5 Reasons Why Being Hard On Yourself Can Be Valuable

Most of us are our own worst critics. We tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are with others because we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we typically expect from others.

We know that being hard on ourselves can be dangerous and unhealthy because it can:

  • Affect our self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Make us doubt ourselves when we are attempting something new.
  • Cause us to be unhappy or sad.
  • Affect the way we communicate with others.
  • Put a strain on our personal and professional relationships.

But what if we could have a healthy balance between being hard on ourselves and being able to use it to our advantage?

I remember when I first started speaking professionally, to get some practice under my belt, I spoke at numerous Rotary Clubs. I thought I did okay when I spoke for the first time so I prepared the same way for my second presentation.

During the middle of my presentation, I saw a couple of gentlemen snickering and giggling away at the back of room, which caught me a little off guard. I found myself deviating from what I had planned to say and started “winging” in, just so I could regain the attention of those two men.

By the end of the presentation, I felt I had let myself down and was embarrassed that I had not done a good job. Although the host of the Rotary meeting thanked me for a good presentation, on the drive back home, I found myself getting annoyed for not preparing as well and even berated myself for not doing a good job and deviating off script.

Although I was hard on myself, I was able to quickly turn that around and use it to my advantage. I made a promise that I would never again put myself in a position where I would just “wing” a presentation. Ever since then, I have kept my promise and always prepare well for every presentation, sometimes to the point where I even over-prepare. That experience of being hard on myself ended up being quite valuable and it has helped me ever since.

Being hard on ourselves can be beneficial!

Here are five reasons why being hard on ourselves can actually be useful, provided we have the intention of extracting something valuable that we can later use to our benefit.

  1. It will make you look back on your experiences from different perspectives. Whenever we broaden our perspective, we gain new insights and awareness of what we could have done differently or better. Just being able to ask ourselves a couple of questions such as, “What was good about this experience?” or “What did I learn from this experience?” can be extremely valuable.
  2. It will help you develop more patience. Oftentimes we are hard on ourselves when we don’t get something when we expected to, so being able to train ourselves to continue to persist and take the necessary actions will help us develop patience. It is about knowing that the result we want is on its way rather than focusing on why we haven’t got it yet.
  3. You can train yourself to be your own coach. Whenever we start being hard on ourselves, we can use it as the trigger to start coaching ourselves through whatever we are experiencing. Instead of having disempowering and critical thoughts, we can go into “coach” mode and turn them around into empowering and more productive thoughts, just by asking ourselves different questions.
  4. You are acknowledging you can improve or do things better. One of the best things about being hard on ourselves is that we already know we could have done things differently or better. This can motivate us to be the best we can be and continually raise our own standards. Next time we’re in a similar situation, we will respond a lot better.
  5. You will develop more compassion for others. Just knowing that we don’t feel good when we do something we know we could have done better, will help us be more accepting and tolerant when others don’t do as well as they could have. This does not mean it is okay not to do our best or accept poor performance from others, it means we will be able to show more empathy and care when others are struggling.

I don’t think anyone gets up in the morning and sets an intention to not do the best they can that day. Sure, we have days when we’re not at our best and if we notice we are starting to be hard on ourselves, then we can use the above reminders as to why it is okay to be hard on ourselves, provided we turn it around quickly. If we do, we will learn something valuable each time. If we don’t, then we will start to experience the negative effects of being hard on ourselves.

Action Step: Reflect back on the last time you were hard on yourself. What did you go through? If you had the chance to do something different, could you use any of the ideas above to get a different outcome?

Question: What could be another reason why being hard on ourselves can be valuable?

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