There is a myth that I quietly told myself for years. Most of the time I didn’t even realize that it was there. It was so ingrained in my mindset that I couldn’t see it.
I would play a soccer game and complete dozens of passes, but after the game, all that was salient was the few times I gave the ball away. If I scored one goal, I was disappointed that I messed up the other shot I had. After everything I did, I would analyze what went wrong and what needed to be better. There was always something wrong.
As high-achieving people, we tell ourselves this myth, that beating ourselves up is healthy. We tell ourselves that this “reflection” is the only way to get better. If we thought we were good enough, we’d have no reason to get better. We believe the negative emotions of self criticism are a necessary step along the journey of getting better.
It’s a myth.
A Better Way
The healthier path is to believe you’re good enough right now. This confuses people because if you thought you were good enough, what reason would you have to get better? This notion baffled me for a while until one day I realized this:
Improving is inherently enjoyable.
It’s just fun to see yourself making progress. Even if it’s not towards a specific outcome, the process of self-improvement is its own goal! This means it’s possible to believe you’re good enough and still get better. That’s how we should approach our work.
This shift is not easy to make, though. It requires the crucial skill of non-judgmental observation. You must be able to recognize what could be improved, without judging those traits as flaws and errors. They are stepping stones to improvement, not inherently bad decisions.
Being your own fan
Sadly, the world is too busy to be your first fan. You have to be your number one supporter. That means that self-criticism and disdain has no place in the equation. You love your favorite band for their music, not for the weird flaws they have and bad decisions they’ve made. Love yourself this same way. Appreciate the good, acknowledge the bad, but don’t dwell on it.
Your self-critic is not the reason you’re good at anything. You don’t need your self-critic. There are enough critics out there that you don’t need to create another. Instead, create a self coach. Invent a productive inner dialogue by coaching yourself to success. Let the voice guide you by supporting you and staying with you each step of the way.
You are your own biggest fan. But if that just doesn’t feel like something you can believe right now, know that I believe in you. You’re better than you think you are.
Leave the critic behind. Find your inner coach and you’re on your way to a great journey.