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Monday Postcard #246 – How We See Ourselves vs. How Others See Us

Monday Postcard #246 – How We See Ourselves vs. How Others See Us

Monday Postcard 246 - How We See Ourselves vs. How Others See Us

Introspection – the “beauty” and “joy! We are at home, maybe enjoying some free time on the couch and suddenly the thoughts are creeping in: Have I worked enough this week? Am I on track with all my goals? Should I have put more effort into task XYZ? Did I take a wrong turn in the past? I should have worked harder. I should have accepted that offer. Am I really enough? The spiral keeps going down and down…

I am not entirely sure if it is a thing which affects women more or if it is rather related to one’s character or personality traits. Whatever it is, I have noticed that me and many the people with whom I surround myself are much harsher on ourselves than how outsiders perceive us. I recently had a talk with a friend of mine who has been extremely successful in her career, she has moved across countries and also started a family. While she has been one of the people I have always looked up to as inspiration for her strength, persistence, intelligence and personality, she told me over coffee: “I am not sure if I have done everything ‘right’, maybe I took a wrong turn in the past, then I would be further along. I have the feeling that it is too late now.” I was stunned. She was the last person I would have expected to have doubts about her career. When I asked why she felt that way, she told me that she has not met her goals (needless to say, they were set extremely high) and that she keeps doubting herself.

If you met my friend today, you would never think that she is a woman who doubts herself. Totally on the contrary, she radiates confidence. But obviously, what we show to others might not always be how we actually feel about ourselves. Sometimes it can be positive. It happened more than once that I was happy that nobody around me knew how I really felt on a certain day. But there is more to it: We have been taught to create a protective “layer”, to not show any weaknesses. Unfortunately, we all have to “sell” ourselves and showing the slightest sign of such weakness may cause a huge barrier to our careers. Furthermore, I also think that we have been trained with negative motivation: if you tell yourself you did not work hard today, you will work harder tomorrow. Toxic, but in the short-run it may work. (Studies show that the most successful people are actually the ones who motivate themselves with positive affirmations rather than talking themselves down.)

Nevertheless, this brief conversation reminded me was that we should be a bit kinder to ourselves. Sometimes, it may even be necessary to re-evaluate our goals. Just as an example: I work very hard to make my businesses succeed. While I take a lot of inspiration from successful and established brands and opinion leaders, I tend to forget that they are equipped with substantially more resources (in terms of capital and human resources) than a small brand like mine. Yet, I apply the same standards to everything I do to achieve similar results. Needless to say, this is not always the best strategy. Sometimes it would be better to settle on less – I am not saying that this means giving up high quality standards but being a bit less strict could help a little.

Let me explain this to you from my point of view as a perfectionist: My perfectionism sometimes hinders me in progressing to the next task or stage. Hence, in addition to the ridiculously high goals I set for myself, I also want to reach them in the most perfect way and I give not 100 but 120%. But what I should actually do is what somebody once told me: Nobody knows what “your 100%” is. For many people, my 80% or even less would already equal their 100%. So maybe sometimes, I do not need to go for MY 120% but realistically assess what do the customers perceive as 100% and be satisfied with that. Outsiders do not know what the most beautiful, most perfect version would have been. The important thing is to provide them with their version of perfect.

Similarly, when it comes to our personal or professional paths we should take ourselves back and put ourselves into an outsider’s shoes: would they be as harsh with us as we are with ourselves? Or would they see more positives along our path which we have trained ourselves to overlook? Unfortunately, our minds function in a way that negatives stick longer than positives. But our advantage is that we know about this issue and we can work on it.

So maybe this week, we all are nicer to ourselves. I am not sure if I will ever be somebody who “manifests” in the morning by telling myself in the mirror how great I am. But maybe I should try. Or I try by just focusing more on the positives.

Have a great week ahead!

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