Blog Short #67: Are you too hard on yourself?
Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!
Photo by ClarkandCompany, Courtesy of iStock Photo
Being too hard on yourself is a common plight and one I’m pretty familiar with, so I’m assuming it might be something that also gets the best of you sometimes.
I’ve found it helps to take a look and see exactly how I’m doing it, and then replace the bad habits with better strategies that work.
Let’s go through those two steps.
What exactly does “being hard on yourself” mean?
In a sentence, it means:
. . . any act or thought you impose on yourself that damages you emotionally or psychologically. It’s an attack on your very core sense of self.
Let’s try to categorize the various ways it manifests.
- Self-criticism that belittles, shames, denigrates, deflates, or attempts to shred you.
- Acts that punish or deprive you of the chance to repair, improve, or make amends. You might berate yourself so much that you feel too paralyzed to do anything.
- Thought trains that expect perfection. Nothing is good enough. Successes are minimized and quickly replaced with criticism.
- No forgiveness. Mistakes are not allowed. Worse, you take on the mistakes of others and blame yourself for them.
- Excessive expectations. You expect yourself to be super-human. You should be able to accomplish “everything” that’s put before you and more. You are your achievements (or failures).
When you’re excessively hard on yourself, the underlying belief lurking in your mind is that it will make you better. You’ll perform better, become more self-disciplined, do more, succeed, and make the front page news as a winner!
Somehow, if you beat yourself into submission, you can get that monkey off your back that’s telling you aren’t good enough and aren’t living up to the expectations you and everyone else has of you – and if you only could, you’d get that approval you seek and feel like a “good person” who’s worthy.
The problem, of course, is that no one can beat themselves into being a better person. Beatings don’t work. They never have and never will.
There are only two reactions to beatings:
- Becoming defensive in an attempt to stop the onslaught of emotional pain you’re feeling, or
- Retreating into depression and increasing the unwanted behaviors that have brought on the beating in the first place.
In the first case, you come up with every conceivable reason why the accusations you’ve flung at yourself are wrong. They must be! You can’t be that bad. So you look for every reason, excuse, or possible way out of taking responsibility for what you think you aren’t doing right.
In the second case, you berate yourself with the most cruel and punitive accusations you can think of that build the case for why you should be beaten.
If you can relate to either of these, I would also guess that you alternate back and forth between them. Either way, you don’t feel better or do better when you’re excessively hard on yourself. That’s the bottom line.
But, there is a better way!
The Sweet Spot
There’s another approach, and that’s to make sure that the way you speak to yourself, and the way you characterize your worth, is done with love and compassion.
That doesn’t mean you don’t need to push sometimes or call yourself out. You do. However, there’s a way to do that that will preserve your worth, while helping you take steps to improve whatever needs work.
To do that, you have to start with two basic premises, which are:
Premise #1: You’re more than what you do. Your worth is intrinsic, meaning it comes from within and is tied to your existence, not your achievements. You’re worthy because you exist. All human beings have worth.
Premise #2: Life is evolution meaning your life is ongoing growth and development. Evolution is a process of change that starts with initial movements forward, followed by setbacks, new insights and resets, and then another forward push. It isn’t a straight line upwards. There are periods of growth and failure, and sometimes you get stuck in the ditch and have to pull yourself back out.
The sweet spot is learning how to ride those waves of growth and setbacks, both as an observer and participant so that you can make the most of them.
Here are some strategies to help you do that.
1) Be an empathetic and loving narrator.
If you were writing a story, you would have a main character who likely would come up against obstacles and, over the course of the story, would overcome them.
You would allow your character to make mistakes, take the wrong path at some points, and correct and find creative ways to get through the obstacles in pursuit of a good ending. That makes the story interesting!
Write your own story in this same manner. Be creative in figuring out ways to get around obstacles, and cheer yourself on when you’ve taken wrong turns and need to rethink your path. Engage in your narrative, but also be a guiding force that’s on your side.
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself, the words you use, and the feeling behind them. Compassion and guidance should work together.
2) Admit mistakes, failures, and wrong paths.
Be honest and scrutinize yourself. Take time to examine what you’re doing, as well as how you feel about what you’re doing. Objectively look at what you could do to repair situations that need it and make improvements in areas that need revamping.
Learn as you go, and do it with a sense of challenge and excitement that you can do better with sustained efforts.
Never give in to the pounding and relentless hammer of self-condemnation, and don’t forget to count your wins!
3) Hold yourself accountable, but do it with love.
Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean being lax. It just means always seeing yourself as worthy of love and acceptance while staying focused on what needs to be done.
4) When you make a mistake that involves someone else, repair it.
Fess up and apologize. Sincerely. Don’t defend or look for a way to excuse your behavior. Strength is admitting when you’ve hurt or offended or let someone down. Follow up your apology with corrected behavior.
5) Forgive yourself.
Let me give you this quote from Matt Haig from The Comfort Book. When I first read it, I let out a big exhale.
“Imagine forgiving yourself completely. The goals you didn’t reach. The mistakes you made. Instead of locking those flaws inside to define and repeat yourself, imagine letting your past float through your present and away like air through a window, freshening a room. Imagine that.”
Yes. Imagine that! By forgiving yourself and letting go, you’re far more able to keep going forward. The emotional energy you use up condemning yourself will keep you at a standstill, and you’ll find yourself unable to move. Forgiveness clears the way to keep going.
That’s all for today! Be kind to yourself, and have a great week!
All my best,