Why can we be so mean to ourselves? If we heard someone talking to one of our friends the way we sometimes talk to ourselves, the gloves would be coming off. But somehow when the bully is ourselves, it seems OK.
If being a high performer is part of your game plan, then managing negative self-talk is critical. Sometimes negative self-talk is obvious. Sometimes it is sneaky.
A leader I know succumbed to the sneaky when he took on too much of the blame for a peer over promising and under delivering. His sneaky negative self-talk (all BS) was things like “I expected too much”, “I should be more patient until I can have more control”, “it’s my fault for not being more connected in the organization”…
So sneaky or out in the open, take time to clue into and eliminate negative self-talk.
Things you can do to be less mean to yourself AND be more effective:
- Monitor the quality of your internal dialogue. Would you be proud if those words came out of your mouth and were directed at your children, spouse or friend?
- Scan for sneaky negative self-talk. The symptoms are usually taking too much blame for a situation.
- Beware absolute terms like “always” (messing up) or “never” (going to get better). Absolutes are often not true or useful.
- Avoid definitive labels, especially the negative ones. How far will a person get using labels like “failure” or “stupid”??
- Give up comparisons. Inner dialogue that unfavorably compares oneself to others can affect motivation and undermine potential. Conversely inner dialogue that favorably compares oneself to others can leave one stunted. Being “superior” is a sure path to mediocrity. Run your own race and work your own plan. The only useful comparison is how you are doing compared to you.
- Bonus: Download and listen to Journey’s “Be Good to Yourself (when nobody else will)” about as many times as you can stand it. Always a good reminder.