It is conventional wisdom that we’re our own worst enemies and despite the cliche, the idea rings true. We often drive ourselves insane striving for perfection in our experiences, relationships and selves, and honestly it just becomes exhausting. So here at HuffPost Women we’re issuing a challenge to ourselves -- and other women -- to stop doing these 23 things. (Of course it’s all easier said than done, but to employ another cliche, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.)
1. Apologizing all the time. Research has shown that women actually do say “sorry” more often than men. We’re all for taking responsibility when you make a mistake -- but constantly apologizing for having your waiter split the check or asking a date to hang out on a different night or telling a friend about your problems, does more harm than good. There’s no need to qualify everything you do. Own your preferences and decisions.
2. Saying “yes” to everyone else. Yes, I will meet you for coffee even though I’m exhausted and just want to go home and crawl into bed. Yes, I will edit your resume even though I’m swamped with my own work. Yes, I will go on a double date with you, your almost-boyfriend and his awful friend who’s in town. Stop saying “yes” when you don’t truly mean it. People actually respect you more when you set boundaries.
3. Saying “no” to yourself. A lot of women spend a whole lot of time deciding what we can’t do or shouldn’t do or aren’t good enough to do. Don’t allow your insecurities and anxieties to make your decisions for you -- you’ll only end up missing out on worthwhile experiences. So go talk to that group of people you think you won’t fit in with, stay out late against your better judgment every once in awhile and treat yourself to that blowout even if you don’t really need it.
4. Viewing food as the enemy. Women often receive the message that our ultimate worth lies in our looks. Our hair should be smoothed or perfectly curled, our makeup on at all times -- but natural-looking -- and our bodies bangin’ (read: thin). In the quest to achieve these impossible standards, it’s easy to see food as something to contend with rather than to enjoy. Be cognizant of what you put in your body -- after all, it’s the only one you have -- but try to do away with the guilt. Savor every bite of that gnocchi with gorgonzola or that Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream or those fresh cherry tomatoes. Food should not come with regrets. As Nora Ephron wrote, “I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”
5. Body-snarking -- out loud or in your own head. Stop putting your looks down, period. Nothing good will ever come of it, unless you’re working through body issues with your therapist.
6. Feeling like an impostor when you accomplish something professionally. Women are more likely than men to feel like “impostors” at work, often doubting whether we deserve the successes we achieve. Start taking your accomplishments at face value. You got that new job or promotion or grade or public recognition because you were worthy of it.
7. Obsessively untagging every “unflattering” photo of you that ever existed online. While it makes sense that you don’t want that photo of you blinking showing up all over your Facebook profile, we probably cause ourselves more anxiety than necessary making sure every image that doesn’t show us in perfect lighting doing something totally amazing goes away. It’s not only just one more way for us to obsess about our looks -- after all, people will post what they’ll post and we have little control -- but online photo albums have largely replaced physical ones. You may not want to remember the unflattering face you made at your brother’s graduation party now, but down the line you might want to conjure the moment.
8. Comparing your real life to someone else’s virtual one. Spending a ton of time obsessing over your own online life can be anxiety-provoking -- but so can obsessing over other peoples’ virtual personas. Research has shown that Facebook addiction is correlated with lower self-esteem. And who wouldn’t feel bad sitting in bed on a Monday night scrolling through your ex’s vacation photo album or the enthusiastic statuses your friend in the fashion industry posted during a celeb-filled party? Instead of playing a constant game of comparison, which studies have shown can actually magnify feelings of depression, just close your laptop and enjoy the present. At least it’s real.
9. Holding on to regrets and guilt. “I’m pretty anti-regret,” Lena Dunham said at the 2012 New Yorker Festival. Guilt and regret are two emotions that usually serve to torture the person feeling them. Acknowledge your regrets and guilts, and then move on to the best of your ability.
10. Wearing heels every day. Look at this terrifying infographic and then tell me why it’s a good idea to force your poor feet into stilettos on a daily basis. We love a gorgeous pair of pumps, but embracing comfort (most of the time) will not only make your commute a whole lot more pleasant, but your feet a whole lot happier for years to come. Plus, flat shoes can be super stylish.
