Episode 18: When Self-Criticism Becomes Self-Destruction

I should have done that. I made a mistake. I can’t believe I did that! How stupid of me. Gah, Isaac, you idiot! If only I knew then what I know now. Why didn’t I know better?! Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Shouldas, wouldas, couldas, if onlys, can’t believes, how stupids, why didn’ts. It’s so easy to look back on a choice or series of choices and jump down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk and self-criticism for the mistakes you’ve made or the things that went wrong. Hindsight may be twenty-twenty, but that doesn’t mean you should be using the lens of what you know now to focus on your mistakes and fry your self-esteem like taking a magnifying glass to ants on a sunny day.

If something doesn’t go as well as you expected, it’s useful to look back and analyze what went wrong to prevent it from happening again. Learning from our failures and mistakes is a process that ultimately helps us make progress in life and in business. But if you let the pendulum swing too far in the self-criticism direction, you run the risk of doing more harm than good. The more you criticize yourself for choices you made or knowledge you lacked at the time, the more you end up grating on your self-esteem. Getting into this kind of a tailspin results in a much higher risk of self-destruction—either convincing yourself that you aren’t good enough, or won’t ever succeed at this, or shouldn’t try again because it’s pointless.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone at some point misses the writing on the wall. We fail to achieve our goals, we break promises, we make the wrong choices. Such is the nature of being human!

Evaluating your mistakes or your failures means looking for lessons to learn and ways to succeed the next time, not tearing yourself up for not being good enough. When you look back at what you’ve done or something that happened, keep an eye toward a lesson to learn, a solution to put in place for next time, or red flags to watch out for in the future. Use the opportunity to get smarter about what happened and make a plan going forward, not as an excuse to have a pity party for yourself and wallow in the shouldas, wouldas, and couldas. You can’t change the past, so why would you want to be stuck in it?

Episode Guests

In this episode I dive into the Season 1 archive and pull together some clips from each of our season's guests. Visit the individual episode pages to learn more about them.

Resources

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