Having short- and long-term goals is so important! What happens, though, when we don’t meet our goals? There are times where I work hard all day and don’t meet my goals and I find myself saying, “What is wrong with me? I should have been more efficient!”
But this self-criticism is not motivating or helpful. There is a surplus of research studies indicating that self-criticism is associated with lowered goal progress. There is a feeling of disappointment and frustration, and a thought that nothing more is getting done and that there is no plan for the future. Why do we talk to ourselves so harshly? We don’t typically tolerate (or want to tolerate) having people in our lives who are critical in this way. Why do we allow ourselves to be our own bullies?
So the question is…
How to strive for self-improvement w/out self-loathing & self-criticism?
- Replace negative with positive self-talk. Start becoming more aware of how you talk to yourself. You might be surprised by how many times you say things like, “I suck!” or “why the heck did I do that?” When you catch yourself engaging in that negative unproductive, self-criticism self-talks, try to reframe those into more productive statements.
Does this mean that we excuse ourselves for mistakes we make? No! If we were supposed to go to work but decided to stay at home and watch TV all day, we don’t want to tell ourselves “no big deal” because that’s also unproductive. But instead of saying, “I’m so ridiculously lazy,” it might be helpful to say something like “I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t go to work today; I’ll make an effort tomorrow.”
- Practice mindfulness. When we look back at the end of the day, we often remember the things that didn’t go well, the mistakes we made, and the awkward moments. This tendency can be especially increased if we end the day and we’re not in the greatest mood. Practicing mindfulness during the day can help us be aware of these not-so-fun moments, but also of experiences that are often missed. For example, fully experiencing a shower, a chocolate bar, or even a short walk to get the mail can make us more grounded in the moment. Focusing our attention on a specific event is hard, and part of mindfulness is not judging our process! Checking out Mindful.org can also give a few ideas of how to practice mindfulness.
- Practice self-compassion, not self-criticism! I am definitely way nicer to other people than I am to myself. I know I’m not alone. I try to adopt that rule “treat others how I want to be treated” to include “treat others and myself how I want to be treated.” I try to filter the negative self-talk and to be more validating, empathic, and encouraging of myself just as I would someone else. Sometimes, (yes!), it feels a little forced. But it doesn’t feel forced when I talk to friends. Tweaking the way we talk to ourselves and think about ourselves is tough but can change our sense of confidence.
- Stop those comparisons! You will never be perfect and there will always be someone better. It’s natural to compare ourselves to someone who we perceive is the best parent, someone we think has the perfect body, someone else who is the best employee, or the best cook. If we compare ourselves to someone who is the best at what they do, we’re bound to feel inadequate! We play so many roles throughout our lives it’s impossible to be better than other people at everything.
The caveat here is that sometimes we can compare ourselves to ourselves at an earlier time, other people who aren’t coping as well, or other people who have it worse – but only when it adds to our perspective. Doing this to minimize our own experiences is not the point.
To illustrate this, when I say I’m hungry and tired and someone responds with “well there are starving kids in Africa,” I’m frustrated. Yes, there are starving children and it is heartbreaking. And that comparison doesn’t diminish my own experience of being hungry and tired! Comparisons can be helpful when they can help us gain perspective. Today I had to service my car and was frustrated having to wait, especially because I often feel uneducated when it comes to car problems.
I tried to compare myself to others who aren’t privileged enough to have cars to help me gain perspective. My frustration is still valid, but the comparison helps me take a step back.
Do you struggle with beating yourself up under the guise that you’re motivating yourself? Could you use some self-compassion and motivation? If you’re near me in the Buffalo or East Amhurst area near me, I invite you to call me and we can set up a time to meet!
Go ahead and call
Dr Tacianna Indovina
About Dr Tacianna
Dr. Tacianna Indovina knew that she wanted to be a therapist since she was in high school. From that time, her love and enthusiasm for the healing power of psychotherapy hasn’t wavered. It’s a good thing for our community that Tacianna is as enthusiastic as ever for helping people when they feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and alone. Through her authenticity, gentle directness, and sense of humor, Tacianna works with you to identify patterns of thinking and behaving that may be making it difficult for you to meet your goals. Tacianna’s easy rapport encourages, validates, challenges, and empowers! With her down-to-earth and relatable style, Tacianna provides counseling for late adolescents, adults, and couples, to provide support to recover from interpersonal loss and trauma, overcome mood struggles, cope with anxiety, and adjust positively to life transitions. Tacianna adapts her approach to what you want and need, and aims to help you build healthier relationships with yourself and others. Contact Dr. Tacianna to schedule your free initial consultation today! 585.752.5320 firstname.lastname@example.org