Acknowledging achievements boosts well-being and happiness
With the ever-increasing sense of needing to achieve, and have this externally validated, we have unwittingly created a drive to achieve the unachievable. From the star chart, at a very early age - in my opinion, this has a lot to answer for in teaching people how to seek external validation. To the pen passport at school, you can't use a pen until you have passed a certain level of success in your handwriting. Our children, for decades, have been conditioned to constantly improve as a measure of success.
The trouble with this is that life just doesn't happen this way. Life isn't a constant smooth trajectory of improvement - it is more like a bumpy squiggle of ups and downs, sometimes we are winning, sometimes stagnant and sometimes going downhill. This can create an unrealistic expectation of life and create compare and despair to the unrealistic expectations of life, achievement and success.
Teaching children, who then become adults, that it is 'normal' to constantly improve is simply setting them up for unrealistic expectations of self and life; fear of failure when they realise they can't constantly improve, and an increase in anxiety and depression.
A common theme for many of the clients I help recover from anxiety, depression and other neurophysiological dis-eases, is that they have set the bar far too high. This doesn't often come from other people's expectations but is internally driven by their own strategy of constant improvement. Then they berate themselves for being lacking somehow, or fear that they are not good enough, people won't like them, or that they are useless, helpless and therefore worthless and it is hopeless (the hopeless, helpless, worthless trap).
When this happens, you end up in a destructive cycle of anxiety, fear/panic and shame/regret which feed into each other. Anxiety or depression is the present emotion which is caused by fear, anger or panic of future events or regret, shame, guilt or blame for past events, creating a loop or cycle of thoughts.
Without an exit strategy, this can be a difficult loop to escape.
An easy to implement escape strategy is to do the following, daily, so that it becomes a healthy habit and thus breaking the cycle and the sense of being trapped.
For depression - each morning, write 3-5 things that you are looking forward to that day - no matter how small - having a shower counts, getting out of the house does too!
For anxiety - each evening, write 3-5 things that you did with a sense of confidence and/or calmness, or times when you felt relaxed - no matter how small or apparently insignificant, in fact, the small stuff matters more than the big stuff.
For everyone - each day, write 3-5 things that you are proud of yourself for, the small stuff counts here too.
To begin with, this may seem difficult, this is very common. Stick with it as it gets easier with practice, like any skill - remember how hard you had to work to learn times-tables, ride a bike, tie your shoe-laces, drive a car? As adults, we often perceive that we 'should' be able to learn things quickly or know how to keep ourselves on track for life. But this isn't necessarily the case.
Make sure you read what you have written often, at least weekly, and most definitely when the mood is low or the anxiety is rising. Once you have established the habit, you can add to this, if it is beneficial for you to do so.
And for those who want to take it to the next level of a more compassionate way of continually becoming the best version of you - each week write down three of the weeks' wins and three ways you will improve next week. Remember that compassion is the key and to make sure that you look at all areas of your life that are important to you.
Our minds will do whatever we do most often, better, quicker and more efficiently. Training your mind to see the positive in everything you achieve will help counter the negative beliefs that have been previously exercised too much.
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