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Where Are You Holding Yourself to a Different Standard?

The very thing I see as a gift when it comes from others, I view as a burden when it comes from me.

There’s often a disconnect between the way we see ourselves and the way we see others. We say things to ourselves that we would be horrified to say to another human being. We demand perfection from ourselves that we would never expect from anyone else.

I very much want to have relationships and be part of a community where we don’t have to hide pieces of who we are. I want us to celebrate together—the big victories and the tiny joys. I want us to be with each other through the hard things, from the hurts that turn our lives upside down to the mundane challenges of everyday life.

It’s easy to think we shouldn’t share what’s painful because someone always has it worse and that sharing the good things will sound like bragging, but it’s not a competition. There is no quota on suffering and no quota on joy. When we share what is going on for us, we don’t diminish what is happening to someone else. Rather, we make space for each of us to be seen.

When another person tells me about something they’re celebrating or a way in which they are struggling, it feels like they’re giving me a gift. I’m honored that someone trusts me enough to share. I am grateful to see into their life and be shown where I can be with them in whatever they are going through. The sharing feels like it increases the connection between us.

It has come to my attention, however, that as much as I appreciate when others share, I don’t often share myself. I rarely tell others what is going on for me unless asked…and even then I’m often vague. I assume others don’t really want to know. The very thing I see as a gift when it comes from others, I view as a burden when it comes from me.

But that’s not how I want to be. I don’t want to be the one who tries to be there with others but won’t let anyone be there with me. I want my relationships to work both ways. I want to see others and let them see me. Erasing myself doesn’t give anyone else more space.

These separate standards can show up in so many different ways…

Maybe you understand that people are likely to make mistakes when trying something new and gladly encourage your friends to try again and again…but you expect yourself to be perfect on the very first try and take it as a sign you should quit if you ever make a mistake.

Maybe you look to others to make your decisions because you think everyone knows the right thing for you to do…except you.

Maybe you feel welcomed when your friend’s house is a little bit messy because she’s more interested in spending time with you than trying to impress you…but you never let anyone visit you unless your home is spotless.

I’m curious…where do you hold yourself to a different standard?

Often we don’t even realize what we are doing. It seems normal to expect ourselves to be perfect and never need anyone else. I think many of us carry some form of the fear of being either too much or not enough for others.

I’d invite you to pay attention this week to see if you can spot any places where you expect something different from yourself than you do from the people around you. Once you’ve identified something, try asking questions to deepen your exploration.

How do you feel toward others and toward yourself?

Using the example above, when others share what is going on in their lives with me, I feel more connected with them. I feel compassion for the hard things they are going through and excited and happy about what is good. I feel honored that they trust me enough to share and I feel grateful to know how I can support them. (To be clear, I’m talking about genuine sharing…not excessive complaining or bragging. That is something different.)

When I don’t share in return, I feel isolated and invisible. I feel like I matter less than those around me. I end up focusing internally instead of connecting with others. I feel afraid of sharing too much or saying the wrong thing.

What are you afraid might happen if you stop holding yourself to this different standard?

There is often a very good reason we expect things of ourselves that we’d never expect of another person. In this example, one of my biggest fears is that no one will think I’m worth the trouble if I ever share my wants and needs instead of just responding to theirs. I worry they’ll think my victories are too small and silly to celebrate…or that I’m trying to brag about how amazing I am. I’m afraid people will think I’m selfish for naming what is painful or challenging for me when there are others facing much worse.

How would you act differently if you expected from yourself the same thing you would expect from someone you care about?

In other words, if you saw a dear friend setting this same double standard, what would you encourage her to do? This is one of the occasions when it’s actually helpful to pretend to be someone else.

In this example, I made a point of telling some friends about a few things that felt hard but hadn’t seemed worth mentioning because they were nothing new. I also shared a win I was celebrating—something that felt like a big deal to me, even though it would likely come easily to many others.

You know what? The people I told celebrated with me and showed me compassion. They didn’t tell me to get over it or to be better. They didn’t minimize what I’d shared or walk away because it was too much. I felt connected and seen and a little bit braver to try again.

I’d love to know…where do you hold yourself to a different standard? How does that impact your life and how you feel? What might change if you could let go of those expectations? Leave a comment below or send me an email to share your thoughts.