A topic dear to my heart is the art of appreciation and what I find over and over again is how challenging it can be to appreciate ourselves. We don’t give ourselves enough credit, or we think that by being ‘tough’ on ourselves, that is the way that we get results.
It happens a lot in sport. You may know, or have had a coach, that has the tough critical eye. You can never get it right, or good enough – there is always something ‘wrong’ and always something to improve.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to you….imagine it…….you’ve been given some helpful feedback to improve a particular aspect of your game (whatever that might be, on or off the sporting field) and you’ve been working on it. You are really excited about the improvements you are making, and you may even think you have perfected it………and then there is your coach, picking on something else that is wrong. No acknowledgement of what you have done well and how you have improved.
It can be deflating.
Now, replace that word ‘coach’ with yourself – yes, you are your own best (and worst) coach. You will tend to leave your harshest criticism for yourself – am I right? Or perhaps you know someone like that?
The problem is that people think this works. The critical coach is accepted for meaning well and wanting to get the best performance out of the athlete or person. For every person that responds well to that kind of coaching, I wonder how many great performances are lost because of the lack of praise or acknowledgement.
You see, I used to come from the school of hard knocks – where a critical eye was the way to getting better. I was grateful for having the errors pointed out, so that I could perfect my skills. But….I wasn’t always grateful. Many a time I wished for that acknowledgement of what I had done well – and I might even ask for it…..”but look, see what I have improved!!” It’s like my inner child (we all have one) craving for some praise and a pat on the back.
Think about this. When you are putting yourself down – when something is not good enough and you are focusing on what needs to be corrected, your inner child is thinking “what do I need to get a pat on the back here? Isn’t anything good enough?”
Now, you might be thinking – so how do I improve if I’m not critical of myself? – especially, if that’s what you believe is the only way to improve.
I think there are two important keys to this. One is what you are focusing on and the other is the critical aspect of it. I’ll talk about the latter first.
Often I hear judgment when people are critiquing themselves. Associated with doing something incorrectly or not quite right – is that it is bad to make errors. Crazy, isn’t it? It’s particularly crazy when you are learning a new skill to think you can’t make errors.
Imagine if you did it without judgement. What if you could see what needed to be improved with a neutral attitude – it is what it is.
What are you focusing on? Are you giving any focus to what you are doing right? When you focus on what you are doing right, you can do more of what is right, and less of what is not so right. You can be thinking “I did this well, and it will be even better when I do xyz…”. This is about getting better, not fixing a wrong.
If you are the type that judges yourself for making the same kind of error over and over again, you might even think you are then justified for being harsh on yourself, even calling yourself stupid names. Good luck. By focusing on your error, you are probably going to stay stuck right where you are.
You can apply this to any area of your life where you are ‘performing’ – in meetings, sales, your finances, dating, weight loss or exercise…..and so on. Could you be a bit nicer to yourself? If you’re not sure it will work for you, give it a trial of 2 weeks and see what happens.
Be sure to share with us here your views on the best way to give feedback.