Life is hard enough on its own. Why then is it so tempting to beat yourself up when you are already feeling bad about your problems?
Your brain if not carefully monitored will sometimes spin webs of thoughts that serve no useful purpose to you.
It makes no logical sense. Why would you try to make yourself feel worse? If anyone should be on your side, it should be you. But for some reason, when we are feeling down on ourselves, we often take this ‘low road’. So, what is the point of self-inflicted abuse?
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There are several reasons why you might torture yourself. It could be from guilt and the belief that you deserve the pain. The self-sabotage could come from feeling like you don’t deserve any better than to suffer. It could just be a habit of negative self-talk that has formed over years.
It could even be more subtle such as feeling shame over a mistake or feeling stuck. Self-torture can even be a defense mechanism. Whatever the cause, this is a pattern that must be dealt with if you want to have long-term happiness.
Why do I torture myself with unrealistic expectations?
People who demand perfection of themselves tend to be unhappy because they always let themselves down. When goals are unattainable, you are doomed to fail. Life is imperfect for everyone, even though most hide their issues from others.
You might do well at work but mess up on something at home. Conversely, you could have a great home life but make a mistake at work. No matter how much effort you put in, there will always be wins and failures. It’s important that you recognize the value in your life even if it isn’t perfect. No one is 100% successful all of the time.
Self-torture by unrealistic expectations often comes from parents who were tough on their kids and expected them to achieve more than was possible for a child. These expectations become embedded in your thought patterns and lead to feeling like you can never do good enough.
Guilt from the past
If you made a mistake in the past, how much time do you spend thinking about it? It’s human to make mistakes, but if you are always beating yourself up over them, it’s not going to be constructive.
How long has it been since that incident happened? Why does it still have so much power over you now? This long-lasting tension does nothing good for you. Guilt is never good for your mental health and it’s important that you find a way to release the mental tension.
Self-sabotage – fighting against yourself
This is extremely common in relationships but it can manifest in other areas as well. When things are going well for you, your mind starts thinking about how to screw it up. You might think about what you did wrong in the past and worry that history will repeat itself. You might even be thinking of how to sabotage it up before anything gets started.
It’s almost like a part of yourself doesn’t want you getting too happy because you don’t feel worthy or deserving of being happy. This is a prime example of self-torture and it has to be dealt with either on your own or with the help of a professional therapist.
Shame after a mistake
This is similar to the unrealistic expectations that were mentioned earlier. Mistakes are inevitable but the problem comes after you associate guilt with the mistake. You might have berated yourself in the past and it’s become ingrained in your thought patterns.
You need to break the association of guilt with mistakes. It is a natural part of being human. There is a big difference between feeling guilty after something horrible happens and beating yourself up over a minor mistake. Take emotion away from the memory of your mistakes and think logically. Would you think the same if the mistake was made by someone else? Would you use the same words to berate them? If not, then why treat yourself differently than you would someone else?
Feeling like you deserve the worst
Another reason for beating yourself up is looking down on yourself and thinking that you deserve punishment. Thinking that you don’t deserve to be happy or feel good. This can spiral out of control as you continue to think negative thoughts about yourself which make you feel bad. Then because you feel bad, your thoughts turn even more negative. And this can repeat for years.
If ignored, this cycle repeats and gets stronger which brings more harm to you. Changing the way you think takes intention and effort but it can be done.
Feeling stuck in life
Feeling stagnant in life is another trap that you can get caught in. The problem with feeling stuck is it makes you feel powerless. It’s one thing to be unhappy but another to have no way out of it or worse yet no will to change it.
Life isn’t meant to be stagnant and uneventful. If you feel like you don’t have the means to get what you want, it can wear down your mood and bring about feelings of helplessness. But you can’t just sit around waiting for things to happen because they aren’t going to magically work out on their own.
Dread by thinking about the unknown
There are a lot of things we don’t know and may never know. There are uncertainties about the universe and life that are mysteries. And there are lesser unknowns that can feel just as intense.
Some people dwell on thoughts of the afterlife and wonder if they will be doomed to eternal torture if they don’t follow the guidebook and rules of life perfectly. They spend days and nights in fear over this potential horrific outcome. The unknown rules over their minds and affects how they live. This is traumatizing and can lead to a life of stress.
Another person will live with feelings of dread about his job security or the faithfulness of his girlfriend or wife. Compared to the afterlife this seems minuscule but to him, it feels just as important.
There are always going to be things we cannot know and understand. It has to be okay to not have all the answers because there is no other option.
Even if you don’t like not knowing the future, you can still accept that this is reality. Acceptance will bring about more mental peace than fighting a battle that you can’t ever win. Understand that there will be unknowns and you might not even have any influence over some parts of the future. Fighting against this fact will only bring about more trauma and distress.
Feeling bad is better than feeling nothing at all
While not true, this thought pattern isn’t uncommon. Some who feel numb to life for a long time eventually crave feeling anything. And sometimes they latch onto self-hate instead of a healthier alternative. Now they are feeling something again even if this feeling is tearing them down.
This is the easy way out. It takes minimal effort to make yourself feel worse. Working to better yourself takes effort and energy but it does lead to positive feelings and self-talk.
Questioning if you will ever be good enough
I’ve heard this too many times and it has never made sense. Good enough for what? What are these lofty expectations that people put on themselves that when achieved will finally make them ‘worthy’? There is no special moment of achievement or success when you suddenly ascend to worthiness.
In fact, you don’t have to do anything, in particular, to be good enough. There are no rules or high council who deems the worthy from the unworthy.
I might sound like Mr. Rogers, but you are good enough right now. Seriously. Stop being so hard on yourself and realize that you are already whole and fine. This negative talk serves no positive purpose in your life so it has to be eradicated. Stop torturing yourself and get back to living a life with pleasure and feeling love toward yourself. And if you don’t know how to do this on your own, it’s fine to ask for help.