Which Self Will You Choose?

broken_mirror_heartOne of the things I learned when I decided to write a blog was to have a schedule of topics set up in advance. But when I saw this topic, I was surprised, and then I groaned. It was one of those that slipped my mind – intentionally or not :). I didn’t really want to write about the dark side, or about the needless suffering caused by judgment. However, I also noticed that this particular theme – the theme of self critique – kept coming up in my coaching conversations.

What I noticed was that there seemed to be some confusion around cause and effect. The confusion stemmed from a belief that the mistake happened not because of a lack of skill, lack of information, lack of understanding, etc.., but rather, because he or she is (sic) bad, flawed, wrong, etc… I immediately understood the feeling, and why the confusion occurred. How many times had something similar happened to me throughout my childhood and adult life?

Those conversations were the catalyst to do some research on this topic, because I think we need to pay attention to how we speak to ourselves and to others about mistakes, as well as how we respond to them in a self affirming way.

The following excerpt is from a blog post on self esteem by *Jo Ann McKarus:

It is critical to make a distinction at this point between feeling bad because of something you did that needs to be remedied and learned from versus feeling bad because of who you feel yourself to be. The former is healthy; the latter is not…People with self-esteem do not spiral into shame attacks when they have a bad day or make mistakes. They understand that life has its ups and downs and that making mistakes is part of being human. When they feel bad because their mistakes have resulted in another being hurt, they transform those bad feelings into self-esteem by taking responsibility, attempting to make reparation, and learning from the experience. They do not take responsibility for mistakes they didn’t make, and they take a stand for themselves in appropriate ways when they are accused of such. They accept that to be human is to be flawed, and they don’t feel the need to be perfect. Rather, they see the need for perfection for what it is: a cover for self-loathing…

That excerpt summed up beautifully what I had come to learn: mistakes, failures, etc… are nothing more than feedback, and we decide what to do with that information.

What are some ways we can stay away from this self-loathing trap?  A simple shift of perspective can be the beginning. We are flawed, but we have the capacity to learn and to grow. We have the ability to choose better next time, make reparations when needed, and forgive ourselves and others for short comings.

My post on Belief can give you some more ideas on how to do this. Also, * Kristin Neff has some good tips on self compassion. You can find them here.

So the next time you are confronted with a mistake, try a more compassionate approach. Perhaps you will feel better, solve it more quickly, and, just maybe, laugh at being human. For

To err is human; to forgive, divine ~ Alexander Pope

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

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* Kristin Neff is an associate professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind (William Morrow, 2011).

*Jo Ann McKarus, M.A., M.F.T., is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Santa Monica, California

* Photo credit – Eller Bonifacio via Chelsey Lugar

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