Being self critical: My biggest strength and weakness

It took a recent crossfit session to remind me of my biggest strength, but also my biggest weakness — being self critical.

We had to pick two movements that we hated and sucked at. I went with thrusters and kipping pull ups. We practiced them throughout the session and used them in the workout at the end.

6 thrusters, followed by 6 kipping pull ups — repeated for as many reps as possible in 20 mins.

Pretty tough. I found the movements awkward throughout. As I was driving home after the workout, here’s what played through my head:

Thrusters felt super awkward:

  • Picking the bar from the floor isn’t so bad. But, getting the bar into the front squat position is hard on my wrists. I can’t get my elbows higher enough either. Need to work on wrist flexibility in general.
  • The front squat part of the movement is OK, but the transition from top of the squat to overhead press is super awkward. Hard and painful on the wrists. Wrist flexibility again.
  • Overhead press is OK. I got pretty good strength there
  • Transition from bringing the bar down from the press into a front squat is horrible. I have to reset the bar on my shoulders to avoid too much wrist pain. Then I have to adjust my grip before I squat. Pretty painful. Wrist strength and flexibility again.
  • Overall, quite a few awkward bits in the movement. The transition from front squat to press, and back to front squat, was awkward and jerky.
  • I was using 35KG. Not heavy enough. I want to be using 50KG in wods.

Kipping pull ups felt even more awkward:

  • I need to get momentum with the swing (hollow body hold to superman) before I start the kipping pull ups. This slows me down in a workout. Some of that is because it allows me to make the first rep a good one. And that gives me more chance of getting the second and third rep right. Some of it is habit. I need to force myself to jump onto the bar and go straight into a kipping pull up. Need to work on that.
  • The pull up part of the movement is actually OK. But, I struggle to fall into the right position, that then lets me flow into another pull up. So, I tend to be able to pull off a second rep, but hardly ever a third. Unless I get the falling motion right, I won’t be able to pull off 5+ reps and use them in workouts.
  • I got tired super quick. The first few rounds I could get 3 + 2 + 1. But, after 4 or 5 rounds, I was pretty much doing 2 + 2 + 2 and then finally 2 + 2 + 1 + 1.
  • I keep ripping skin on the palm of my hands. Super annoying.

On top of the above, there was a girl next to me focusing on the same two movements. She was nailing 50KG thrusters and sets of 8 or 10 kipping pull ups. It made me realise how far I have to go.

The above was running through my head the whole way home. I started plotting priorities for how I can get better, stronger thrusters and kipping pull ups. I started to feel overwhelmed and a bit annoyed that I was so weak and behind the curve.

And then, something clicked and I got another perspective.

Six weeks ago, I couldn’t even go to crossfit. I had to take two months off because of tendonitis in my foot. That was super annoying and I was very frustrated.

Here I am actually able to go to crossfit and push myself. This wasn’t possible six weeks ago. I’m doing thrusters and kipping pull ups in a WOD. I’m pushing myself hard. I made some good improvement in the thruster transitions. I also made progress with the kipping pull ups falling movement. I’m absolutely better at those movements from when I walked into the gym an hour before. I’m clearer on the one or two things I need to focus on to be better at them.

That’s actually a good position to be in.

Yet, I beat myself up for all the small things I could be doing better. I beat myself up for being behind the curve compared to other people. I completely lose sight of appreciating that I AM moving forward and getting better — one step at a time.

It’s just one example of how being self critical on myself stops me appreciating the progress I’m making. I do this at work and almost every category of my life by default.

Being self critical and beating myself up like this might be my biggest strength. It drives me to get better and improve. But, it often means I don’t appreciate the progress I am making. It stops me being happy with where I am, and appreciating the present moment.

The key takeaway I have is I need to be OK with the self critical behaviour. It’s a strength, but I need to keep perspective too. Let it happen, but pull back from it and focus on the few things I can do to move forward — and just do them. And to then spend time on appreciating the progress I’ve made and where I am today. Be OK with where I am. Relax and appreciate the present moment a bit more.


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