My client, Lilly, came to me recently came to me feeling defeated. Her job with her boyfriend is going fine, but she said that she feels like a failure. I asked her what made her feel that way. Lilly talked about describe how frustrating it was that she hadn’t paid off her students loans yet. She was beating herself up for job-hopping so much, which prevented her from earning promotions to be able to pay off her debt. Even though she loves her job with her boyfriend, she sent out one of their email campaigns with the wrong address, and it created a little chaos at work. Although her boyfriend seemed fine with it, Lilly kept saying how stupid she felt for the error. Because Lilly has gotten efficient with her work, with support from her boyfriend, Lilly started running email campaigns for other small businesses in the area. Because she never ran her own business before, she said that she felt like a fraud.
I asked Lilly why she feels compelled to beat herself up. Lilly said that she likes to put a lot of pressure on herself to succeed. So I asked her again, why she feels beating herself is the best way to put on that pressure? I asked her why she feels compelled to shame herself whenever she has a set back rather than motivating herself through encouragement to push forward? Lilly took a moment to take in what I said to her, and she said that she never thought of it that way before. I explained to her that she couldn’t expect to succeed by constantly calling herself a failure. It’s self-sabotage.
Most of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed. When we make mistakes, some of us motivate ourselves through encouragement to do better next time. Too many of us shame ourselves, and call ourselves names like stupid, lazy, inadequate, incompetent, and imperfect. Shaming yourself and beating yourself up is one method of putting pressure on yourself to succeed, but it also possibly the worst way to motivate. There’s nothing encouraging about calling yourself a failure. Focusing on failure only leads to more failure. The only way to succeed is to focus on success. Next time you do something wrong, or feel a lot of pressure to succeed, resist the temptation to beat yourself up. Instead, encourage yourself to succeed.