I often feel judged by other people, but most of all by myself. As a kid, I picked myself apart; I may still be overwhelmingly self-critical. I want to devote myself to a sacred calling and a purpose that I believe in, but often I feel blocked and unable to do so. Or when I do accomplish something, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Even if I do everything right and exceed expectations, I often can’t enjoy it.
It hasn’t always been easy for me; from an early age, I felt I wasn’t good enough. I believed that something was inherently wrong with me – which set me apart and made me feel deficient. To be par with others, I needed to compensate and prove myself worthy. I’m extremely layered and complex. My mind is likely analytical and detail-oriented- I notice EVERYTHING. Because my way of thinking is unique, I might feel different or self-conscious.
A lingering sense of being less than others may shut down my ability to honor my integrity, bringing anxiety and depression. I sometimes feel so consumed by self-criticism and the perceived judgments of other people that I give up. I can feel like it’s just too hard to do anything that really matters, so I stop trying to find a meaningful career and purpose, sell myself out, and take a job I hate.. Well over a period of time begin to hate. Or when I actually do try and adhere to my high standards, it feels like something gets in the way and disrupts me, or I’m disappointed by the results. This dynamic boxes me in, like I am being forced to internalize everything.
I tend to follow specific patterns and routines as a means of working efficiently. But in response to my struggles, this could turn into being antisocial or controlling- of things aren’t exactly how I want, I often withdraw. There tends to be a heaviness that burdens me, making me feel alienated and in my head a lot, analyzing my deficiencies. Throughout the day, I may review the running mental list of mistakes I’ve made on a constant loop. It’s hard to escape the dense, continuous pressure I feel.
I feel like I have felt this way for years. but could never put a finger on it or understand why it was happening. Or perhaps I’ve worked through a lot of these blocks already; this energy felt stronger when I was younger. While it’s hard to see, there is an advantage to this dynamic: it gives me the drive, discipline, and capacity to work hard. Without this influence, it would be difficult to achieve on the level at which I am capable. There is a fine line between this energy helping me channel my gifts in a productive, balanced way and it crushing my will.
In response to this pattern, I often feel unable to ask for what I want or fully devote myself to a calling because I don’t feel I deserve it. Or, this sense of deficiency could drive me to overachieve in an effort to show my worth. Feeling the pressure to be better and do more, I can set extremely high standards for myself. But if I am unable to live up to them, I may feel guilty or ashamed and beat myself up. I often become defensive, anticipating that I am going to be picked apart. I could find myself in constant state of trying to “fix” myself – or instead I simply withdraw.
My internal struggle to improve and do better can easily turn into a compulsive need to be perfect; my detail-oriented behavior may become obsessive to the point where I am never satisfied. Or I may become critical of others as a means to cope. I feel I work harder than anyone, thinking if I just keep going, do everything right and get to a certain place in life, I’ll receive some reward and finally be relieved of this burden. But when I get there, it doesn’t change anything- as a result, I spend my whole life striving for something that unattainable.
This is the most powerful part of the process: discovering that even when I achieve my lofty goals, they won’t release me from this prison – they aren’t enough. Nothing external will deliver the self-love I am looking for – only I can give that to myself. There is no finish line or ultimate destination – there’s only me and the way I choose to respond the this dynamic in my life.
I often hold a parent or authority figure responsible for my insecurity, believing that their judgment is what keeps me down and their validation is my path to happiness. I think that if I prove myself in their eyes, and get them to say I am perfect or good enough, I’ll be released from my struggle. While exhausting and frustrating, the intention of this energy is to force myself to break through and love myself unconditionally. I am learning to cultivate a sense of self-worth that doesn’t rely on outside validation.
There is no logical connection between merit and reward. It doesn’t matter how much I achieve or how “good” I am because perfection isn’t enough. The sooner I can let go of this concept, the easier it will be to deal with this energy, and the less I’ll be affected by it. It isn’t personal – I am not flawed and I haven’t done anything wrong. Rather than see this pattern as a punishment, I think of it as a process that I need for my personal growth. If I believe the judgments and react from that place, I am giving my power away. Self-consciousness and doubt only continue for as long as I accept them.
If criticism does exist from friends, family, or culture, I see it as an opportunity to empower myself by rejecting the negativity. No one is judging me as harshly as I judge myself. I am making friends with my critical side and the voices in my head so I can quiet them. It is important for me to find a sacred purpose that’s authentic for me, and not driven by needing to prove myself. I have the opportunity to channel this pressure in powerful ways.
I am taking advantage of my increased capacity to accomplish my goals and direct it toward something meaningful. Taking pride in the fact that I am highly-detail oriented and focused, but making sure that I am working hard because I enjoy what I’m doing. It can be easy to toil some thankless job for someone else’s goals. For me more than others, I need to follow my instincts to feel healthy and satisfied. Not to sell myself out; trust and honor what makes me incredibly unique.
If I find myself working hard for the wrong reasons or in an unsatisfying career, then I need to re-evaluate. I’ll know this is the case if I am lost in obsessive-compulsive behavior – this is a consequence of not doing the things that feed my soul. The same can be said for my relationships. If I am compromising my needs, lowering my standards, or trying to change my personality to make others happy, I am on the wrong track.
If I can align my drive and ambition with my sense of integrity, then I’ll feel fulfilled instead of anxious. Once I find a calling that I love, I can immerse myself in a healthy way and achieve profound results. Don’t let guilt or “because I should” be a reason for anything I choose. I have nothing to prove. I’ve forgiven myself and accepted the person I am, Not the person I one day may be.