Trying to be less hard on myself

I was going to talk about the Nigerian Independence Day party that I and the other members of the local Nigerian association executive planned, but this is important. I hope anyone who can relate will join me in changing their frame of mind.

I tend to be really hard on myself. I’ve been told this my entire life. For example, I have been blogging since November 2002 and since 2003 I’ve wanted to design amazing websites to house my blogs. I spent many sleepless nights reading instructions online and trying to make it work, first with a blog software called Movable Type, then over the last five years with WordPress. I shed a lot of tears (I do that when I get frustrated) and I’ve called myself all sorts of names over the years (stupid, dumb, incompetent) because I never seemed to pick up web design stuff to the level that I wanted.

The thing with content management systems or blogging software is that you don’t have to learn how to design a website to use them: you can use existing templates as is, or tweak them to look the way you want them to. Most bloggers do this, but because I like everything difficult it seems, I am determined to learn how to design an amazing website. I have wasted countless hours over the last few years trying to become this amazing designer who could do everything from designing a logo to creating the structure of the site (using html) to figuring out the styling of the site using CSS, to learning php and javascript, and on and on. Despite wanting to learn these skills, I refused to pay to take courses because I’m cheap and didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars to learn something that technically I could learn online, for free, but you know what they say (Time is money). And other people were “self taught” and doing amazing things, so why did I need to take a course to be halfway decent? The thought that I needed a course made me feel even more stupid. Needless to say I’m not that far from where I was three years ago when I put together the design for this site.

So what’s my point? I just visited the website of one of the web designers I’ve admired for years and right on her site it says that she doesn’t do all the stuff that I have been trying to do (coding and programming), and I don’t think she does much graphic design either. She is a web designer, and she contracts the work she can’t do to experts in those areas, while she serves as the web designer and leader of the project. Seye had told me that most web designers or developers don’t do everything, or if they do, they rely on the work that others have done before them, instead of starting from scratch each time and reinventing the wheel. I heard him, but I never really believed it. It’s like I thought he was just telling me that to make me feel better about my lack of skill. Well, now I believe.

Another area in my life where I am hard on myself is with regard to life accomplishments. I tend to downplay my accomplishments, while giving the accomplishments of my peers more weight than my own. For example, most of my friends are married with children and live in lovely homes. Sometimes I look at my life and I feel like my accomplishments pale in comparison. But then I was reminded that most of my friends never had the chance to be a homeowner as a single lady, nor had to be responsible for a mortgage, house-related payments, and car payments on their own, so while that doesn’t make me better than them, it should make me recognize my accomplishments and not downplay them when they are pointed out to me.

So if there’s something that you’ve been working hard to do, that maybe you admire someone else for doing, give yourself a break if you’re not doing it as quickly or as easily as that other person. Maybe you just don’t have all the facts. If you’re trying to launch a business and you see someone who seems to have accomplished what you want in a shorter time, before you decide you must be stupid and decide to give up, ask yourself if perhaps the person you’re admiring quit their full time job to launch this other business, giving them more time to spend on the business. Or maybe they have fewer demands on their time while you have family to take care of. This kind of thinking represents good ways to cut yourself some slack if you’re known for being hard on yourself, but don’t use them as excuses to stop working your butt off!

Maybe you won’t have to work harder, only smarter. Like me with the web design work, you may need to explore other ways to accomplish your goals, even if it requires investing money, especially if time is something you don’t have in abundance.

It’s not easy to change one’s mindset, but none of us are too old to learn new tricks.

20 thoughts on “Trying to be less hard on myself

  1. great post! one thing i have learnt in life is that i am not in competition with anybody. i am in competition with myself. Any time i compare myself to others it doesnt make me feel good but dejected. i don't know what you have done to get to where you have, so i can only face my life and my work.

    May God help us all.

    • Aww…thanks aloted babe! What you shared is a great life lesson so thank you for that too. The other good thing about competing with yourself alone is that you will keep setting the bar higher and higher, and challenging yourself to do more than you did last time.

  2. i think you should try Myne's meme about 10 positive things about me. or you can twist to 10 achievements. Blow thy horn girl.
    No 2: delegate delegate delegate :)

    • Hi Ginger! The funny thing is that I did do the meme! The problem is that at the core of things I guess I don't really believe those things…so I need to work harder on that.

      And the delegation thing? I am SO BAD at that! I feel like no one can do something to my exact specifications…but it's just a recipe for burnout.

      Thank you for your comment!

  3. my goodness, you are preaching to the choir. I am so like that. I find it hard to give myself enough praise but I am all over other people when they do something well. I was just looking at self help books today so that I can be a more productive person in my life. Getting more done and stop procrastinating.

    • Hi Rhona! It's hard for me to see you as a procrastinator because you come across as such a high achiever and productive person. I'm such a fan of self help books but I think my problem is I spend more time reading them than putting them into practice! I hope you work on being less hard on yourself because I think you're pretty great.

  4. Love the post. Wrote about a similar thing a couple of times on my blog. We just have to focus on OUR particular purpose and doing our best to fulfill that. No one can better better at being YOU. Blessings.

    • Thanks for visiting, Feyisayo, and for your encouraging comment! You're absolutely right and I watched one of Oprah's Lifeclass shows on Monday evening that focused on being who you were meant to be. It's been a struggle but I know with some dedicated effort I can get there.

  5. Not been satisfied with your accomplishment come into play once in a while but one thing you need to know is that a lot of people would do anything to get to where you are right now, so get up,look in the mirror and say God thank you for were i am right and greater things will i achieve……

  6. I also agree with Ginger
    Babe…you too much…
    But like others have said….try to delegate and enjoy people doing thing for you the way you like it to be done.

    How have you been?

  7. Some really good points in the post and comments. As another member of the too hard on myself club, ive started to make it a point to be kind to me. I think the idea comes from Oprah. Id highly recommend it. Give yourself some positive acknowledgment, regularly take the time to do simple things that make you feel good and treat yourself occasionally for no reason at all.

  8. Nice post! About becoming a good designer… I completely understand your frustration. As a freelance designer in Naija I basically taught Myself everything i know. However, crucial Lesson I learned is there is no point reinventing the wheel, ground yourself in the basics, and use any tools to make your work easier. As the saying goes "good designers design, great design copy and Modify" ask Davinci. 'Count your blessings' is still good advice

  9. I'm late to this post and this blog in general, but it encompasses all I've been thinking through lately. Good points. For me, after months of feeling dejected and useless in terms of creating a website for my freelance writing business, i decided to hire a designer to take care of it. There was no way I was going to achieve the vision i had in my head on my own…I am a writer not a designer. It is okay to tell my over-acheiver competitive self to shut up and let the experts take care of it.

    Also, I adopted the new by day step by step, after moving back home with my parents more than 10 years after i moved out…I'm done being hard on myself. Your post is a gem.

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