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
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.