A confidence myth de-bunked: You are good as you are
A confidence myth de-bunked: You are good as you are.Photo: . Pictures may be protected by copyright.
The “You are good as you are” mantra may not be the best way to go about boosting your self-esteem. Here are some good options to try instead.
What’s the myth: In recent years, the idea of self-acceptance (“Youare good as you are,” “You are enough”) has certainly gained its moment in thelimelight. Unconditionally embracing the people we are—both on the inside and onthe outside— seems to be the solution to many of our inner struggles. It’s themagic bullet for becoming more confident, happy, fulfilled and lead our dreamlife. Whyit doesn’t work : At first blush, it appears that absoluteacceptance of who we are is exactly what many of us need, in order to become whowe want to be and achieve the things we aspire to do. So far, so good. But, as I mentioned in a previous post , self-acceptance is a bit like a Catch-22situation. On one hand, being tooself-accepting may mean that you like the status quo and may not be toointerested in changing the Current You. On the other hand, though, being tooself-criticising is not great either– it may throw you into a perpetual battlewith yourself– to do better, to always strive for perfection, to never besatisfied with your achievements. The idea that we don’t need to change ourselves,anticipating that people will love the wonderful person we just happen to be, canbe a dangerous notion to embrace (regardless of what the romance novels try toconvince us). Of course, the opposite—excessiveself-judgement— is certainly not healthy either. But then—to paly devil’s advocate—if you don’tgive yourself a kick from time to time, how can you truly improve then? Becauseif you believe you are “good as you are” and too content with Me Now, it’soften challenging to find the motivation to do better and become more. So, whatoptions does this leave us with? Whatto do instead: The first thing to remember is that youshould not stay stagnant. You need to change, evolve, improve. As Tony Robbins eloquently puts it:“If you are not growing, you are dying.” But pushing yourself too hard tomeasure up with friends and peers can sometimes tip you over the edge. You mayopen the door to a myriad of other issues— eating disorders, depression, senseof worthlessness, unwarranted self-consciousness . So, how can we combine then self-acceptanceand self-compassion with the need to grow and improve? It’s a tough one tojuggle. Here is my advice: 1.Self-Acceptance Self-acceptance is truly about acknowledgement —that you are not perfect (and that no one else is), that you are work in progress, that your final draft is yet to be completed. We all have yin and yang—light and darkness, good and need-improvement qualities, flawless and flawed parts, virtues and foibles. And this is what makes each one of us unique. Self-acceptance is also about minding your inner dialogue . It’s good to nudge yourself —it’s actually a proven way to change your behavior. But you shouldn’t say to yourself things as: “You are so stupid. You are not worth it. No one likes you.” This is not the right way to motivate yourself. It will have the opposite effect—and research supports this over and over. Self-compassion is about self-kindness—that is, instead of judging yourself, talk to yourself like to your best friend. Be nice, be polite, be understanding. Finally, think about it—what good does intentionally putting yourself down do anyway? Disliking yourself makes you lose self-respect and self-confidence. 2. Constructive Criticism Excessive self-criticism , on the other hand, is counterproductive. We often think that persistently pushing ourselves will fast-track us to the success we seek. In fact, research shows that it’s exactly to the contrary. “Being hard” on yourself has an adverse effect on motivation, it makes you procrastinate more and actually slows down goal progress. Self-criticism does have some merits , though. IF used properly. Itcan help you do better in some situations, seek for ways to improve, and thinkmore critically. So, how do you make this “obnoxious roommate” ,the Inner Critic, work in your favor? It’s called constructive(as opposed to destructive) criticism . There are few ways to self-criticise without the adverse effects—so that you are feeling motivated rather than discouraged from not being on par. For instance, psychologists tell us that we need to challengespecific changeable behaviours, not global unchangeable attributes . If yousay to yourself: “You are stupid, and this is why you failed the test,” it willlikely make you feel very depressed and disappointed with yourself. But flip the narrative a bit (called “explanatorystyle” ), and you can have a completely different outcome. For instance, sayto yourself: “I didn’t pass my test because I stayed up late. Next time,instead of watching that show until the wee hours, I’ll go to bed at 10pm, nomatter what.” And this situation is something we cancontrol. Another way to use self-judgement to our advantage is to turn it into self-correction . Negative self-talk by itself is passive, it’s like “empty calories.” It keeps you trapped in a vicious circle of self-loathing. So, instead of ruminating on how unsuccessful you are in life , make a plan . Be specific. List the things you want to improve and how you will go about doing this—the situations, actions, the timelines. For instance: The next time I have to give a presentation, I will not freeze, but will look at my notes and will read from them. It’s so much better than just saying: I’m a failure. Because how do you go about changing being a failure? It’s so general, that you don’t really know where to start. It may be so overwhelming to tackle it, that it can paralyse you into inaction. ~ ~ ~ In the end, “You are good as you are”may not be the best way to go about boosting your self-esteem. Self-acceptanceis, of course, necessary on some level—so that we don’t throw ourselves into atantalising and never-ending pursuit of becoming “better.” But we often take “better” to mean “like someone else” (or “not like me”) and not “better than I was yesterday or a year ago.” And this is where the culprit is—this is how self-criticism turns toxic. We start thinking that we are just never good enough—not pretty enough, not successful enough, not rich enough, when we fare 51against others. When you seek change, it needs to befor different reasons than to measure up with the Joneses or to fit in. If youwant to learn new things, master your craft, get healthy—then, yes, there mayalways be room for improvement. And it’s certainly worth a nudge.