Being nice to yourself can be hard. How many times have you left a meeting or difficult conversation thinking, “Ugh, I could have done better!” If you’re a human like I am – go humans! – probably often.
Of course, being aware of one’s weaknesses is the first step to self-improvement, but focusing on them can force you into a downward spiral of shame. It’s the difference between “I can do that better,” and “I can do that better...I’m bad at my job...I’m bad at everything! I’m the worst! I’m going to eat a pint of ice cream!”
Actors and writers are often called their “own worst critic.” That makes sense. We invest a lot of time and emotional energy into creating something deeply personal and then send it out into the world to be judged. If we don’t think it’s perfect we see it as a reflection of our own inadequacies. The problem is that we don’t give the other voice in our head – the competent one who just created brilliant art – equal time at the microphone.
Nataly Kogan from Happier Inc. calls it a “crisis of confidence.” Remember Don Music from the classic Sesame Street sketch? He’ll never get it. Never!
Research professor at the University of Huston Graduate College of Social Work, Brene Brown, explains in her TED talk there are several things you can do to break the dead-weight of self-inflicted criticism. One of the most powerful is talking to yourself the way you would a friend.
If she feels she messed up in a meeting, you wouldn't say “You’re the worst!" A kinder friend would help separate the emotion from the facts. “Yes, you showed the wrong slide at the wrong time, but you gave a thoughtful and knowledgeable presentation and everyone loved it!”
We all make mistakes, or think we make mistakes. To avoid them from defeating our self-confidence we must listen to the part of us that responds to disappointment with empathy, not defeat.