Have you ever heard someone be very gracious towards a friend but turn around and be intolerant and condemning towards herself? Self-judgment is no less problematic than judging others, in fact, it
can be more damaging to a person’s confidence and ability to have a satisfied and fulfilling life. In counselling sessions where I inquire as to why there is such a double-standard between how a person treats a friend vs. one’s self, I get responses like “It’s just different for me” or “I should have known better.” Ahhh, there’s the rub!
The Problem of Should
When I speak about shame, I often tell people to stop “shoulding” on themselves. I especially get a double-take when I tell them to stop being a “should-head!” And yes, it is as bad as it sounds! Should is a word that needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary. It is a word that evokes shame — implying duty or obligation . Either you are going to do something or you’re not — choose to be okay with your decision. By taking charge of your choice, you eliminate the room for shame to creep into your life and cripple your sense of self-worth and value. It’s pretty hard to know that you are a person of worth and value and to operate out of that paradigm if you are constantly depositing more and more shame on your head.
While we’re getting rid of all the shoulds, let’s extinguish the rule of perfectionism which breeds an ongoing sense of shame. Perfectionism isn’t a motivating factor which inspires us to do things well. It is a crippling force which actually erodes our sense of worth and value, creates procrastination and takes our need for validation (knowing that we are okay) and hangs it out in front of us like the proverbial carrot on the string. It is NEVER attainable! And even if we hit the bar occasionally, perfectionism will dismiss the positive act as a fluke and crank the bar up higher.
Perfectionism can only be relieved when we decide to re-align our expectations with what is realistic and attainable. We can aim for excellence and do all things well, but we need to make our expectations line up with what is real. Being able to meet our expectations at least 80% of the time is actually a very helpful way to motivate yourself. It feels good to do what you set out to do and to do it well! Meeting your expectations is very different from ‘just lowering them.’ Chronically high expectations which find their roots in perfectionism will only enrich the soil of self-degradation and push a person towards addictive processes like workaholism, drugs and alcohol, eating disorders and other means of detachment to escape from the painful recurrence of not feeling good enough.
1. Watch how many times a day you use the word ‘should.’ (Keep a roll of toilet paper around to throw at yourself if it gets too high! 🙂
2. Endeavour to decrease and eventually extinguish the use of the word should so that it stops creating shame, duty and a sense of obligation. As Yoda would say, ‘do or do not.’
3. Re-assess the expectations you place on yourself. Are they within the scope of reality? (Outside of reality is actually psychosis).
4. Make your expectations attainable and measurable. If your expectations are reachable they will build your confidence and reinforce your overall sense of competency.
5. Watch for any double-standards. If you notice that your expectations are still higher than what you would expect of anyone else, they are too high. There isn’t a unique set of requirements just for you!