This blog post is going to be a bit longer than usual. That’s because I started writing this over a month and a half ago (!) but every time I sat down to write, I felt like I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say, or saying it succinctly or effectively. I was, and I am, putting too much pressure on myself. I’m finally sitting down to finish this blog on July 31st - which is even more ironic because I set 3 goals for the month of July and I barely succeeded with 2 of them. The first goal was to finish reading a Joss Whedon biography, which thank goodness I finished today while on the bus (whoo hoo!!); the second goal was to write and publish 2 blog posts (ha!); and successfully complete Dry July (I barely made it a couple days on that one). But here I am, not quite giving up on that second goal, not because I’m putting pressure on myself, but because I know I can do it.
Pressure comes from so many places in our lives: our families, our friends, society, school, and our partners. But more likely than not, the person who puts the most pressure on you, is you. I recently watched a friend of mine write her thesis for an honors college. She meticulously obsessed over the research, the analysis, her citations, everything. Months of work went into this thesis. Two minutes after she hit the ‘submit’ button, she gasped, saying that she had a mistake in her abstract. When I asked how, she said she wrote “North Portland” instead of “Northeast Portland”. She worried about this for hours after submitting.
This is putting too much pressure on yourself. This is striving for perfection in a perfectionless world. And so many of us are guilty of this personal pressure, it’s no wonder that most of us feel like we’re going to combust.
As I’ve found myself in unemployment (see: Quitting), I’ve been putting immense pressure on myself every day. I’ve started to feel like if I wasn’t working 8 hours a day that I was failing, or being lazy. This pressure formed a certain type of anxiety, where I felt antsy and restless, and easily frustrated with the people around me. It could just be the way I’m wired, maybe I’m a born-to-be-hustler and sitting still isn’t my style. Or maybe... society, college, family expectations, and my own biases have molded me into a workaholic, only feeling accomplished and successful after staring at my computer for 8-10 hours. But the whole point of quitting my job was to get back to living life and staring at my computer all day is not living. Since I’m freelancing and volunteering, I have a couple hours of work a day, and have the flexibility to skip work some days if I want. But I found myself beating myself up if I wasn’t constantly working, writing, finding the next gig, or doing something productive.
When I realized this toxic pressure was hurting my mental health and my relationships, I started to think about ways I could flip these habits and have more self love.
Here are 3 ways you can combat all that pressure:
Stop bullying yourself. I use this question a lot: is what you’re saying to yourself, something you would say to a friend? If you wouldn’t dare call someone else lazy or unaccomplished, then don’t say those things to yourself!! A big part of self love is being able to recognize self-deprecating thoughts and stop them in their tracks. If you’re having a hard time not thinking bad things, try to instead add more good things to your thoughts. For every self-deprecating jab, compliment yourself on two things.
Recognize your accomplishments and celebrate the small wins. You’re only human and life wasn’t meant to be pressurized like a can of air. Give yourself a break, some breathing room! If you can say you accomplished one thing today, then it was a success. Be proud of those successes!
Keep in mind that your biggest critic is yourself. If you feel like you’re failing or not succeeding the way you thought you would, ask yourself: are these ideas of success true to me, or are they an idea that society has ingrained in me? Most of the time, we’re our own biggest critic, but if no one was around to judge you, would you really care? If the answer is yes, then fine, but make sure you’re doing tips 1 and 2 so you don’t explode.
When we put less pressure on ourselves, we can enjoy more of the small moments, the small wins, and the daily badass-ery of ourselves. And the world needs more self-loving badasses.