Signs you are too hard on yourself

In this podcast (episode #588) and blog, I talk about why being hard on yourself can cause unnecessary stress, and how to manage your self-expectations.

This is a replay of a Neurolive webinar I did on my app. For the full webinar AD-free, please see look for Neurocycle on the App Store or Google Play.

Being too hard on yourself can cause pressure and toxic stress. Of course, not all stress is bad. Stress can be good for you, but when you put pressure on yourself to live up to certain expectations and you don’t, this stress can become toxic, affecting your mental and physical wellbeing. It creates confusion and uses up your energy resources, throwing off your balance, much like putting too much pressure on an object can throw it off balance. 

Pressure is a force, and if you are going to apply force in any direction, why not apply it in a positive, uplifting direction? Why not turn this pressure into your biggest fan, encouraging your every step?  

To do this, it is important to recognize the main signs that you are putting too much pressure on yourself, and what to do about them: 

Sign 1: “I didn't get x done.” 

Often, we tend to focus on what we haven’t done instead of what we have accomplished, then get stuck feeling guilty, frustrated, edgy, and like a failure. When you feel yourself falling into this way of thinking, stop and say or write down what you have done. Remind yourself of what you have achieved, and that there will be time to get the rest done tomorrow. 

Sign 2: “I have to have it all together.” 

So many of us feel like we must have it all together all the time, but this denies our humanity and the fact that we all make mistakes, mess up and get things wrong at times. When you feel like this, remind yourself that no one has it all together. And try not to compare your life to what others are doing, because the way you think and act, and your experiences, make you completely and utterly unique! You will never be able to be anyone else but you, and you are amazing, even if you are not perfect all the time. No one is!

Sign 3: “I must succeed.” 

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we must succeed at something or achieve something to be worthy. When you feel like this, remind yourself that you define your own success! There is something you can do that no one else can do. 

Sign 4: “I cannot make a mistake.” 

Even though we all make mistakes, it is easy to think that we shouldn’t mess up and that we need to get things right all the time. But it is important to recognize that our failures are often as important as our successes, and teach us important life lessons that help us grow as a person. So, next time you start beating yourself up over a mistake, ask yourself what this experience has taught you and focus on how you have grown. 

Sign 5: “I let everyone down.” 

Sometimes, it is easy to feel like we always let people down and like we are just failures. Here, it is important to remind yourself that we all fail at times, that your failures help you grow, and that, at the end of the day, life is unpredictable. We can’t always control everything to make sure things turn out well, because so much of life is out of our control. Also, remind yourself that trying your best is the only way forward, even when it doesn’t work out like planned, because you will learn and grow as a person.

Sign 6: “I feel exhausted all the time.” 

We often take on so much and expect ourselves to do so much that we quickly find ourselves stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted. If this sounds like you, do a lifestyle check, and ask yourself: 

  • Do I take enough breaks to recharge?
  • Do I give my brain and body time to rest and reset?
  • Am I having enough fun?
  • Do I take time to take care of my mental and physical health? 

See what you can change in your life to give yourself the time you need to rest! This is so important for your mind, brain and body health. 

Sign 7: “I hardly smile anymore.”

It is easy to get into a pattern of living where we are so focused on what needs to get done that we forget how to enjoy life, which can have an impact on our wellbeing. If you find yourself smiling less and forgetting why you are working yourself so hard, take a step back and think of ways to enjoy life again. Watch something funny, spend time with a loved one, or do something that makes you smile again! You can even schedule this into your day so you don’t forget to take the time to enjoy life.

Sign 8: “I need to do everything perfect all the time.”

If you find yourself emotionally "holding onto" the mistakes you've made, noticing more of what you've done wrong than what you've gotten right, and getting anxious when you do a good-but-not-perfect job, you may have fallen into the perfectionism trap, where you can’t accept your weakeness or anyone else’s. If this sounds like you, take the time to notice when you do this, and remind yourself that there is a difference between wanting to achieve certain things and thinking you need to do everything perfect all the time. Remind yourself that mistakes and learning are part of life, and that you can work hard even if you take breaks and set up self-boundaries. And, when you find yourself thinking about what you got wrong, remind yourself of what you have gotten right too!

Sign 9: “I am not good enough.” 

Take the time to observe and analyze your internal dialogue. How do you speak to yourself? How do you think of yourself? If you are using a lot of negative, pessimistic language to describe yourself, take the time to work on the way you think about yourself. Consciously observe and write down your critical self-talk and how often it’s happening. Then, work on creating reconceptualized statements to counter this way of thinking and change the way you speak to yourself. For example, change “I wish I could be as good as…” to “I will never be able to live up to someone else’s example of success because I am unique and define my own success.” This will take time to become a habit, so make sure to practice it every day! 

For more on learning how to not be so hard on yourself, listen to my podcast (episode #588). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).         

This podcast is sponsored by: 

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Relationships are hard work, but they truly make life worth living. Just thinking about my own marriage: it hasn’t always been easy, and we still have our ups and downs, but after decades together, working on ourselves and through our issues and making an effort to truly be there for each other, I can honestly say my life is so much more with my husband in it! But a common misconception about relationships is that they have to be easy to be “right.” But sometimes, the best ones happen when both people put in the work to make them great. And therapy can be a place to work through the challenges you face in all of your relationships – whether with friends, work, your significant other, or anyone. Therapy is an incredibly helpful mental health tool that everyone can benefit from, wherever they are in life! It’s helpful for learning positive relationships and coping skills, and how to set boundaries; it empowers you to be the best version of yourself. Therapy isn’t just for those who’ve experienced major trauma! If you’re thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It’s entirely online. Designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and switch therapists any time for no additional charge. Become your own soulmate, whether you’re looking for one or not. Visit today to get 10% off your first month. 

Podcast Highlights 

1:48 What happens when we put too much pressure on ourselves 

4:35 Signs that you are too hard on yourself & how to change this 

7:03 You don’t have to have it all together all the time! 

12:00 Mistakes are an important part of learning & growing 

17:02 The importance of resting & taking time to recharge 

19:11 Why you should take a “lifestyle check” when you feel overwhelmed & exhausted 

21:46 Why we should all take the time to smile more!

23:04 How to tell the difference between perfectionism & high achievement

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

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