When I was in middle school I had the biggest fear of public speaking. I couldn’t do it without my voice quivering, my hands shaking and my mind going completely blank. I guess my english teacher didn’t understand how nervous it made me because when I would get into panic mode mid-speech, she wouldn’t give me a single word of encouragement or let me sit down and regroup. She would just stare at me, forcing me to continue. Even the act of preparing for a speech made me so anxious to the point where I would just avoid doing it. I wasn’t being lazy or unmotivated. I wasn’t “not trying”. I just didn’t know how to manage my nerves. At the end of the year, I got my report card back from her at the end of class and still remember her exact words. Along with giving me a low grade, she wrote that I earned such a low grade because I never tried hard enough. Those words hurt.
When we constantly “should” ourselves, either one of two things tend to happen. One, we become anxious about getting things done or two, we end up procrastinating, avoiding and become unable to get things done at all. Yet the problem is that neither one of these outcomes leaves us with feelings of contentment and satisfaction. It is also so easy to “should” yourself with incredibly high and unrealistic expectations. When I made a goal (sometime last year) to build up my running stamina, I remember after my very first run, I wasn’t happy with myself because I kept hearing this little voice in the back of my head saying “you should’ve run just ten minutes more”. Why couldn’t I just be happy with myself for getting my running clothes on and getting out the door and doing it? Why wasn’t that enough? Why would I want to go back out there and run again if after every run I was left feeling as if I should’ve done more. And in my mind, this of course translates to those dreaded words: “you didn’t try hard enough”
We all need to make a conscious effort to turn down that negative voice in our minds and turn up the compassionate, kinder voice. The more you practice at doing this, the better you get – promise! Now, I try and do what feels right for me and when I am finished, I remind myself that what I did was enough for me and that’s all that matters. And because of this – I can leave the gym feeling satisfied and proud of myself. I can eat a slice a pizza one night and not feel guilty. I think by now you get the point – so why not, starting right now – try to do the same?