Being So Hard on Yourself Might Be Destroying Your Mental Health — Here's How I Stopped

This piece has been syndicated from Her Campus at Cincinnati. You can join a chapter at your school(or start your own!).

Hello, my name is Hattie. In 6th grade, I didn’t make the volleyball team. I failed my driver’s test the first time I took it. I have received an F on a test I studied a whole week for. I have watched hours of makeup tutorials so I could feel pretty. I never got the ACT score I wanted. I have simply felt like I don’t add up and am not enough.

Oh, wait…were you expecting something more sugar coated?

The feeling of not being good enough and defeated is one that I know all too well.

It’s a feeling that is triggered by outside forces and affects the deepest parts of us. These thoughts combined with the pressure of today’s world can end up tearing down the confidence we hold within ourselves and blow our self-esteem to pieces. Ouch. According to thesaurus.com, several synonyms for “not enough” include words such as incomplete, lacking, weak, and my personal favorite, imperfect. It’s one thing to read those words, but in today’s world, we have started to believe them to be true about ourselves.

The sad reality is that in today’s society, we constantly feel the need to attach our worth to our accomplishments and appearance. We use the number of likes on our selfie to determine how pretty we are, squeeze into uncomfortable, tight clothes to flaunt our bodies and run ourselves down trying to get the perfect GPA to be the “perfect” student…why you may ask? To fit into the mold society has created for us.

Our self worth is constantly on a see-saw of acceptance or rejection. How did we allow it to get this far? Will we ever draw the line? When was the last time you believed you were enough…or have you ever?

I, in no way, have all of the answers or a magic potion to make this sad reality blow away, but I do have three points you can think about when you find yourself running after these negative thoughts:

1. Find the exception

It can be almost impossible to change your mindset into a more positive one when you are lost in a jumble of thoughts of how you’re simply not enough. When I think that I am doing terrible at balancing MY life or that my grades aren’t the best, I think….

What’s one small exception to that thought?

I may be terrible at balancing but look at all of the wonderful things I have been blessed to balance: friends, clubs, family, etc. My grades aren’t the best now, but I have the privilege to receive an education, and that is pretty dang awesome. This little mindset change to find the exception opens your mind up to more rays of that optimistic light that we can lose from time to time.

2. Life isn’t a highlight reel, stop treating it like one

If you are anything like me, your Instagram feed is full of edited, beautiful smiles on fun adventures. God forbid you EVER post a selfie on a day when you throw on a hat, sweatpants and chill in your dorm for the day. People post the happiest and most exciting moments of their lives because it’s what they want to share. The problem starts when we begin to believe that that is how their lives look all the time and we wind up in the bottomless pit of comparison.

There is a 99% chance that the girl who looked perfect riding a dolphin or going to that NFL game is currently crying over a boy she met on Tinder. You can’t have the beauty without a little mess here and there.

3. Be your biggest fan

As a society, we are so quick to judge, find a flaw and make a comment on it – especially when it comes to ourselves. I’m not telling you to never do that again, that would be impossible! However, recognizing that you have a negative bias toward others and yourself is the first step. Pushing those negative thoughts aside and realizing that you have to believe in yourself more than the world believes in you is key in becoming your biggest cheerleader (now I am starting to sound like a Hallmark card). As humans, we want to be appreciated and cheered for by others, but what if that came from your own self?

Recognizing our own victories and strengths is perfect ammunition to use when the negativity starts to creep in. You are your own worst enemy, and if you are constantly filling yourself up, that enemy will be fleeing far far away.