Learning to Live On Our Own Terms

Mariel Witmond
Mariel Witmond

24 January, 2021

Learning to Live On Our Own Terms

Why do we beat ourselves up?

There’s a lot of pressure, on and off the mat, to look and be a certain way. Sometimes we struggle to know where others end and we begin. We feel so much pressure to achieve something beyond ourselves that we miss the point – which is just to learn to be more ourselves.

We internalise a lot. Hammered down by messages of what we should aspire to, we are constantly being pulled away from who we truly are. Pressure is a form of self sabotage caused by overwhelm and unhealthy habits like perfectionism and people pleasing. We cling on to what we’ve done wrong (or what we think we might do wrong) over what we’ve done right in our lives, associating any misstep with a further validation of our lack of worth. We prioritise the needs of others over own, endlessly trying to give from an empty cup.

Pressure manifests itself in different ways for different people. People pleasers, for example, struggle to live life on their own terms fearing the discomfort of disapproval, while perfectionists push themselves so hard, forever trying to prove a point – what that point is continues to allude me (as a fellow perfectionist – and people pleaser). Both personality types strive for a goal outside of themselves, trying to impact the behaviour and reaction of others (which is unhealthy and is what causes us stress and anxiety).

Does this sound familiar? If it does, just remember that greatest change happens when we start to look at ourselves with curiosity, rather than judgement. We know people pleasing and perfectionism compound pressure, so what are some healthy alternative behaviours we can work on embracing?

Perfectionist tendencies stem from a place of fear, convinced that any wrong step is failure and failure is bad. Contrary to this, those that find success in life tend to see failure as a natural part of the journey and an opportunity to try again. They embrace grit and through grit can learn to lighten the load.

Grit is a combination of resilience (our ability to bounce back after adversity or let down) and perseverance (our ability to stick to something until it gets done). Grit encourages us to create a growth mindset that allows us to embrace challenges, to know that if we keep trying we can master our efforts, that we can learn from feedback and the success of others, and no matter what life puts in our path, we keep moving forward. Be willing to get things wrong, otherwise we will never come up with something creative, the pressure of perfection stifling our creative juices.

If I could picture grit, it would be rough around the edges – so how do we soften those edges? Enter grace…

Grace is a generosity of nature – a consistent kindness to ourselves and others, even when we find it difficult. Grace will take you places effort cannot, developing traits that are softer such as vulnerability. But it is important to note that there is a thin line between grace and a desire to please; whereby the former can only be achieved from a place of authenticity and genuine intention, rather than the subconscious ulterior motive of being perceived a certain way.

We need to look at the pressure we put on ourselves and where it comes from in order to do our best without beating ourselves up along the way. Much like people pleasing and perfectionist tendencies tend to go hand in hand, so can grit and grace. Amidst all the external noise, it’s time to slow down, tune in and listen to our hearts in order to create new processes of self-governance that help to alleviate the social pressures we feel.

We are all on a journey of discovery, so find what happens to be true for you. Stop waiting for things to change and start making the change from within. Life is too short to not live it on your own terms. Don’t drown under the pressure. Don’t give your power away or lose sight of who you truly are. The world needs more of what lights you up inside. The world needs more of YOU, “no pressure.”

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