Everyone is disappointed with themselves at some point in their lives. People set standards and goals for themselves and then become frustrated when they aren’t able to live up to them. You’ve experienced this too. You might think you’re not as disciplined, productive, good-looking, wealthy or compassionate as you should be. Failing to live up to your own expectations is disappointing. When you do it over and over again, you develop self-loathing.
Self-loathing is a very common and very dangerous problem. Self-loathing gives rise to counterproductive behaviors and actions which further compound the problem of failing to live up to your own standards. It is a vicious cycle which many people are perennially stuck in. but it needn’t be this way. Here are some ways you can deal with the discomfort of not living up to your own expectations.
Notice what you’re feeling
Before you deal with the feeling of frustration itself, you have to understand what gave rise to this feeling. Think about what you’re currently unhappy with yourself about. Are there projects you’ve been avoiding or habits that you’ve abandoned? Maybe you’re not eating as well as you want to. Maybe there’s a relationship that you’re insecure about.
As soon as you start thinking about these things, you’ll notice that certain feelings come up for you. Think of these feelings as indicators for unfulfilled expectations. Once you’ve isolated these expectations you have of yourself, examine them. How many of them are realistic? If they aren’t, stop blaming yourself for not living up to them.
Let the negative feelings in
You’ve identified a few things that are causing you stress and frustration. The next step is accepting these feelings as they are. Don’t fight them. Let yourself feel whatever it is you are feeling. Examine how a certain expectation makes you feel. Where in your body are you experiencing these feelings? Feeling bad is OK. Everyone feels bad once in a while.
Love yourself in spite of your mistakes
When you’re talking to someone who has just gone through a bad breakup or is experiencing an emotional crisis, what advice would you give them? Consider that advice, and apply it to yourself. Be compassionate. You, with all of your insecurities and fears, are perfectly worthy of receiving love. Speak to yourself with love and acceptance. You deserve it.
If you want to change the way you live your life, you have to change the narrative you’re repeating to yourself. Stop focusing on the things you haven’t done or aren’t good at. Focusing on your failures will create a narrative which dwells on what might have been. Know that despite all of your failings, you tried. You tried your best in every situation, and now you’re here. You aren’t perfect, but you have your best intentions as heart. Acknowledge this part of you that has tried and failed and tried again. It is your best self.
Now, in this moment, think about the things that you have achieved. Think about the things you are grateful for. Count your blessings. Do you have a great family? Do you have someone you love? Are you healthy? Are you good at something? List them out. Practicing gratitude is an incredibly powerful way to reframe the story of your life.
Embrace the uncertainty
Get comfortable with the notion that you really don’t know what is going to happen. You don’t know how your day at work will be. You don’t know what your wife will say to you when you get back home. You don’t know what the weather will be like. You don’t know. But that’s what makes life fun. Not knowing what is going to happen makes everything an adventure.
Yes, you will set goals, and you will fail to achieve them. You will feel disappointed in yourself. But you’ll embrace yourself nevertheless because you understand this is part of the process. All you have to do is persist. Life will throw a few knocks your way, but you have to learn to pick yourself up and keep going.
Self-loathing and disappointment is a fundamental part of the human experience. You’re not a failure because you’re experiencing these feelings. Accept what is and be compassionate with yourself. Look at the future with curiosity and know that you will fail again, but you won’t let it stop you. You’re constantly evolving, and this is just another way point on your journey.