I am a half time perfectionist. I used to be a full time perfectionist. I would always beat myself up when things were not the way I exactly wanted them to be. There was always a reason to beat myself up. Sometimes it was because of forgetting the car key at home , not paying the gas bill on time, for eating junk food or for wasting my time by procrastinating. There could be various reasons and programming behind this behavior. Sometimes it is due to low self esteem. Someone criticizes you or you have a short argument with someone and you take things too seriously and start blaming yourself according to what people think about you.
Whatever the reason is , beating yourself up over little mistakes is really ineffective and does not work. If nothing else, it kills your self esteem and makes things even worse. It gets harder for you to feel good about yourself. Remember that you should be your best friend and personal motivator. Otherwise paying someone a fortune to motivate you will not last long because no one can spend more time with you other than yourself.
Here is the simple method to stop self punishment in 3 steps.
1- Let your observing ego kick in. ( Catch yourself doing it )
Step number one is observing yourself and knowing that you are beating yourself up. In order to stop the habit you should know when it is happening. And whenever it happens just stop and say it to yourself ” I am beating myself up right now” . When you realize you are repeating this old habit just stop. And tell yourself ” it is okay, things happen , I am probably not the only person losing his car key in the morning before heading to work”
2 – Ask yourself if it really helps beating yourself up
We are extremely smart creatures. We don’t realize that but we are always in a verbal fight with our minds. If you want to change a habit you need to convince yourself by solid proof. Then your mind will absorb it and decide it makes sense and will be willing to let you change it. That’s why pure forced motivation is not enough for long lasting changes. Since you are forcing yourself without convincing yourself on a deeper level, sooner or later you will see your old habits repeat themselves. So when you catch yourself beating yourself ask the question ” am I really helping myself by beating myself, is it making the situation any better” ? The answer , of course, is NO. You are just adding fuel to the fire by getting angry about yourself. You are killing your self-esteem and mood by beating yourself. It is just making things worse. By acknowledging this fact you will feel more prone to acting differently.
3- Calm yourself and do what you can do
You can only do what you can do. So do not expect more than what you can do from yourself simply because it is unfair. If it is not only you who loses the car key in the morning , when you say ” I am stupid because I lost the keys ” . You should always test if the statement is true. Ask yourself ” does it make me stupid to lose the car key” . It really doesn’t and it only tells that you are a little disorganized. Instead of choosing the harsh words for yourself , address yourself with mild and logical words. This will keep your self-esteem high and help you resolve the situation calmly and keep your mood up at the same time.
Now you caught the pattern and stopped it. Picked the statement ” I am stupid , I lost my keys “. Now questioned the negative statement and asked yourself ” is it really true” . And came up with ” there are many people losing their keys everyday so it is not only me so it does not prove that I am stupid, I am just disorganized and I can work on it ” . Now you eliminated the negative pattern without getting angry and losing your control. Keep catching your negative thoughts daily, carry a small notebook and write them down as they cross your mind, disprove them using the same exact pattern. You will feel better about yourself over time.
In case you never heard of it, this pattern of solving problems is a technique in CBT. It is used to help people treat their social anxiety, phobia , thought based depression etc. CBT is based on keeping a log of your thoughts and filtering the sabotaging ones. And writing them down , asking simple questions to see if they are true and by using simple logic refuting the sabotaging thoughts and changing the pattern. Check out the youtube video and apply it yourself.