It seems that for some people, no matter how fit they become or how well things are going in their lives, they consistently find something negative to focus on. No matter how great things are, they are never good enough. They hold their lives to an impossible standard of perfection and then berate themselves when they can’t get there. Why do we do this?
Parents with high expectations. Some of us had parents that set impossible expectations for us. You may have literally heard that you did get 7 As, but one B was unacceptable. You must act a certain way, go to a certain college, and go into a certain major or field. With that amount of pressure, you may begin to worry that making one mistake would lead to disappointment or worse from your parents.
Role models. It seems as though few of us have had role models that exude contentment. While they may not be openly critical of us, when they are openly critical of themselves, we pick up on that. When we grow up with people who are constantly picking themselves apart, it is only natural that we may begin to do the same.
You have high expectations. The critical voice of your parents can easily be internalized and at some point, it becomes your own. Some of us seem to be born with this need for perfection and messages from our authority figures merely reinforce them. When you beat yourself up for falling short of perfection, you set yourself up for a shame cycle which will reinforce the negative self-talk.
Negative experience stand out more. For most of us, our positive experiences far outnumber our negative, so why do we focus on the negative? When something occurs in lower frequency, it actually stands out more because it differs from the norm. We pay more attention to it and focus on it. If negative experiences were the norm, we would be desensitized.
When we engage in all or nothing thinking, in which, we expect perfection or assume imminent failure, we are destined for disappointment. Learning to accept life as it is in this moment, is incredibly freeing. By lowering our expectations and finding contentment in what is, we never feel disappointed. Does this mean that we never grow and change? No! What it does mean is that we will strive for new goals and experiences and be happy when we gain success, but we refuse to see ourselves as a failure if we do not make it. It means that we begin to recognize that it is ok to make mistakes. When we live in acceptance, we gain so much more in life because we can actually learn from our experiences rather than beating ourselves up.