Why Being Hard On Yourself Doesn’t Work

A few months ago I shared a photo quote on social media that got a bunch of likes and comments…

While I’m not sure of the original source, I know it resonated with so many because it’s true. I also know that it’s really tough to stop being hard on yourself when you’ve been doing it for a long time and those around you do it too.

Being easy on yourself may sound good, but it’s not always easy.

I’m the first to admit that I have trouble with this, especially when it comes to my work. I grew up with parents and teachers who praised me for getting good grades but I cried because I thought I should do better. I was a people pleaser and got mad at myself if I didn’t make others happy. Perfectionism and what I call my inner “taskmaster” helped me survive…and I’m still a recovering perfectionist today.

Having high standards can be huge asset to your business and career and it can also cause big problems. When we do great work on the outside and beat ourselves up on the inside, the disconnect can stifle our success to the point where we stop, shrink and suffer. While pushing ourselves can absolutely propel our careers, treating ourselves harshly does little to motivate and sustain us over time when it comes to doing our best.

Here’s how being hard on ourselves can get in the way of our professional growth along with some alternatives to help.

Asking WHY

If something’s not going well in your work or you’re not getting the results you’d like, it makes sense to ask WHY…right?

Well, that depends on where that WHY is coming from.

When you’re open and honest and taking responsibility in the success game, asking why becomes a place to explore, adjust and grow.

When you’re being hard on yourself, asking WHY sounds like…

“What’s wrong with me, why am I such a failure?”

“Why aren’t I doing MORE and why aren’t I doing BETTER?”

“Why am I in the same place I was (insert number) years ago?!”

…or much worse.

While it’s totally normal to get frustrated with our situation or progress - and even to think badly about ourselves - it becomes a problem when that keeps us from trying new things, taking risks and taking action.

I’ve watched women be so hard on themselves that it’s stunted their income, their opportunities and their dreams. I’ve also watched women SOAR professionally when they’ve learned to be their best supporter.

Going deeper

One reason we’re hard on ourselves is simply that it keeps us safe. Fear is naturally protective - and focusing on what’s wrong with us or how we’ve screwed up has a tendency to keep us in place.

When I notice a client beating up on themselves or asking “why haven’t I done XYZ?” over and over again, I often say it doesn’t matter. I explain that we can certainly spend time figuring out what’s wrong with them…but maybe our time would be better spent figuring out how they can actually DO what they’ve been saying they want to do in their work or life.

When we do address their WHY - or anything else that’s repeatedly holding them back - we assume there’s good reason for the protection. We talk about how their fear is doing its job to keep them safe because it knows they’re shaking things up and they’re ripe for change. This makes it easier to look at what’s getting in the way…and makes it much easier to move through and get to a better place.

The antidote

So if being hard on ourselves keeps us stuck and sad and not so successful, what helps?

Being loving to ourselves.

While it might seem funny to use the word love in the context of professional growth, it’s really the only thing that works.

Being loving means finding ways to ease our fears when taking big, bold steps so we actually take them.

It means asking for help and support and resources so we can thrive in our work and not have to go it alone.

It means noticing our achievements as much or MORE than the places where we fall short.

It means treating ourselves with respect and encouragement, just like we treat others.

It means actually enjoying our work instead of just hustling, struggling and pushing harder.

Being good to yourself has the amazing ability to transform not just how you feel but everything around you – your success, your money, your relationships, your health and more.

It takes practice to be kind to yourself but I promise the rewards are worth it. Try it and see.

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