I’m sure you can think of a number of things in your life that you would like to improve. Maybe you want to get back into (or start) exercising, maybe you wish you had a better job, or maybe you just want to learn to be happy where you are right now, in every moment of the day. It’s easy to point to external circumstances as reasons why you haven’t reached those goals, but what if the answer lay with you all along?
Where we are in life is often a result of our own individual choices—what job we choose, the people we elect to call friends, etc. While this may seem simple, there are often underlying factors at work that can subtly sabotage our happiness and drive to succeed. Read over the ways you are sabotaging your personal growth and you may be surprised to see how many resonate.
I think we all know the damage that can come from comparing ourselves to others. In any aspect of life, be it image, work, finances, etc., comparison does one of two things—makes you feel better or less than another person. Feeling less than someone else can lead to negative thoughts about yourself, feelings of low self-worth, and even the desire to give up certain aspirations.
Feeling better than someone else is equally as damaging; it causes you to place value judgments on others and your sense of accomplishment and self-worth is directly related to those rankings. It leaves you with an underdeveloped sense of self since you can’t exist without being in relation to someone else.
No one can make you feel anything you don’t want to feel, so remember the next time you compare yourself to someone else, you’re the one causing the feelings. If you want the negativity to stop, simply stop the comparison and worry about yourself.
2. Letting fear hold you back
Fear is an extremely successful motivator. It is a primal emotion that is important in our fight-or-flight response and warns us when we may be in danger. While fear can be a potent signal to examine our surroundings, it can also cause us to become paralyzed in situations that aren’t particularly life-threatening. There have been many opportunities that I have missed out on due to fear: traveling to France by myself because I wasn’t fluent in the language (despite having a non-refundable ticket), making a phone call when I needed help, taking the bus when I wasn’t sure how everything worked (“HOW DO I TELL THEM I NEED TO STOP??”), and the list continues.
It took me a long time, but I finally learned that it’s pushing through that fear that has given me some of my greatest achievements. I think that anything that causes a little discomfort is probably a good thing. It means that you are taking risks. You’re stepping outside your comfort zone. You’re learning how to live.
3. Having unrealistic expectations
Having high expectations can be a good thing, but make sure that they are realistic. By setting the bar too high, you run the risk of disappointment. If you’re not in the place to accept and process disappointment, you can easily start to view yourself as a failure, which makes it harder to get up and try again. Perfectionism is a great example of having unrealistic expectations. The inability to accept anything less than perfect will guarantee a lifetime of stress, comparison, and preoccupation with the unachievable.
4. Undervaluing yourself
The less you believe in your own value as a person, the less others will. Stop undervaluing yourself at work, with others, and especially with yourself. Learn to value your time. In the world of blogging, for example, many companies approach bloggers for a review in exchange for free products. This is great, unless blogging is your full-time job. If you blog in addition to a full-time job, your time becomes even MORE valuable. Learn to ask for what your time is worth so that you are compensated fairly. In all aspects of life, know your worth and don’t let others take advantage of you.
5. The “When I’m _____” problem
I think we are all familiar with this problem. It’s the “I’ll be happy when I’m ______” or “I’ll eat a cookie after I’ve worked out 6 days this week.” This type of thinking either stalls us into inactivity or sets us up for failure. For me, when exercise and eating were issues I was grappling with, I would tell myself that I would be happy when I lost x amount of weight. When I hit that number, my brain magically told me that at some point that number was changed to an even lower one. It kept me cycling around those unrealistic expectations and shocker—I was never happy.
The restraint mentality is not one that works for me. If I deny myself a delicious cookie based on how much I exercise, all I’m going to be thinking about it that cookie. Then I will binge on cookies. In fact, I already feel like my cookie problem might need some monitoring, so to visualize what would happen when I restrict myself, just imagine Erin hiding in the corner with a giant box of cookies, chocolate smeared on my face, and rabid chocolate foam coming from my mouth. Actually, don’t imagine it—here is an accurate portrayal:
Basically, if you’re not happy or satisfied now, you probably won’t be when you hit the arbitrary goals you set for yourself.
I am the classic overthinker. It is extremely frustrating to other people as they try to tell me basic concepts and I return with a million questions or comments about how I disagree or find flaws in the logic. I realize this makes me sound like I am very proficient in intellectual debates, but I’m talking about simple things such as “tell that person how he/she made you feel” or “learn to take suggestions from other people.” I will also take situations and blow them out of proportion in my head to the point where I envision a routine bi-monthly check in with probation will result in some kind of fanatical arrest and incarceration. Yes, it is easy living with me if you were wondering.
I’ve had to learn to stop overthinking a remark someone made to me, what a particular gesture meant, and everything in between. Analyzing situations and other people takes up far too much time that I could be spending growing my business or eating cookies.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud!
- What other ways do you sabotage your personal growth?