top of page
  • Michael Philp

Are you setting unrealistic standards for yourself?

You don't have to be perfect

"I don't think I'm good enough"

If this was a game of Jeopardy, then the question to the answer above would be "What is holding you back from doing the things you want to do". Many of my clients recently have been discussing this issue as it is a block to a goal they have had. For some it is to write a blog or a story, for others it is to go for a job promotion, and others it is to attend TAFE or university. But before we get to the "I don't think I'm good enough" answer, we usually go through a whole bunch of avoidance - procrastinating, delaying, avoiding, minimising and so on. Because to admit that you think you are not good enough doesn't make you feel particularly good. And that is because it is at the very core of our self-beliefs, what psychologists call core beliefs or schemas.

Who are you comparing to?

Humans like to rank and order things. It helps us to make sense of the world. We teach our children to learn which shape is bigger and which one is smaller. Our sporting teams get ranked from first to last. We rank people on tests. We order books into top 10 lists for bestsellers, and the top 40 chart for music. Until recently, Instagram showed how many people liked and commented on a post. Sometimes this is useful. But a lot of the time it doesn't help to compare ourselves with someone else. Especially when we choose to compare ourselves to someone who is extraordinarily talented. What tends to happen then is inaction. When we model our measure of success on someone (or something) that is at an elite level, our comparisons become all or nothing. We are either good or bad. Smart or dumb. Talented or untalented. And this black and white type of thinking is incredibly unhelpful. If I wanted to write a blog on music, but then looked at the most popular music blogs (currently Pitchfork according to my quick Google search) and thought "I could never write as good as this" or "I'll never get as many readers as this" then I'm likely not to start. It remains a dream - one day I'd like to write a blog on music. However, this is an unhelpful comparison. I'm quite sure that when Pitchfork started, waaay back in 1996, their readership was quite small compared to now. And I'm also sure, if you asked the original writers to compare their writing now to back then, they would probably tell you they were somewhat embarrassed by their writing, because it has improved over the past 20 years.

Do it because you want to

The only comparison that is helpful to make is the one within yourself. Can I improve on my last test? Can I improve on my writing style? What was good, what can be improved? What do I like about this activity that makes me want to do it? Perhaps you would like to learn how to play the guitar. You've thought of this for sometime, in fact you may have even bought a guitar with the intention of playing. Yet it remains an expensive dust collector. What is stopping you? What is holding you back? Are you comparing yourself to your friends who have been playing since they were children? Are you worried that other people will comment negatively and tell you that you can't play or that you aren't good enough. Or, more likely, you believe that you are not good enough and your brain then seeks out comparisons to confirm this belief. The way through this is to do it anyway. To do it because you want to. And the only comparison that is valid is, how did I compare to yesterday? So if your goal is to learn to play guitar, or write a blog, or run a marathon, then the focus is on the why - I want to learn guitar because it is fun to play an instrument and sing the songs I like. I want to write a blog because I am really passionate about make-up and I want to share my ideas with like-minded people. I really want to start my own business because I have a passion for food and I want to share that.

64 views0 comments


bottom of page