That voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough? It’s lying.

I’ve held myself to high standards ever since I could remember, but the problem with having high standards is that usually they’re impossible to measure up to. From wanting to be the smartest in the class to battling with feelings about my appearance (braces, glasses, a monobrow and a block fringe to not a ‘cool kid’ make) feelings of inadequacy have followed me through into adult life.

There’s a reason that the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy” is banded around so much - it’s because it’s true. I often think about all the times I’ve looked at others and wished I looked like them or had their confidence/bank account/career (delete as appropriate). Hours, days, weeks worth of longing to be somebody else.

The time I spent obsessing over how I was less-than began to manifest itself in unkind thoughts. I would mentally tear myself apart, from my bone structure to my clothes, my grades, how many friends I had and whether they really liked me… it went on, and on.

In my late teens I moved away to university. I developed severe anxiety and spent many nights lying in the dark, in the midst of a panic attack, desperate for sleep to come and take what had become a painful existence away. I isolated myself from my new flatmates because I was so uncomfortable with myself that I thought they’d hate me. I felt unworthy. It wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind for Fresher’s term. I was spending so much time wishing I had the life of someone else that I became unable to live my own.

Over the years, and with the help of a good therapist who encouraged me to question the mean little voice inside my head, I’ve been able to shake off a lot of those feelings of inadequacy. The major breakthrough for me was that telling myself I was bad or inferior wasn’t actually giving me a kick up the backside to improve myself, it was causing me to withdraw and give up. I was cheating myself out of being the best version of ‘me’.

Slowly but surely, I cultivated a kinder inner voice. Accepting myself and what might make me different from others (or them different from me) has meant that I can devote more of my waking thoughts to existing in a way that makes sense to me, not somebody else. Confidence comes from knowing you’re being true to your real, worthy self.

If you’re struggling with thoughts of comparison, try questioning that inner saboteur. Ask it “So what?” when it tells you your hair is messy today. Tell it “Who cares?” when you worry if someone’s noticed a new spot on your chin on an Instagram post (they haven’t). Pose “But what if I succeed?” when it tells you that you won’t get that new job. Keep silencing it until that kind voice you usually push aside is able to join the conversation.

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