we are not doing enough. There is the consciousness that you can always do more - you can always give more of yourself. We get caught up in the superficiality associated with the paragon of being perfect and, likewise, the ridiculous standards, that we feel hopeless about ourselves when, no matter what you do, it's not enough.
The message we receive from society is narrow and clear: If you punish yourself enough, you will do better, and we believe this whole-heartedly. We accept that if we are hard on ourselves we will meet the standards we have and/or are given. We live with the thought that, 'maybe ill be worthy if i can just keep up.' For example, you tell yourself you are weak if you can't take on high-stress. Nobody wants to look or feel weak, so we tell ourselves to suck it up. This creates the vicious cycle of trying to reach higher and take on more than we realistically can, leaving us to crash and burn.
We have to be impossibly perfect, but we will never reach that standard because it is not practical. When we measure our value, it seems we are walking on eggshells. On the off chance we reach a standard - it is usually only temporary and we are quickly knocked off our high horse when some other aspect of our life does not reach standards. It's a paradoxical black hole.
It all comes down to our own self-worth. We don't believe we are living up to expectations set by ourselves as well as others, so we feel worthless. We beat ourselves up and don't give ourselves the compassion and grace we need and deserve. There is a need to see ourselves as a ‘good’, and the pressure that we put on ourselves to reach this impossible notion of perfection, and that’s the real problem. In our culture, we’re told the only way to feel good about our self is to be 'perfect'.
This cycle is ruthless and can completely tear a person apart - which can lead to bigger issues like depression and anxiety. So, great. What can be done about it? It's a matter of reflection on what you can give, versus what you do give. What you are capable of, versus where the standards are set and lower that bar. You have to look at the reality of your capabilities as a human being. You have to accept where your threshold is, as an individual. Not what another person can do, or what society expects of you. What you can do. This allows for us to be kind to ourselves, to be compassionate to our flaws. Give a little bit more to yourself instead of handing it to others.
"I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren't more self-compassionate is that they're afraid they'll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have got is wrong becuase our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be." -Dr. Kristin Neff