11. Judging other women’s sex lives. No woman deserves to be put down for who she sleeps with, how many people she sleeps with or how she chooses to express her sexuality. Next time you’re about to call another woman a “prude” or a “slut” just zip your lips. Even Miley Cyrus and her twerking shouldn’t be slut-shamed.
12. Judging your own sex life. No one needs to know your “number.” And honestly, you probably care a whole lot more about what the sex you’re having (or not having) supposedly says about you than anyone else does.
13. Trying to be “chill.” Maybe you truly are the “cool girl” who loves nothing more than kicking back with a six-pack and a movie. But for those of us who don’t possess the “chill” gene, let’s stop trying. Striving to be the mellow girl at all times keeps us from expressing our needs, desires and opinions.
14. Fearing the label “crazy.” There is no easier way to discredit a woman’s opinion or feelings than to accuse her of being overly emotional. “I don't think this idea that women are ‘crazy,’ is based in some sort of massive conspiracy,” wrote author Yashar Ali in a blog for The Huffington Post in 2011. “Rather, I believe it's connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis.” Being scared of the label only encourages women to silence themselves. Plus, everyone has a little bit of crazy inside of them -- regardless of gender.
15. WebMD-ing everything. Your glands may have been swollen for a week but it does not automatically mean that you have a massive tumor in your neck. Step away from the Internet doctor and go see a real one if you’re truly worried.
16. Worrying that your life doesn’t look like Pinterest. You are not Martha Stewart. You will probably never make that DIY floating bookshelf. And your Eggocado will never look as delicious as this one does.
17. Fearing being alone. There are certain things you have control over -- like trying to go on dates, and actively meeting new people -- and others which you simply don’t. Finding a life partner (or even a temporary one) is one of those things. You can’t pinpoint when or where or how you’ll meet someone to spend your life with, so stop freaking yourself out over the idea that you never will. And there are far worse things than being alone. “The most profound relationship we'll ever have is the one with ourselves,” Shirley MacLaine once said. Preach.
18. Being in relationships for the sake of having a relationship. If you’re terrified of being alone, the worst thing you can do is jump into a relationship you don’t really want. Nothing good comes from tying yourself to a person who isn’t right for you simply because you feel the need to couple up. As Nora Ephron wrote when she launched HuffPost Divorce: “Marriages come and go, but divorce is forever.”
19. Not taking advantage of your vacation days. More Americans than ever are forgoing their (already meager) paid vacation days -- despite the fact that we know that people who take time off are more likely to be healthy, happy and productive workers. We swear, no one will die if you turn off your cell phone and head to the mountains for a long weekend.
20. Holding on to toxic friendships. Banish any Regina George-like frenemies from your life ASAP. Life is too short to waste time with people who make you feel like crap.
21. Spending time with people out of obligation. Just because you spent every waking moment of your elementary school days with someone doesn’t mean you have anything in common with her now. There’s no need to see every old friend and third cousin who passes through your city. Be intentional about who you spend your time with and allow yourself to let some relationships fade away naturally.
22. Being embarrassed about your interests. “I want to be a f**king feminist and wear a f**king Peter Pan collar. So f**king what?,” said Zooey Deschanel in Glamour magazine’s February 2013 issue. Take a cue from the actress and stop caring what you “should” look like/care about/talk about. If you love girly things, love girly things. If you don’t, don’t. Embrace your lack of knowledge about music, your hockey obsession and your weakness for both “Breaking Bad” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” And if there’s a particular subject area you don’t know about but you encounter someone who does? Take the opportunity to ask questions.
23. Setting deadlines for major life events. Don’t try to meticulously plan out when you should find love or have babies or get that dream job or buy that amazing brownstone. Enjoy the uncertainty of life and allow yourself to be overjoyed when you hit those milestones or pleasantly surprised when you realize you want to skip out on some of them altogether.
This story appears in Issue 70 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Oct. 11 in the iTunes App store.