Technology is my Achilles heel, the way money is for others. It’s the thing that will zap my energy when something isn’t working right (read: as it should or has in the past). It will take my frustration level from 0-100 in a blink of an eye, along with my self-criticism.
Examples: A few weeks ago, I couldn’t get something to work in my project management tool that I absolutely love, ClickUp. Even after following the steps in the User Guide. Eventually, I opened a ticket and lo and behold, I was doing everything correctly! There was a bug.
Here’s one more: Last week I hosted another pricing masterclass. I signed into Zoom about 10-minutes before our start time. But within five minutes of my guests joining, Zoom booted me out of my own meeting (!). Eventually we got going, but oy vey…
I didn’t let the tech hiccups on the front end stop me from delivering on my promise to give my absolute all and leave everything on the “floor.” But afterward I felt really bad that the tech aspect of their experience wasn’t as smooth and seamless as I desired.
Thus began the familiar rabbit hole of questioning what I could have done differently. This isn’t necessarily bad, because self-reflection is a good thing.
But in this instance, it turns out there wasn’t anything I could have done. Apparently, the torrential rain storm the night before damaged my phone line. This affected the quality and consistency of my internet connection.
In both instances, though, I didn’t stop beating up on myself until I discovered there was nothing I could have done in advance or differently to affect the outcome.
Yes, I believe self-reflection is extremely valuable. However, self-reflection is different from self-criticism. The latter can diminish your power and be self-defeating. And ultimately not very useful.
Natural Problem Solvers
Inherently, you and I are problem solvers. So, it’s natural to make meaning out of experiences – the positive and the negative.
Here’s me making meaning out of my tech issues with Zoom last week. I offer these suggestions for the next time you find yourself in the midst of beating yourself up when things/life go sideways. Regardless of what’s the source of your Achilles heel.
But here’s an important caveat: If your level of self-criticism warrants therapy, please seek professional help. Also, these suggestions won’t be beneficial if you’re using self-criticism as a pathway to self-improvement. That, too, may require the support of a therapist.
When things go awry, the line between a healthy dose of responsibility and being too self-critical can be fine. But understanding when you’ve crossed into the territory of the latter is paramount, I think.
So, please accept the suggestions I’m offering below as a way to pivot when you find yourself traveling down the rabbit hole because your inner-critic caused you to over-personalize every mistake, misstep and/or setback.
Also, choose the suggestion/s that best fit the particular situation causing you to beat yourself up.
Sometimes, when you’re beating yourself up over something, you’re not even doing it over the thing that happened!
With the Zoom incident, I kept berating myself over the age of my computer. Yes, I am due for an upgrade. But, given the cause of the problem, even the newest MacBook Pro wouldn’t have made a difference.
So, pay attention to what is truly causing you to feel self-conscious about your decisions, actions, or performance.
And in those instances when you’re berating yourself for not “being there,” be sure to give yourself credit for how far you’ve come.
Make it right
If you can and if it’s in your control, make whatever went sideways right. And do it from a place of generosity, not obligation.
I feel good about the fact that I pushed through the tech issues. I’m proud of the fact that there wasn’t anything I wanted to say that I didn’t. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from offering a gift to my guests. After all, they gave me the gift of their patience.
Monitor your self-talk
I was too in the moment to have any negative self-talk during our event. But it sure kicked in afterward, during what I call the diagnostic phase.
Your inner dialogue has a lot of power. It can be encouraging and energizing, or distressing and energy depleting.
Therefore, be disciplined about your thoughts. If necessary, come up with practices that’ll help you climb out of the rabbit hole. Also, watch how you retell the story; be sure to retell it from a position of strength. Or, wait until you can.
Be creative & flexible
This doesn’t really apply to either of my examples, but it may to yours: shift your focus away from what isn’t working to what possibly could work with a question like, “What if I did x instead?” Who knows what you may discover.
Remember, you’re a model
How you handle something, especially when under pressure, says a lot about you. And, people are watching! Those that matter want you to pull through and succeed.
Remember that when something goes so awry that you want to throw in the towel. Likewise, remember that you’re giving others an example they can reference whenever the need arises for them.
Last Thursday, one of the reasons I was able to be fully present and in the moment is because I leaned into my many years of experience presenting. I was so well prepared that, if necessary, I could have given the entire presentation by phone only, with no slides. It just wouldn’t have been as visually stimulating…and pretty.
My point: Lean into and trust your training and experience.
Whatever may be your Achilles heel is potentially inviting you to practice a bit more self-forgiveness. So, do it.
Change your viewpoint
This suggestion is closely tied to monitoring your self-talk. In that your inner dialogue is likely more harsh than if you were talking to a loved one – or, heck, even a stranger.
So imagine having an outer body experience and that you’re observing whatever happened. Only instead of you being the one that made the mistake, took a misstep or experienced the setback, you are observing someone else in the situation.
When you extract yourself from the situation, do you notice a bit more objectivity? What’s different about how you feel and what you’re saying about the details of the situation?
Let it go!
Experience, reflect, learn. Then, let it go.
That thing about you and I being natural problem solvers can often blind us to our humanity. Meaning: mistakes and missteps will happen – whether of our own doing or not. Likewise with setbacks. But none of these have to define who you are.
But that can only happen if you don’t travel down the rabbit hole of beating yourself up when things/life goes sideways.