4 Self-Destructive Things I Tell Myself Everyday
And how I am trying to overcome the roadblocks they put up.
Life can be pretty tough sometimes, and the comparison game seems to be getting harder and harder to avoid these days. We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, talented enough, or attractive enough.
But the unfortunate consequence of constant self-beratement is that we run the risk of eventually starting to believe these negative thoughts. The self-deprecating voices in our heads can get overwhelming sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.
Here are four self-destructive things that I regularly tell myself, as well as some ways in which I’m attempting to overcome and stop these thoughts before they stop me.
1. Everything must be perfect to be finished.
This is probably what I tell myself most often. I have always struggled with perfectionism, and while it’s gotten better in some ways, it’s also gotten a lot worse when it comes to my creative endeavors. I’m terrified of making mistakes whenever I start something new, especially if it’s public. Thus, I tend to get stuck, never finishing anything because it’s not perfect…yet.
However, at some point, I realized that this way of thinking doesn’t actually help me reach that elusive status of perfectionism; it only stops me from growing. Therefore, I now try to live by a little mantra that I came across one day: progress over perfection.
While it’s so simple, it speaks to me on such a deep level — it’s even my desktop background. It’s okay if your first attempt isn’t perfect, and it’s equally okay to learn and grow from your mistakes. I’ve learned that progress is way better than perfection.
2. I wish I’d started yesterday, so I won’t start today.
I tend to obsess about all the time that I’ve wasted not doing things to better myself, my skills, or my career. I get frustrated thinking about how much further along in my life I could be if I had just started back then.
So, instead of starting right now, I just avoid thinking about it and, in turn, waste even more time. It’s a vicious circle. I think we can all agree that this is counter-productive and stupid, but I know I’m not the only one who does this.
I’ll be honest: this is partly why I haven’t written on Medium for almost two years. Life got busy, and I got out of the habit. But whenever I considered coming back to the platform, I got discouraged by how long it had been since I last published. I noticed how other writers that joined around the time I did are now publishing their 500th story or are making full-time incomes. That could have been me if only I hadn’t let two years pass by. I worry that it’s too late now, or that I’ve wasted too much time.
While it’s hard to ignore the passage of time, we can’t let that stop us from doing things that we want or need to do. First, we have to come to terms with the fact that while yesterday would have been a great time to start, there’s nothing wrong with starting today. As the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
3. If it comes easily, it’s worthless.
This is probably something that just about everyone tells themselves every now and then. When something comes easily to us, we tend to think that it comes easily to everyone else, too, and that it’s not really that big of a deal.
But the truth is that everyone has their own unique talents and skills that come easily to them, and those same skills can be nearly impossible for someone else.
Consider this quote from Sherman Alexie: “If you’re good at it, and you love it, and it helps you navigate the river of the world, then it can’t be wrong.” If something comes naturally to you, embrace it, cultivate it, and make it the best that it can be because not everyone can do the things you can do.
4. Everyone cares about and notices what I’m doing.
Okay, let me explain this one. It’s not that I think I’m such an Important Person that everyone is just dying to know what I’m doing––quite the opposite, actually. It’s more about the fact that I tend to think all of my mistakes and short-comings are as obvious to everyone else as they are to me.
I guess this ties in with my perfectionist nature (see #1). This way of thinking has caused me many sleepless nights fraught with worry about what other people will think of me should I put myself out there and make even the tiniest of mistakes.
Reality check: it’s just not that deep. The fact of the matter is that everyone is concerned with their own lives and problems and isn’t paying that close of attention to anyone else. While this may sound a bit doom-and-gloom, it’s true. It’s also liberating.
Philosopher Albert Camus once said, “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others,” and he was right. Focus on bettering yourself and let everyone else do the same. Trust me, no one notices the little things. As my great-grandmother used to say, “A blind man on a galloping horse wouldn’t see it.”
In short, I suppose my advice to you (and me) is to let yourself off the hook when it comes to striving for perfectionism. It doesn’t exist. Just get started on the things that scare you. They aren’t going to start themselves. Give yourself credit when something comes easily to you. It matters. And above all, remember that your life isn’t under a microscope. Chances are, no one will notice if you mess up a little.