Stop being so hard on yourself.
Sigh. That’s a sentiment that’s echoed around in my brain for as long as I can remember.
From when I thought I totally blew my audition to play Mother Goose in my fifth grade play to when I was convinced that I bombed my first job interview, people have always been reminding me to take a deep breath and show myself a little grace.
I’ll admit it: That doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m driven, restless, and a quintessential perfectionist. In moderation, those can be positive qualities. But, when taken to the extreme? Well, they often lead to me beating myself up for even the smallest of errors.
After years of doing that very thing, I’ve learned to recognize those moments when I’m being just a little too unforgiving with myself. What are the signs and symptoms I look for? Here are four of the most common ones—so that you can avoid falling into the very same traps as me.
1. You Argue With Compliments
Think about the last time someone offered you a genuine compliment. What did you say in response? Did you instantly start explaining all of the reasons you actually didn’t deserve that praise?
I get it. Accepting compliments can be awkward. You don’t want to seem arrogant or overly braggy, so instead you start drawing attention to your own faults and shortcomings to inject a little more humility into that conversation.
But, here’s the thing: When you know you worked hard on something and are pleased with the overall result, you’ve more than earned the attention and appreciation of others. So, go ahead and accept that compliment at face value and reply with a simple, “Thank you.”
2. You Constantly Say “But…”
Similarly, the word “but” whistles an irresistible siren song for those of us who are constantly striving for more.
You landed that job you wanted… but there weren’t that many applicants. You put together an awesome presentation… but it would’ve been even better if you had a little more time.
Sound familiar? I know that I’m completely guilty of making excuses like these for why my own accomplishments aren’t actually that great. But, why invest the time and energy to shoot down your own achievements? Skip the “but” and instead focus on the first half of those sentences—they’re way more rewarding (and honest!).
3. You Always Rely on the Insights of Others
There’s nothing wrong with leaning on the support and guidance of the people you work with. It can be helpful in many cases.
But, if you’re constantly doing it—even for tasks and assignments in which you’re the actual expert? Well, that’s a sign that you don’t trust yourself as much as you should.
Constantly needing the affirmation and approval of others will only slow you down and further undermine your confidence. I’m willing to bet you aren’t giving yourself nearly enough credit, so have a little more faith that you know the best way forward.
4. You Accept Blame for Everything
As easy as it is to be hard on yourself when things go right, that temptation becomes even stronger when things run off the rails. You begin blaming yourself for everything—even circumstances that were obviously well beyond your control.
The dreary weather or the fact that a client was late to an important meeting are all burdens that you carry on your own shoulders (despite the fact that you had no power to change them).
Your attempts to be accountable are admirable. But, say it with me now: Not everything is your fault. Stop punishing yourself. It doesn’t do you any good—particularly when you couldn’t have improved the situation anyway.
I’ll admit that I might not be the most qualified person to give you advice on how to be a little more forgiving with yourself—that’s something I’m still actively working on myself.
But, being able to recognize those times when I’m being a little too brutal has been a helpful first step in changing that behavior.
Look for these signs in your own life (I’m sure you’re guilty of at least a couple!). When you catch yourself red-handed? Take a deep breath and promise to have some patience and understanding with yourself. Take it from me—you deserve it.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author