So what’s up? Why do we do it? It may be coming from some sense that this will improve performance, lead us to stop self-defeating behavior, stop making the same mistake over and over again, and somehow take the steps that will lead us to feel safer, more successful, more gratified in our lives. But is it working? It doesn’t seem to be, and that’s not surprising. We wouldn’t really expect it to work long term with our children, spouses, or friends if we were negative, critical, or name-calling. Why would we expect it to work in our own self-management? Most of us have an intuitive sense that consistently using this style with a child, real or imagined, that we were “guiding” would result in low self-esteem, reactive anger, or, maybe in the best case, tuning us out. None of these looks like a winning strategy to help us achieve our goals when applied to ourselves.
We don’t have to beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up, but it would be a smart move to change our inner “managerial style.” It is often useful to do a thought experiment exploring what we would want to convey to a child or student in whom we were deeply invested. Our message certainly wouldn’t be “Anything you do is just fine,” but it also wouldn’t be “Why are you such a [fill in the blank]!?” It might be more like, “Okay, this part of what you did worked; keep that up. This part did not work. What might work better? Next time try that.” Or maybe even, “It can be [hard, discouraging, frustrating, embarrassing] when what you try doesn’t work. It’s really good that you are continuing to try. I’m proud of you for that.” How might that feel if directed toward yourself? And how much more motivated and empowered to persevere might you be with that kind of an inner coach? Why not do the experiment and see what happens. It’s worth a try.