"You're not trying hard enough."
These are five painful words that should not be drilled into a young, vulnerable, developing mind. While every person is entitled to his or her own opinions, this particular opinion need not be shared.
How are we to know who truly is and isn't trying hard enough? How are we to know where to draw the line between what is enough and what isn't enough?
I can think of far too many moments in my life when I heard these words. Maybe those who spoke them simply had the intention of motivating me to do better in the future.
Maybe they didn't realize how much of an impact the words might have on a young person's self-esteem. Regardless of the intentions, the words always bruised me.
Growing up, I was quite shy and unsure of myself. So, hearing the phrase repeatedly from an array of different people led me to believe that no matter what I did or how much effort I dedicated to a task, it simply wasn't enough because "I could have tried harder."
I remember dreading gym class in middle school because each time I didn't run fast enough to satisfy my gym teacher's standards, I apparently wasn't trying hard enough. This eventually led me to believe that I was a bad runner, which eventually dissolved my remaining motivation to try.
Why would I try if no matter what, my gym teacher would think I could have done better? It was a lose-lose situation.
When it came around to our annual sports day, I was required to run a 300-meter race. I still remember the terrible, anticipatory anxiety I felt when I thought about the upcoming race.
I pictured millions of faces discovering that I was too scared to try hard and that I was a bad runner. I imagined their embarrassment in watching my red, sweaty face cross the finish line in last place.
I even imagined my own parents trying to hide their disappointment through half-hearted words of encouragement.
Even if none of what I anticipated was true, I was trapped in these anxious, paranoid thoughts and because of it, the self-fulfilling prophecy came true and I underperformed as a result.
In an ideal world, my gym teacher would have recognized that I was struggling to cope with anxious feelings and should have spoken to the school counselor or my parents rather than further confirming my fears and worsening my anxiety.
The more I heard that I wasn’t trying hard enough, the louder the negative voice in the back of my mind grew. "You didn't try hard enough. You didn't run fast enough. You didn't workout long enough. You didn't study hard enough. You shouldn't have eaten that. You didn't put in enough effort."
It got to the point where I never felt satisfied with anything I did.
It didn’t change or start getting better until I realized that I could focus on shutting out the negative voices.
We all must make conscious efforts to turn down negative voices in our minds and turn up the compassionate, kinder voices. The more you practice doing this, the better at it you will become!
Now, I try and do what feels right for me and when I am finished, I remind myself that what I did was enough for me and that what’s right for me is all that matters.
Because of this, I can leave the gym feeling satisfied and proud of myself. I can eat a slice a pizza and not feel guilty. I can splurge on myself every now and then and not feel like a bad person.
Everyone owes it to him or herself to cultivate a positive self-perception.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It