We can sometimes feel like we are not successful enough in our lives or not measuring-up somehow. You are not alone if you feel this way. It is because we are caught-up in a cultural web of conditioning that promotes status, money and power as the defining features of success. Unfortunately, this web is far reaching and dangerous and can cause us to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

It can make us think that we somehow need to be better, richer or more successful. Research by the Mental Health Foundation shows that one in four people in the United Kingdom will experience a mental health problem in a given year.

It is then vital that we become aware of how these pressures can appear in all areas of our lives. Indeed, carefully crafted media messages constantly attempt to overwhelm us into feeling insecure about who we are. But it does not end there. Popular culture is only the beginning.

Pressure to prove ourselves

What is particularly dangerous is when these messages speak through those closest to us in our lives ― our parents, siblings, partners and friends ― people that we love and trust. We can sometimes fail to see how we, often unconsciously, put pressure on ourselves to reach certain standards defined by those we are closest to. Those who, despite their best intentions, might themselves be caught-up in the same web of conditioning.

This can be a difficult area for us to look at. For example, it might be painful to acknowledge that one’s career ambition or drive to ‘be the best’ really stems from pressure to prove oneself to someone ― perhaps a difficult-to-please parent or a sibling one feels overshadowed by.

Developing an awareness of how we are living and why we might be making certain choices is then fundamental to being able to notice the pressure we might be putting on ourselves. Awareness requires us to look into our own hearts and minds, and to ask ourselves the difficult questions: “WHY do I really want to do that?” or “WHO am I trying to prove myself to?”. This takes courage. It is also the key catalyst for personal change.

Swimming against the current

Going through a process of change can sometimes feel like you are swimming against the current, particularly if everyone around you is nudging you in a certain direction.

Once you have recognised where the pressures are coming from, it is then about protecting yourself. While it is easy to turn off the TV, it may be more tricky to deal with pressure coming from people in our lives. Difficult conversations may need to be had, for example.

It is extremely important that you support yourself during such times by having someone you trust that you can talk to ― a friend, a sibling, a partner ― someone who accepts you for who you are; someone who does not make you feel like you in anyway need to be “more” or “better”.

You are enough

Wherever you are in your life and whatever your personal circumstances are, you have to remember that you are enough. No matter what people tell you, it is important to see that you are complete by simply being who you are. This is not to say that we should not learn and grow in life. On the contrary. It is only by taking unnecessary pressure off ourselves that can we begin to truly flourish and live joyfully.

“Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. Just because someone failed to see the value in what we can create or achieve, doesn’t change its worth or ours” ― Brené Brown

Inspirational Ted Talk by Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability