The Easiest Way to Eliminate Self-Criticism

This simple tweak of perception changes everything.

Self-Criticism vs Strategy

A few years ago, I made a shift in perception that had a powerful impact on my progress in the changes I was attempting to make in several areas of my life. In fact, it was the beginning of the momentum that led to a transformation I couldn’t have seen coming!

I was a tryer. And a struggler. No-one was as much of an expert at trying and struggling as I was. My determined “efforting” was interspersed with dramatic periods of self-criticism, self-doubt, and despondency.

Every time I realized I had “fallen down” again (buttons pushed; willpower dissolved; arm-wrestling match with temptation lost), I felt depleted.

Disappointment in myself, hopelessness, frustration, anger, that trapped feeling — all part of the cycle I referred to as getting-up-and-falling-down-and-getting-up-and-falling-down…

I kept getting up again, but not before I had a good wallow in the gutter of negativity and disempowerment, first.

I can’t remember when I changed my perception, only that I did.

The Switch to Strategy

At some point, I switched from “beating myself up” and seeing failure as… well, failure, to strategizing instead.

Whenever I “failed” — reacted to a trigger in an old way; didn’t stick to a new habit; fell into old patterns, instead of criticizing myself, or feeling despondent, I started asking:

“What will I do differently, next time?”

“If I could rewind time, what could I have done differently? And how can I set that intention in place and remember it, for the next time this kind of challenge arises?”

“What contingency plan can I set in place now, for next time?”

This does two things to the mind:

1. It eliminates any delusion there won’t be a next time — there absolutely will be a next time! And one of the biggest hurdles for me was expecting the challenges to go away, instead of expecting to encounter them again, and coming up with a contingency plan for dealing with them.

2. It, of course, switches the emotional and mental state from victim to expert.

Athletes and other professionals video their practice sessions, not so they can watch their mistakes and feel bad about them, but so that they can strategize and work out how they can improve on their performance for the next time. How they can handle the challenge differently, next time.

I started to see my “failures” as a game of strategy, or a sport.

Instead of feeling bad that I forgot to use the new technique for dealing with frustration, and responded in full frustration flight, I switched to analyzer mode; and, like a professional athlete, watching the recording of a practice session, I ran the memory of the event through my mind, with the intention of finding the point where I could have made a different choice.

I then put my effort into figuring out a “contingency plan” — something I could put in place to remind me to take that more empowering action, make that more powerful choice, next time.

It takes some getting used to, and it takes practice, but swapping your self-criticism for strategy can make all the difference to your progress — whatever you’re aiming to achieve.