A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “pressure” – about how people react differently to the buildup of pressure, about how people release steam at varying levels, and about how attempting to release too much pressure too quickly can sometimes cause a blowout. One of the ways in which we can choose to deal with pressure is by beating ourselves up. We’ve all been there: we took choice “A” when choice “B” would have had a better outcome, we failed at something that took countless hours of preparation, we put our foot in our mouth at the most inopportune time, or we let something valuable slip through our fingers because we carelessly allowed our attention to be drawn elsewhere. If you’re like most people, when things like that happen, we can often react by being pretty tough on ourselves, by beating ourselves up.
Sometimes the “beating ourselves up” approach isn’t very productive because it can cause us to either spiral into a state of self-pity, regret, or depression, or worse yet, it can create an even greater buildup of pressure, so that we become mired in self-doubt and afraid to make decisions going forward. I’d argue, though, that – especially when the pressure is self-imposed – beating ourselves up could actually be the best prescription available. Let me explain…
Self-imposed pressure is usually the result of either having high expectations of ourselves, or more often the case, attempting to control the outcome of the things that matter to us. We set a goal, or have a destination in mind, or desire a particular outcome, and we try to make those things happen. Whether in life or in business, when things appear to be in our control, when our performing well and accomplishing the tasks at hand – or not, determine success or failure, the pressure becomes the most intense. So naturally, if we fail, if we don’t reach our goal, if we let ourselves down, since our fate was in our own hands, we can crash down like a house of bricks on our inner-selves. And I think that is exactly what we need to do. By embracing the pain, by realizing how much we care about our dreams and desires, by being honest about our performance and our shortcomings and misguided efforts, we can learn to do better next time.
I used to hear in business all the time: “It’s nothing personal.” I hated that saying. I want things to be personal. I want important things to matter deeply. And sometimes, I need to beat myself up when I let myself down, because I need to do better when I elect to put the pressure on myself. Maybe it’s easier to shake things off to circumstance, or to blame some outside factor, or to act like failure isn’t such a big deal, but is that really going to help us become all we can become?
It’s with that question – and the preceding thoughts that I offer the following movie quotes:
“I’m kicking my own ass here. Do you mind!?” – Jim Carrey in Liar Liar
“You gonna do something, or just stand there and bleed?” – Kurt Russell in Tombstone
“If you can take it, you can make it.” – Alex Russell in Unbroken
“The real troubles in your life will always be things that never crossed your worried mind.” – Domhnall Gleeson in About Time