I had a client the other day sitting in my office who was telling me how she had made a very bad decision at work, but it was based on the best information she had available to her. She then went on to beat herself up. I stopped her and asked, “If a colleague of yours made a bad decision, but it was based on flawed information, would you be mad at her?” My client immediately said that there would be no way that she would be upset with her co-worker. So I asked her what the difference was between her and her co-worker. Why the different rules? She couldn’t answer.
This is not unusual have encountered this with many different clients over the years. We all have rules for proper behavior, but those rules seem much more stringent with much more severe punishments for ourselves, than for anyone else.
I have often wondered why. I am sure it comes back to childhood and the messages that we were given then. But, I think the more important issue is what to do with it now. If you become aware that you are beating yourself up, stop for a minute. Review the situation, but put a friend in your role, and see how your response changes. Do you cut them more slack? Are you more understanding and compassionate? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself why you treat others more gently than yourself.
We need support and kindness, especially from ourselves. This does not mean that we need to delude ourselves, but that we need to be honest and kind.
So, the next time you are upset with yourself, stop and do this exercise. Then try treating yourself the way you would your friend. A little kindness can make a huge difference.