WELL­BE­ING COL­UMN Why it's high time we for­get try­ing to prove our­selves.

Re­lieve the pres­sure to prove that you’re do­ing life right and nd hap­pi­ness, just as you are

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Harriet Gri ey / Il­lus­tra­tion: Rachael Dean HARRIET GRIFFEY is a writer, jour­nal­ist and au­thor of over 20 books on health and well­be­ing. Her lat­est ti­tle, I Want to Be Cre­ative (Hardie Grant, £7.99), is out now.

We’ve all felt the pres­sure to prove our­selves at some point in our lives. But it seems that re­cently, this pres­sure has be­come near con­stant for many of us. But where does it come from?

What can some­times lie at the heart of th­ese feel­ings is a lack of con dence and self-es­teem; the need to show that we are good enough. This can lead to the tyranny of per­fec­tion­ism, as we set in­creas­ingly high stan­dards in order to re­as­sure our­selves that we’re do­ing OK. But if we don’t feel OK (and no one can, all the time), we can be­gin to feel as if we’ve some­how failed a test that we didn’t even re­alise we were tak­ing. All of which loops back, re­duc­ing our self-es­teem, mak­ing us feel we have to push our­selves harder. It’s a vi­cious cir­cle!

Our in­creased use of so­cial me­dia feeds into th­ese feel­ings. We’re bom­barded with care­fully cu­rated and edited images to which we are en­cour­aged to as­pire and with which we may feel obliged to com­pete. It’s hard to re­sist the urge to ‘be the best you can be’, but if this re­quires hav­ing the per­fect job/home/kids/yoga body/ home-baked cake/eye­brows/hol­i­day, it’s just not pos­si­ble. And even though we know that the on­line world is not real, this can be hard to re­mem­ber on a bad day.

Mak­ing com­par­isons with oth­ers is point­less, as we can never know the whole story about their lives. And by the same to­ken, basing our de­ci­sions on what other peo­ple might think of us doesn’t re­ally work either, be­cause the only per­son who knows ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on in your life is you. If we try to de ne our­selves by the com­par­isons we make with oth­ers, or what they might think of us, the goal posts for what we have to ‘prove’ will be con­stantly chang­ing, and not true to our­selves either. It’s all too easy to get into a mind­set where we end up over­load­ing our lives in order to prove some­thing, but to whom?

Of­ten when we feel we have some­thing to prove, it comes from a place of fear. Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’re not wor­thy of any­one else’s re­spect or a ec­tion, fear that we’ll let peo­ple down.

And in an e ort to man­age that fear we set out to prove, mostly to our­selves, that we’re not that ap­par­ently hope­less per­son. The prob­lem is, in do­ing so, we’re ac­cept­ing that false view of our­selves, un­der­min­ing and judg­ing our­selves for no good rea­son – of­ten much more harshly than any­one else would.

So what’s to be done if you’re feel­ing the pres­sure to prove your­self ? The best place to start is by work­ing out what it is that’s a ect­ing your think­ing. Take your foot o the gas for a while; can­cel some of those com­mit­ments that feel like they might be the last straw. If you think so­cial me­dia is in uenc­ing you neg­a­tively, take a break from it. If you are try­ing to be the per­fect em­ployee/ part­ner/par­ent/friend – then stop. Per­fec­tion­ism sug­gests there’s only one way to be right and, sud­denly, you’re right back there in all-or-noth­ing think­ing, feel­ing you have some­thing to prove. Take a look at what you’re do­ing and why you’re do­ing it. Is that yoga class feed­ing your soul, or are you try­ing to per­fect your down­ward dog? Do your chil­dren need per­fectly cooked or­ganic food every day, or do you feel you have to do it to tick a ‘good par­ent’ box? By check­ing in on your rea­son­ing and reframing your think­ing, you can start to ease that pres­sure.

As the psy­chol­o­gist Don­ald Win­ni­cott said, you are ‘good enough as you are, do­ing your best, like the rest of us’. Ac­cept­ing that be­ing good enough is, well, good enough, will stop you un­der­min­ing your self-worth – you have al­ready proved your­self quite ad­e­quately.

Give your­self a metaphor­i­cal hug: you’re do­ing great, just the way you are.

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