Unreasonable expectations and self-blame can make our lives miserable. For example, how often do you hear yourself say something like, “I left the car lights on. How could I be so stupid?” Or there is, “I really put my foot in it that time. I guess I’ll never learn.” The brain immediately associates car lights left on with stupid, and then an inability to learn to keep one’s own counsel rather than saying something untoward or awkward in social situations.
Sound familiar? Self-blaming statements like these are commonplace for far too many of us. Now, there is nothing the matter with the first part of these statements. They are just simple facts. But it is the second part, the judgmental blast, that keeps us feeling miserable and does the real, long-term damage.
What if we get rid of the judgments and substitute something more positive? For example, “I left the car lights on. What an inconvenience! The next time I’ll be more careful.” Or “I really put my foot in it this time. That is not like me. Next time, I will handle it another way,” and then you go on to define that other, more constructive, way.
Do you see the difference? You are acknowledging that your behavior could stand changing, but you are also recognizing your competence and stating a clear intention for the future. Even better, you should be creating a new “picture” of what you will do “the next time.” It’s the negative picture we want to change, and that’s not really possible if we continue to kick ourselves when we make a correctable mistake.
So, instead of judging, why not allow yourself to make mistakes without making a big deal about it. Then, give yourself a positive goal to shoot for. Your self-esteem will rise, your effectiveness rises right along with it, and your self-image gets the boost it needs to enhance your well-being.
Delete the self-blame game from your mental hard drive. It’s taking up space you can use for other, more productive endeavors.