I am no stranger to perfectionism. I spent months tweaking my website to make sure that I have everything right. And even now after it has launched, I still feel like I need to make more changes to make it look JUST. RIGHT.
Even as an.. ahem, globally renowned motivational speaker and mental toughness expert, I still have my moments of self-doubt. These moments used to be so bad when I just started my speaking career. I am a lawyer and investment banker, what am I doing in this new field? Is leaving my law and financial career a wise choice? There were nights when I just couldn’t sleep because I was judging my choices and myself.
The result? No one was happy. Not me. Not my family and friends. I think even dogs avoided me on the streets at that time.
Nurturing a healthy relationship with yourself
Establishing a good self-identity and having a healthy relationship with one’s self is the foundation of all healthy relationships. If your relationship with yourself is not healthy, then you’re going to project that to your personal and professional relationships as well.
Knowing so many perfectionists, I am appalled by how hard we can be to ourselves. I’ve been there. I have joined the high-achieving rat race at university when it’s all about perfecting your defense speech — make a little mistake and you’re going to get roasted.
I think we picked up this habit at school at such an early time. With asian parents, perfect scores are a must for me. Anything less than that is inadequate.
But see, you can’t always get 100/100 in life. That’s not how the world works. So what should we do when life doesn’t go our way? What should we do when we don’t get a promotion? When we fail to reach our quota? When we realize one moment that the career we chose is not right for us and actually we want to try this other thing that just feels right?
The dangers of criticizing ourselves too harshly
Judging yourself too harshly is going to take a toll on your confidence for obvious reasons. Do we tell our friends that they are good-for-nothing when they make a mistake? Do we repeatedly remind them how bad they have messed up? Do we tell them that they are unworthy of this or that? Then why are we doing that to ourselves?
You are not perfect. Guess what? No one is!
The way you talk to yourself makes a huge impact in how you view yourself. It’s going to affect your sense of self and how you act towards others. Worse, it’s going to brainwash you into thinking that you are indeed not deserving of success.
Positive affirmations are so valuable to protect our mental health. If you’re going to brainwash yourself anyway, then do it so you’re brainwashing yourself to perform better. Visualization is how the athletes think of it: seeing themselves crossing the finish line first, or hitting the finishing blow, or lifting an additional 15-30 lbs.
Spending too much time criticizing yourself is an extremely unproductive way of spending your time. If you must do it, set a time and scold yourself for 5 minutes max, and then move on. How can you expect yourself to become better if you’re spending all your precious time and energy telling yourself off?
How to shift the narrative?
One word — affirmations.
To counter the negative self-talk we’ve been doing, we have to actively practice talking to ourselves in a more positive and productive way.
Here are my favorite self confidence affirmations that you can find in my book Mental Rockstar.
I believe and I will achieve.
I know I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
I forgive myself for not being perfect because I am human.
All I need is within me now and I have the power to take action.
All the confidence I require is given to me.
Boundless confidence infuses my soul; I am strong, powerful and bold.
I accept what I cannot change and make the best of every situation.
I live in the moment while learning from the past.
Everything happens for a reason. I appreciate it all.
Every day, in every way, I go towards my goals.
When beginning this practice, it is best to start by saying them out loud. At first, it might feel a little bit weird. It feels like a lie. It feels silly. Heck, it might even feel like a stupid exercise. Why? Because your brain is so used to the negative self-talk that it immediately judges the positive words you’re trying to say.
But just like all muscles, your brain is going to get used to this exercise as well. It’s going to take time — you’ve spent years judging yourself so harshly and it might take years to unlearn that habit and let your brain get used to positive self-talk. It doesn’t matter. However long it takes, do it. Do it for yourself. Do it because you deserve to achieve your peak performance.