Why is it we can be so much harder on ourselves than we are on other people? We can give others leeway and second chances but if we don’t get perfection from ourselves at the first attempt we’re quick to self-criticise and berate ourselves for failing.
In this episode we look at:
Pressing Pause Podcast episode 72 When you feel disappointed in yourself
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a coach and writer, and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to overcome your overwhelm so you can feel calm, confident and in control.
Hello and welcome to episode 72.
Before we get stuck in to today’s topic I’m curious to see if you answer yes to any of these questions:
If you answered yes you’re definitely not the only one feeling like this. You want to feel calm, you want to feel in control and you want to feel confident that you can cope. Not just right now in the midst of the global pandemic but in so-called normal life too.
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Now, on to today’s episode.
Something that comes up a lot with the women I work with (and I notice it in myself too) is just how hard we can be on ourselves.
There’s an expectation we can have for ourselves that we should be doing better, we should be fine, we should have got the hang of this by now, we should know what to do, we shouldn’t be finding things so difficult, we shouldn’t let that person get to us, we shouldn’t still have to be working on this… the shoulds are loud!
And when it turns out that we aren’t where we expect ourselves to be, or feeling or doing what we expect of ourselves, we feel disappointed. In ourselves. And that feels pretty crappy. It’s hard when we think we’ve let someone else down but when we’ve let ourselves down, when we feel disappointment in ourselves – that’s tough too. Because it’s usually accompanied by a generous helping of blame, shame, and critical words that are said by us to us.
Do we have different expectations of others? Do we accept that other people might make mistakes? Do we allow others to have a learning curve? Do we give other people a break when they’ve had a tough day? Yep, I’d say on the most part we do.
But when it comes to ourselves we set the bar much higher. We hold ourselves to a higher, perhaps sometimes unfeasibly higher standard and if (when) we fail to reach it we are unforgiving in our self-criticism.
I see this so often in the self-development work my coaching clients are doing. For example, they know that meditation is beneficial, they know what to do, they know when to do it and they meditate for a few days in a row. And then one day they forget or get distracted and so miss a day and then beat themselves up for their perceived failure and lack of willpower.
Or they know that it’s okay for them to do something purely for themselves – to go to bed early, to watch their favourite TV show or go for a long walk alone. They’re making this time for themselves and feeling better for it. Then life gets hectic, their self-conservation goes out the window, they get stressed out, realise they’ve not made time for themselves and that’s adding to their overwhelm. They get cross at themselves because they thought they were getting somewhere but now they’re not and why do they find it so hard to do what they know is good for them, for goodness’ sake?!
Ouch. These ‘failures’ become another stick to beat yourself with, more proof that you’re incapable and frustrating and disappointing and you’re back at square one with added annoyance.
And while your determination sees you having another go, trying once more, it’s done with the heaviness that comes with feeling you’ve not lived up to your own expectations and let yourself down.
But here’s the thing: you’re not back at square one.
You’re at square 1.1, or 1.4, or 1.9 depending on how many times you’ve been round this particular block. Because you’re not going round in circles – learning a thing, doing the thing, failing at the thing, back to the start.
You’re going round, and up, a spiral.
Let’s take the meditation example. When you start a new meditation habit – perhaps you meditate for three days in a row and then miss out a day or several – you aren’t back to square one where you never meditated before because you have, for three days.
So it feels like you’ve gone in a circle and you’re back at the start, but you’re actually up a layer of the spiral because you have those days of meditating behind you. Which is evidence that you can create the space to meditate, you can make it happen and so you can again. As well as knowing that you’re capable of meditating you also know that you can get distracted and this is valuable information.
With this awareness (which you didn’t have the first time round) you can choose to accept that you might not meditate every day, or you can look at what would help you when the distractions come up.
And then you get back in the meditation saddle with the knowledge that the next time you fall off you won’t be at stage 1 or 1.1, you’ll be at stage 1.2 where you have more proof that you can make space for meditation, more knowledge of how you feel about it and more understanding of yourself.
We’re not going round in circles, we’re going round a spiral and developing as we go. (Kate Northrup talks about it as the upwards cycle of success.) We’re not on a straight line where we never make mistakes, slip up, need to practice or try again.
We’re moving up the spiral so each time we feel like we’re back in the place where we were, we’re actually on the next level where we can look back at where we came from, what we did and what we can learn from the experience.
This doesn’t just apply to the meditation example I’ve given, it can apply to your life in all kinds of ways.
So the next time that you notice you’re disappointed in yourself for not doing what you think you should, for not being the perfect person you think you should be, the next time the shoulds are loud in your head, imagine a spiral curling upwards infinitely and remember that you’ve travelled up another layer, developing all the time.
And I’ll remind you again that if you’re wanting to feel more peace and to feel better able to handle the uncertain world we live in, my new course, Rooted, will empower you to feel calm, in control and confident you can cope, and it’s available to pre-order now with two bonuses that are available for only a few days more. So go to gabrielletreanor.com to find out more and sign up.
As always you can find me on Instagram where I’m @gabrielletreanor or you can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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