Beating Yourself Up, Beating Yourself Down


I had a great meeting today.  Hollywood is like Washington – you can’t get anywhere without getting in the room with the right people and getting them on your side.  A meeting is something and a great meeting is everything.

Then, on the drive home after my great meeting (seriously…GREAT…I am going back for a second round…the exec hugged me goodbye!), I began to review all the things I said and did wrong.

We talked about Comic-Con and I said that I went every year with my husband to hang out at the pool while he does business.  What is wrong with me?  I am on a panel at Comic-Con every year!  Why didn’t I say that?!!

He asked what I was working on this year and I talked about publishing my book and directing a feature film.  I was there pitching a TV show!  It might have been a good idea to mention…oh…I don’t know…CREATING A TV SHOW!

Okay, I could go on, but after about 10 minutes of the failure spiral, I stopped and started to giggle.  What am I doing? I just had an awesome meeting!   I then listed as quickly as I could ten things I did right.  My shoulders got markedly less scrunched. I exhaled.  Whew.

I don’t know why we do it.  I don’t know why humans (particularly women), feel the need to beat ourselves up over the tiniest little things.  Does it make us happier? Better people? Will we do better next time?  Maybe, but probably not.  Maybe by the fifth or tenth or fiftieth time, I’ll remember not to diminish my own work, but for right now it’s a bad habit and beating myself up and beating myself down after the fact isn’t going to fix it.  There is no value to focusing on what you did wrong, especially when you’re mostly getting things right.  (On a side note – this is particularly true of parenting.)

So here’s what I know – the failure spiral is a bad place to be.  Don’t get stuck there.  When I find myself on it, I envision hitting the brakes and instantly come up with a trick or distraction to get off.  Sometimes this means walking the dog.  Or calling a friend.  Or a simple mental exercise reminding myself that I’m pretty okay.  Sometimes it involves chocolate.  All of those work for me.  Your mileage may vary.

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6 thoughts on “Beating Yourself Up, Beating Yourself Down

  • Suzanne O'Keeffe

    yay Valerie! I think it’s an addiction … self-recrimination, judgment and blame. I speak because I know it in myself. It’s not easy to get rid of an addiction. Realized only recently how mean I can be to myself. Forgiveness works best of all for me … I forgive myself for beating myself up … again. And a blanket amnesty for every “mistake” — a thousand times a day if necessary. Oh, and yes, congratulations on the meeting (and book and feature and tv show!) … though I think the self awareness here is worth far more than even those accomplishments!

    • speakhappiness

      Suzanne, for someone who has dedicated her life to selflessly serving others, self-flagellation is strictly forbidden. Stop it! You are one of the best people I know. And if the universe isn’t thanking you 1000 times a day just for being you, then the universe is out of line, not you. You’re beyond awesome.

  • naomi

    I read an essay once that described this habit in women as the tendency to “Chicken Dinner” ourselves. As in, we pick ourselves apart, bit by bit, ’til we’re down to the bone. Maybe that doesn’t hold up, but the phrase has always stuck with me. When I catch myself doing it I think, “No chicken dinners!” And then I laugh and rewrite history in my head so that I barely remember how I screwed up at all.

    I wish I could remember the writer’s name so I could give her credit.