5 Reasons Why Being Hard on Yourself Can Be Valuable

Fri Jul 8, 2016

Most of us are our own worst critics.

We are 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 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 deviated 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 I hadn’t done a good job. Although the host of the Rotary meeting thanked me for a good presentation, on the drive back home, I got 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 I would never again put myself in a position where I would just “wing” a presentation.

Ever since, 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 valuable, and it has helped me ever since.

Being hard on ourselves can be beneficial!

5 Reasons Why Being Hard on Yourself is Valuable

Here are five reasons why being hard on ourselves can actually be useful, provided we have the intention of extracting something valuable 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 questions such as, “What was good about this experience?” or “What did I learn from this experience?” can be valuable.
  2. It will help you develop more patience. Often we’re 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’s about knowing 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’re hard on ourselves, we can use it as the trigger to coach ourselves through whatever we’re experiencing. Instead of having dis-empowering 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 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’ll respond a lot better.
  5. You will develop more compassion for others. Just knowing 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 doesn’t mean it’s okay not to do our best or accept poor performance from others, it means we’ll 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’re being hard on ourselves, we can use the above reminders why it’s okay to be hard on ourselves, provided we turn it around quickly.

If we do, we’ll learn something valuable each time. If we don’t, we’ll experience the negative effects of being hard on ourselves.

Action Step: Reflect 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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