In December, we all seem to think we receive an imaginary “report card” grading our accomplishments for the past year. Did you finally get that promotion that you’ve been hoping for? Did you lose the 20 pounds you swore you’d take off by last spring? Did you start that exercise program you promised yourself last New Year’s Eve? Did you swear you’d finally meet “the one”?
Recently in my office, I’ve been hearing patients judge themselves with harsh self-blame that doesn’t give a clear reflection of where they are now. They feel the road ahead looks steep and perilous.
Yes, the end-of-year period does prompt introspection and a look back at what’s transpired—good and bad. But are you including a dose of self-defeat in your personal evaluation?
Self-talk can be sneaky. Although the statements below do reflect honest emotional reactions, they put a decidedly negative spin on what should be an objective year-end review. Get ready to reframe those ideas so you can continue to progress…starting now!
Sneaky Self-Talk #1: “ I’m not where I thought I’d be by this time.”
Looking at where we are not can be tempting, especially as the year runs out. Feeling disappointed and discouraged is a natural outgrowth of this negative-focused way of thinking, along with feeling like a failure after coming up short in one or many areas.
But I can suggest an alternative internal conversation that’s much healthier than throwing up your hands in discouragement: Taking action. First, consider whether your expectations were reasonable in the first place. Perhaps they were wishes rather than well-thought-out plans with a strategy. Why not make a realistic appraisal of your progress? A fair evaluation of what you’ve accomplished during the year may be a helpful exercise. This can lead to creative ways to make adjustments in areas that may not be working as well as expected. Finally, what small action steps can you take today to aid you in moving toward meeting those goals in the future?
Sneaky Self-Talk #2: “If it’s not meant to be, then I won’t pursue it.”
We all know that bumpy rides aren’t unusual in life, but sometimes I see people throw up their hands and quit when the path to success isn’t smooth or easy. I’m a believer in spiritual processes and outcomes. If your goals aren’t met with success quickly or you encounter unexpected difficulties, please don’t give up. It might be “meant to be” and simply taking longer than expected.
Sneaky Self-Talk #3: “I’m just not good enough.”
Heartbreaking as it sounds, this feeling is often a faulty conclusion that comes after one’s goals aren’t met. Taking responsibility for a course of action is an effective approach, but assuming that the reason that things didn’t work out is a direct result of one’s state of worthiness or “goodness” isn’t a valid conclusion.
You should re-evaluate what action steps—actions, not YOU—were the issue, then adjust course. Keeping your self-confidence intact is an important factor in moving forward.
Sneaky Self-Talk #4: “It’s not fair.”
Yes, that’s right. Life isn’t fair. But holding onto resentment that things didn’t work out is probably not going to get you the best results—especially if something or someone other than you was to blame, as may be the case.
Watching someone else enjoy recognition, a job, a raise, or something you were hoping for is often difficult, but looking at what you could do differently next time is more helpful than stewing or self-blame. If nothing comes to mind, then try to make peace with the outcome and realize that achieving is possible, after all. Remember, it was a single disappointment amid a world of possibilities.
Sneaky Self-Talk #5: “It always happens this way.”
That type of statement often comes up when someone has a reoccurring issue, such as a yo-yo dieting situation. Could that be a self-fulfilling prophecy? When you’re thinking you have no control over the situation, coming up with creative solutions or plans is difficult.
If a particular objective turns out the same way over and over, the time has come to take a look at why. Does the plan need to be scrapped for a more realistic one? For instance, if the repeated problem is overindulging and gaining extra pounds at this holiday time, then struggling unsuccessfully to come back to starting weight in January—history tells you that’s not optimal. Knowledge is your catalyst for change: Set an eating plan in place now that will offer different, sustained results this time.
I hope you will be kind to yourself this year, congratulating yourself for all the many “wins” and achievements you’ve actually scored. It’s funny that we all seem to remember what didn’t work out rather than our successes. Our victories have occurred, but they may not have gotten your attention because they fell in the shadow of some disappointments. I hope you will take some time to look back and recall all of the positive, happy outcomes from this year. Your significant, affirming moments need to be honored and celebrated before the clock strikes 12. You deserve it!