As a therapist, I sit with many people who have adopted the belief system that they must be harder on themselves than necessary, and then wonder why they feel so miserable. As young children, we innately think we're the best, most deserving, wildly captivating humans on the planet! When do we stop becoming our own biggest fans?
And how do we alter the course of this destructive way of thinking?
The answer is actually very simple, and the best way to start is the moment you fail.
Somewhere along the way, we learn that to overcome obstacles or create something that we are proud of, we must challenge ourselves. That is a good thing. But often our thought habits can easily slip into a pattern of creating challenge where there is none. In so doing, we ironically feel as if we are being productive, even when in reality we're simply beating ourselves into submission, and eventually into depression or even physical illness.
I was talking to a friend recently who was gearing up to speak to a large audience about an outstanding product he has developed. He was telling me how nervous he gets when he's speaking in front of people, and how he beats himself up for weeks about all of the things he should have said or done differently after his talk.
Your inner-dialogue has a huge impact on the rest of your life. When you're tough on yourself, the rest of the world feels tougher on you. It is so important to praise yourself and treat yourself to something rewarding when you have accomplished a big task, or overcome a major hurdle.
But what do you do when you actually haven't completed a job that is up to your standards? Do you still say nice and encouraging things when you've actually full-on failed at something you were trying to do?
Yes, especially then.
What happens if you're teaching a class and you stumble on your words, get dry-erase marker on your face, and spill your water? Or you sign up for a race and come in dead last? Or you submit an article and it gets rejected 10 (or 100) times over?
Still let that first moment when you have failed be the moment you tell yourself something positive. It is in that pivotal moment that you make the decision to be your biggest fan, even if you did not succeed.
Dr. David J. Abbott, author of Maximum Strength Positive Thinking, writes at length about the power we have in the way we talk to ourselves. As Dr. Abbott says, "You will fail again and again on your way to the top. Before you can be great, you have to be good. Before you can be good, you have to be bad. Before you can be bad, you have to try."
And the only way you will even want to keep trying is to cheer yourself on.
Of course, it's important to regard your endeavors with a critical eye. But there is plenty of time for that. First flood yourself with positive words and thoughts. You will be able to more objectively examine what went wrong when you haven't become your own abuser.
Change may come slowly. But it all starts with permission. Give yourself permission to be your biggest fan. It never hurts to try!