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Cut Yourself Some Slack

It’s right in the title: cut yourself some slack. As humans, and for the most part, we tend to be a lot harder on ourselves than we are to one another or to other people. Why we do that can be important, but it’s also important to recognize when we are being hard on ourselves or having negative self-talk and the negative impacts it can have on you. It is okay if you did not complete everything on your to-do list for the day or even the week; it is okay that you didn’t cook every meal at home and ate out a couple times a week; it is okay that you only exercised twice this week, or even none at all; it is okay if you are not the perfect mom, dad, child, sibling, friend, partner, whatever. We all make mistakes and we all deserve a break; cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to be human.

The “why” of being so hard on ourselves versus others can be attributed to many different factors. One is our family and childhood; how we see others talk to us and to themselves can shape how we form communication styles and how we talk to ourselves. Another is feeling shame; feeling like you are failing at something or not living up to expectations that you, society, or people in your life have set for you. Sometimes it’s because we are driven by a fear of failure instead of being driven to be the best version of ourselves, which is an important distinction to make. Some examples of being hard on yourself and having negative self-talk are things like: talking to yourself in “should” statements, using all-or-nothing language and thinking (always, never, nobody, etc.), saying things like “yeah, but..” to counteract a positive, telling yourself there’s something wrong with you, finding the faults in yourself rather than encouraging yourself to do the best you can. It’s important to identify when these negative thoughts are coming on and what they look like, because sometimes it’s become so normal for us to talk down to ourselves that we do not necessarily view that as negative.

Being hard on ourselves and having negative self-talk can impact us in a lot of ways and create potentially negative consequences. It can lead to us having negative and low self-esteem and can have us thinking pretty poorly of ourselves, even when there’s no reason to. It can leave us with the mindset that everyone around us is also thinking negatively about us and that they don’t have good intentions, when there’s nothing that says they don’t. It can lead to feeling like we need to be perfect in everything we do otherwise we are no good, and it may even lead to problems in some relationships or friendships we have. If we put that much pressure on ourselves and don’t give ourselves room to breathe and live and make mistakes, it can make it that much harder to fully enjoy life and feel happy throughout.

It is normal to make mistakes, and as many people say and know from experience, mistakes can help us grow and learn. When we allow ourselves to lower the expectations a little bit and recognize we are not perfect, nor should we be, it can be easier to accept the mistakes we will inevitably make, move on, and learn what we can to do differently or better for next time. Sometimes it can be helpful to put it into the perspective of another person because, as mentioned before, people tend to be a lot harder on themselves than they are on others. So, if we ask ourselves, “would I speak to my friend, my parents, my kid, my significant other, etc. that way? Or would I only speak to myself that way?” If the answer is only to yourself, then it can be clear you are not giving yourself a fair chance to meet the expectations you are setting for yourself. If we would not expect something of someone we love and care about, why would we expect ourselves to do that then? There are no “shoulds” in life or a rulebook in what to do, and sometimes we can get bogged down by the “shoulds” we, sometimes unintentionally, set for ourselves. Try and identify areas we are creating those expectations for ourselves without even realizing, and try to shift those expectations or mindset that we have about it.

If we create realistic and positive expectations, talk kindly to ourselves and encourage ourselves, even when we make mistakes, we might be surprised at the difference it can make in our mindset and the way we approach things. Allow yourself to make mistakes, to be human, and cut yourself some slack because you are doing the best you can!

Written by,

Emily Blair, ALMFT



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