Fear Failure? Here’s a Note to Your Inner Critic
Lighten up on motivating yourself with criticism.
Posted Sep 15, 2015
I understand what you are trying to do. More than anything, you don’t want to fail. You don’t want to feel like the failure you think you are. So, you push. You criticize and demand more from yourself. And you don’t dare let up or others will see just how inadequate you are. I get it. I really do.
But consider this. What if you are wrong?
What if you are no more inadequate than anyone else? No doubt, if you have children or close friends, you would cut them some slack. You would intuitively understand that if they do poorly on a test or blow a presentation at work, that failure does not define them as people. Maybe they really are bad at math or would do better in a different kind of job, but you would still see good in them. What if you were just as accepting of yourself?
It would probably hurt your heart to see your children or friends in emotional pain, stirring in you the desire to ease it. You might even want to express the compassion you feel. And, if you did offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on, you could imagine that it would help them feel better—it might even encourage them to try again. This is certainly a better option than chiding them for their failings. No one ever felt better from that—it’s much more likely that they’d want to give up.
So, it’s not surprising that despite your intention of trying to motivate yourself to do better, your harsh criticism leaves you feeling emotionally pummeled and wanting to give up. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t so different from them. You might actually feel better if you took a more kindly approach to yourself, caring about the pain you are in. Reaching out for the support of a caring friend or taking a relaxing bath might help to soothe you. It might even spur you on to try harder.
This isn’t about letting yourself off the hook. It’s about realizing that you matter just as much as anyone else. But if you’re not sure you agree, or that’s not a good enough reason for you to treat yourself well, then you might want to be practical about this. Everyone fails sometimes. So, by being caring and supportive, you are more likely to persevere even in the face of failure. You are more likely to succeed in the end and to feel better about yourself in the meantime.
Think it over.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships and Coping Community.
Dr. Becker-Phelps is also the author of Insecure in Love.
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Personal change through compassionate self-awareness