Now comes time for my favorite Don't Try Harder, Try Different topic: Specialness. Specialness is all about the idea that somehow the rules of the world apply to me differently than they apply to everyone else. Specialness is the belief that it is OK if bad things happen to the other 6.5 billion people that live on the planet, but if anything bad happens to me, it is the worst, most awful thing in the entire world and I cannot handle it because I am special.
To introduce the idea of specialness to my patients, I ask them to do the following exercise: I tell them to spend the entire day treating themselves as if they were their best friends in the entire world. If anything goes well, they are to tell themselves how awesome they are, and that they are totally cool, and that everyone is proud of them. If anything goes wrong, they are to tell themselves that no one noticed or really cared and that it was really no big deal.
I tell people to do this because that is how most of us talk to the people we love - we tell them that we are proud of them and their work. Yet, almost no one actually talks to themselves in this way. We are actually more likely to remind ourselves of every dumb thing that we have ever done instead of telling ourselves how well we just did. And, even if we just did something really well, we will almost always still find a way to criticize ourselves or beat ourselves up about something that "should" have been better.