Give Yourself a Break

tips for giving yourself a breakLet’s face it: Everyone fails and falls short at times. And yet we really can be our own worst enemies when we add fuel to the fire, criticizing ourselves. While taking responsibility for our actions is a healthy practice, dwelling on our mistakes is dysfunctional. It can hold us back from helping us achieve our full potential and unnecessarily poison the body, mind and spirit. So instead of lying awake in bed, stewing all night about how you blew it, create a learning opportunity by searching for the lesson in your mistakes. Applying your newfound wisdom to future situations will boost your odds of success.

However, cutting yourself some slack is sometimes easier said than done. It takes willingness, self-discipline and the ability to “let go” of past transgressions. Here are some pointers to do just that.

“Confess” to a confidant. If you’ve made a mistake or failed in some way, sometimes just discussing it with an unbiased confidant or mentor helps. Not only does sharing our humanity with others make problems easier to bare, but it also opens the doors to fresh feedback, insights, solace and even solutions.

Stop replaying the scene. After we’ve made a mistake or done something wrong, we often repeatedly replay the scene in our minds. While processing the event is healthy, obsessing over it is not. It creates undue stress, undermining mental and physical health. So always try to notice when the mind’s movie projector starts rolling and find a positive distraction — quick! Shift your thoughts elsewhere: Go exercise, meditate, deep breathe, call a buddy, get up and grab a glass of water — just do something to stop that vicious, cyclical thinking.

Forgive yourself. And then create an affirmation around your innate goodness because this, too, will enable you to “move on.” Think it and, if you have to, repeat it privately in front of the mirror. “I forgive myself for letting down the team. I am a capable leader.”

Don’t start the blame game. One of the traps that’s easy to fall into is blaming others for our problems — and this is the exact opposite of being overly self-critical. When we do this, we risk earning a reputation for being someone who can’t admit our own mistakes. This trait puts our credibility at risk, while courageously admitting and taking ownership of wrongs builds respect. So, as you work to avoid being too self-critical, also avoid the common temptation to blame others.

Love the lesson. When it comes to being critical of yourself, remember, your weaknesses are opportunities for building strength and smarts. Every failure is a chance to learn a lesson. Make lemons out of lemonade by discovering that lesson, taking corrective action, and then celebrating your victories and successes.

Go a little easy on others. We all know the people who are hardest on themselves are often harsh on those surrounding them. So externalize this “give yourself a break tip” by curbing your critical tendencies toward others. Think before you speak, considering carefully when to be a little gentler and more forgiving toward others.

Lead by example. When you start taking a less critical approach — be it with yourself and the team that surrounds you — the impact on others will be infectious, and they’ll be less harsh on themselves, each other and even you, too.

What are the warning signs that you’re an overly critical boss?

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