Looking Too Closely - the double standards we hold ourselves to

I am the queen of double standards.

It’s easy for me to excuse forgetfulness, mistakes, or the harmful words and actions of others and say “well they’re just doing the best they can.” But when it comes to the times that I forget, that I made a mistake, that I said something wrong or hurtful, or that I did something I know I shouldn’t have done – well … I can be terrible to myself.

I can tell other people “always do your best doesn’t mean always be perfect”, and fully believe in my heart of hearts that I don’t expect perfection from anyone. But then when I’m struggling to get something on one of my websites to look exactly how I want it to look – I have to work really hard to calm my inner perfectionist that is freaking the fuck out and getting sooooo frustrated that it’s not working out how I wanted. Double standard.

Or sometimes I get stuck in all or nothing thinking. Either I have enough energy and can complete a 20 minute workout – or it’s not worth it to even do 5 minutes of it. But then I encourage the people I work with who are experiencing burnout that one minute is better than no minutes of anything. Ahem…double standard.

Or sometimes I take on too much and hold myself to a level that I would never expect of anyone else. Oh look! Another double standard.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’m not a betting person, but I would bet that you can relate to what I’m saying here.

Maybe you tell people to stop being so hard on themselves, but then turn around and say horrible things to yourself about how you could have done more, done better, or did something differently.

Yes, I’ve done a lot of work to befriend my inner critic and inner perfectionist. But sometimes that just means they’re getting sneakier. And sometimes, she wiggles her way into a delicious double standard that I can’t see until my partner points it out.

I remember hearing somewhere (and I wish I remembered who said it so I could quote them) but they said sometimes we can’t see our red flags because they’re pointed at us. We only see the super skinny edge of the flag – but someone else could be standing at an angle where they see the whole flag, waving in all its red glory! This is one of the reasons why it’s helpful to have a coach or someone supportive in your life that you give permission to call you out on things like this. But that’s another story for another day.

The good news is that we can learn how to change the way the wind is blowing so that we can see that red flag. And the way we do that is through awareness and understanding our patterns.

Before we get into how to stop holding ourselves to a double standard, I just want to say it doesn’t really matter WHY you do this. Absolutely, we all have things in our past that have left us with scars and these experiences may have led to one of these reasons being our default.

But the truth is that it doesn’t matter.

If we want to move forward – then we have to accept that it’s our responsibility to deal with the way that we sabotage ourselves. Absolutely, please work with a trained and licensed therapist if you want to work through the trauma and distress from your past to help you feel whole.

Once you’ve done that, though, the sabotaging styles won’t necessarily go away – now you’ll just know where they came from. Which is helpful sometimes, I agree. Knowing where it comes from isn’t enough to keep it from holding you back.

That’s where that awareness piece comes in, because once we’re aware of the problem we can do something about it.

Step 1 – Identify your primary self-sabotage style

There are a number of different ways that we can sabotage ourselves, and all of them come from us holding ourselves to a higher standard than we would expect anyone else to live by. I have a free quiz if you want to discover your primary self-sabotage style if you’re interested. 

Between procrastination, all or nothing thinking, over-committing, perfectionism, catastrophizing, assuming based on a lack of information, and all of the others – there are a lot of ways we can sabotage ourselves. Once we know what this primary self-sabotage style is, then we can set up an early warning system.

Step 2 – Set up your Red Flag Warning System

Like I said before, sometimes our red flags are pointed at us and we can’t see them until someone else lets us know or we do something to change the direction of the wind. Your Red Flag Warning System is a way to change the wind.

Here’s how it works:

I know that my primary self-sabotage style is taking on too much and over committing myself.

One of my early warning signs for my Red Flag Warning System is when I see to-do list items getting pushed back day after day after day because there just isn’t enough time or brain power to get them done. Another early warning sign is when I start to lack motivation to work on things that I usually enjoy.

Knowing this, I can increase my awareness to notice when these things are happening early on and do something about them. Part of the process for how I do this includes some of my daily and weekly habits where I monitor these things to know if I’m going down the path of holding myself to a double standard again.

When I notice that they’re happening on a regular basis, then it’s time for the last step.

Step 3 – Create and follow a plan to get you back on track

When we’re in early stages of burnout, overwhelm and/or stress it can be tricky to know what to do to get back on track. That’s why it’s so important to have a clear plan outlined for yourself prior to when you feel stuck.

When my Red Flag Warning System gets activated and I notice that I’m taking on too much, I have a simple process that takes about 20 minutes (that I teach in the Recover Program within the Flow State app) that helps me see:
everything I need to get done
everything I want to get done
what’s giving me anxiety
what I need to let go of
my three tier planning strategy to help me stay on top of my to-do list again

Now, if you’re here at the end of this and you’re thinking “This is interesting, Avery, but I don’t hold myself to any double standards.” I would encourage you to listen to the song by Fink called “Looking Too Closely.”

Because maybe “this is a song about somebody else. So don’t worry yourself, worry yourself.”

But “I could be wrong about anybody else. So don’t kid yourself, kid yourself. It’s you right there, right there in the mirror. And you don’t want to hurt yourself, hurt yourself.”

I too have lived many years of my life saying “I’m not stressed, not stressed at all. I’m fine, everything’s fine.”

I even started my business helping people manage and lower their stress, all while working full time 12 hour shift work, volunteering a few days a week, writing blog posts, recording videos and podcast episodes, and being there for everyone who needed me at the drop of a hat. Achoo double standard.

So don’t feel bad if what I’ve shared today hits home and you feel a little called out. You’re in good company.

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Looking Too Closely - Fink