I Am So Disappointed In Myself — What Can I Do About It?
“I swore I would do better, Maria. I want to do better! But every time I get hurt or stressed out, I can’t help myself. I reach for ________ ( Fill in the blank with chocolate, ice cream, cigarette, alcoholic drink, TV clicker — all the things we distract ourselves with.) I feel so disappointed in myself!” Can you relate to my client’s heartfelt plea? What do YOU do when the person you disappoint is you? And more to the point, what healthy things can you do instead?
Since we’re our own worst critics, we tend to turn off compassion and turn on self-disgust when we disappoint ourselves. If that’s your default setting, know that you are not alone. Neither are you locked into always responding that way.
You can learn to shift away from self-belittling or self-harming reactions, but the first step is to use mindfulness to become aware that this is what you’re doing. For example, do you tend toward any of these…
Self-punishment. Frustration, guilt, and negative self-talk can lead us to think, “If I can’t control this thing, then I don’t deserve to feel good. I deserve to feel pain.” We then cause ourselves emotional, mental, or even physical pain to punish ourselves.
Denial and deflection. On the other hand, our pride may make us
- minimize the error (“It’s no big deal. I’m not hurting anyone. That’s just the way I am.”),
- try to raise ourselves by putting others down (“ At least I’m not as bad as Sally!”),
- or we shift the blame to others (If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have. It’s his fault!”).
Lose heart and give up. Especially if you expect perfection from yourself will you judge your worth by your performance. Harsh judgment leads to labeling yourself as a “Loser” and a “so why even try?” attitude.
Responses like these may be deeply engrained from something you learned in the past to keep yourself feeling safe. Therefore they are in your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean they make you feel comfortable or at peace. Because of the negative nature of these responses, they will make you feel terrible, self-condemning, and small. They are, however, your “comfort zone” because they’re your familiar way of dealing with situations.
“When I’m disappointed in myself, Maria, what can I do to pick myself back up, so I can keep going?
We get in a hurry to label disappointment as a negative thing, because our body sensations make us feel anxious, tight, depressed, and caved in. Notably, body sensations are simply indicators, signaling that it’s time to become more mindful of your needs and how to honor them. It is a learning moment, not a judgment moment! How do you make this shift?
1. Engage the power of the pause.
Rather than letting disappointment trigger a fight or flight response, do some deep breathing exercises to calm yourself enough to think objectively and rationally. You’ll find my 4-Step C.A.L.M. Process to be very helpful.
2. Feel and name your feelings.
Your feelings are indicators; don’t let them become your master. They are there to lead you to greater self-awareness. They don’t serve you if they force you into decisions you’ll regret. So peel back the layers. Name your feelings, accept them, and then mindfully and intentionally decide how you want to move forward. My 4-Step Feel-Your-Feelings Process is helpful for this.
3. Use disappointment to your advantage.
Let disappointment be your stepping stone, not your stumbling block. Use what you learn to motivate yourself to try harder to achieve things that matter the most to you. It’s inevitable and okay that you make mistakes. You still deserve kindness. Therefore it’s time to practice fierce self-compassion as you make a plan that gets you past the obstacles to reaching your goal(s). My article 5 Ways to Turn Fear Into Positive Action may also give you helpful tips.
A resilient, can-do perspective that gets you past the “I’m disappointed in myself” roadblock starts with mindfulness. This leads to noticing the processes and systems that impact life the most. While I mentioned some of my life processes above, I’ve recorded all of them in a road map called Stepping Forward. You can download an Introduction to The Stepping Forward Program. If you’re interested in one-on-one coaching, please contact me to see if the Stepping Forward Program is for you.