“You shouldn’t have said that.”
“You should have gotten that job.”
“You should have worked harder.”
Those are some pretty rough statements, huh? Personally, I would never say these things to a friend or someone I cared about. They are harsh. Unforgiving. Critical.
The sad thing is, I say these things to myself all the time. There is a voice in my head that lives on repeat, on shuffle mode, randomly selecting the next insult to swing. The next “should have” mixed into a different track every day, spinning like a song on a record, scratchy and loud. I should be stronger, the lead vocalist sings. Better. More successful. Why don’t I have the relationship and the apartment and the savings account yet? I see so many of my friends wearing engagement rings and signing their first lease. Am I behind?
If this sounds like your daily thought process, it is time to give yourself a good old fashioned wake up call. It is time to change the soundtrack of your mind to something more positive, loving, and true.
No, you are not behind. You are kick-ass, just like all of the friends you might be comparing yourself to via Facebook statuses, Tweets, and those Snapchat stories that simultaneously infuriate and entertain. You are kick-ass no matter what phase of life you are in. It is so easy to fall into a pressure cooker fueled by keeping up with the rest of the world. News flash: You don’t have to keep up with anyone but yourself.
I struggled with doing this for a long time. Other people’s accomplishments were always shinier, brighter, more prolific than mine. I realized that I was spending a lot of time with the bully in my brain. I decided I was tired of the abuse, so I started making daily changes to my routine and behavior.
5 Ways to Feel Kick-Ass About Who You Are
Here are a five things I started doing to get back on track with my life and not get too involved in other people’s lives. Most importantly, these steps help me to feel kick-ass about who I am.
1. Write down at least one thing every day that you are proud of yourself for. Whether that is drinking one less cup of coffee, sending a job application, or reading a chapter of a book, give yourself credit for your own amazing daily achievements. (Yes, I consider reading a chapter of a book an achievement, and you should too).
2. Make a list of your own goals. I would recommend not sharing it on social media — just keep it for yourself. Make them specific, anything from “I want to work out three days instead of two this week” or “I want to start a blog” or “I want to learn how to make cookies from scratch.”
Then stick with your goal and when you do it, feel good about it. Don’t post the accomplishment online and wait for Instagram hearts to validate it. This goal is for your soul only.
3. Take “should” out of your vocabulary. Stop thinking, “I should be better at this. I should have a job by now. I should go on a date. I shouldn’t have sent that email. I shouldn’t have taken a day off.”
Don’t dwell on mistakes or worry about things you should have done; it only takes away from what you are actually doing. This will help you stay present and worry less.
4. Stop with the comparing. Don’t think about what your friends and coworkers are accomplishing. They aren’t you. Their story is not your story. This is easier said than done, but my recommendation is to stay off social media. Just stop scrolling through those wedding albums and fitness Instagrams.
If it helps, set a reminder on your phone to “Turn Off” at a certain time every day. And when you are on Twitter, keep in mind that there is a thin and fraying line between personal and public in today’s over-connected, over-sharing, #pinspirational atmosphere. Remind yourself that another person’s public accomplishments are not meant as a personal insult to your own path.
5. Lastly, recognize your own limitations. Setting reasonable goals is so important to being able to actually give yourself credit. If you plan an impossible to-do list, of course you won’t feel good at the end of the day when it hasn’t been fully completed. No one can do the impossible, so don’t expect yourself to.
A good way to do this is to ask yourself this question: Would I find this a reasonable thing to ask my best friend to do? If you think the plan/task/goal is too much for your best friend, then it is probably too much for you. Sometimes, it is easier to be gentle with ourselves when we think of ourselves as another person. Remember, I would never criticize my friends the way I criticize myself.
The bullies in our brains can feel like impossible monsters, powered by comparison and harsh self-criticism. The key to not letting them overwhelm us is to learn how to stay present and leave all the “should,” “what-if,” and “I wish” behind.