Have you ever had this conversation with yourself? “Stupid, stupid, stupid. How could I be so stupid?” Some people have a healthy ability to recognize that everyone makes mistakes and that getting frustrated or angry tends to make tiny problems into bigger ones. Others have memorized the “stupid” conversation and recite it like a mantra when they make a simple mistake.
If you are one of those who insult themselves for every little mistake, stop it. If your standard for yourself is too high, chances are you are holding others to a high a standard, as well. No one can do better than their best.
Here is a plan to conquer the name calling part of yourself:
Prepare a counter assault
In advance of the next time you call yourself “stupid” or whatever clever name you use when you make an ordinary mistake, prepare a completely different speech. It might go something like this. “Oops. That was an unfortunate mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. What can I learn from this to avoid making this error again?”
If you have a real problem with this, surely your spouse and children will recognize it. Tell them about your counter assault. (If they’ve been living with you for a long time, they may have learned to beat themselves up, too.) Ask them to help you with it.
Practice the counter assault
You’ve likely been giving the “stupid” speech for years. It is perfected. It is completely automatic. To change, you need to have your counter assault memorized. You need to be ready. Practice with the family. Make sure they learn it, too.
Implement the counter assault
It will be harder than you think. The next time you bump your head, spill a glass of milk, lose your wallet or otherwise do the sort of thing that inspires the “stupid” speech, your first reaction will be to give the “stupid” speech. Stop as soon as you recognize it. Launch the counter assault. Say it out loud just like you gave the “stupid” speech. Repeat it like a mantra until you are calm.
Give thought to the lessons
If you actually do take time to think about the lessons you might learn from the experience, you can reduce the chances of making the same mistake, again. By thoughtfully exploring why you lost your wallet or bumped your head, you may find insights that will help you avoid those accidents in the future. Beating yourself up for them would never accomplish that objective.
If you are angry with yourself all of the time, you are likely being short with others, too. By learning to be patient with yourself, you are also learning to be patient with others. The people you spend the most time with — likely your family — will appreciate your new approach to dealing with life’s little disasters. You’ll also find life is easier when you can stop beating yourself up for beating yourself up!
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.