When you fail at something important to you, whether at school, work, or a relationship, you, naturally, want to understand what went wrong along the way. That is totally normal. Sometimes you turn defensive however, until you are ready to heal and move forward. If you struggle with math homework, you may decide to “hate math” instead of learning how to overcome more difficult math problems.
Jumping to conclusions like “hating math” forever might not really help you learn to improve or avoid making similar mistakes. Let’s learn how to get better at math skills, or looking inward to take responsibility to see how we can cope with “what went wrong.”
Understand The Importance Of Critique
Nobody ever wants to know or feel like they’re being judged when they’re not a part of a competition. But every once in a while it may be important to look within and perform a constructive, self-critique to keep yourself on track. It is okay to find some habits that are not ideal that have developed, as long as you’re willing to grow and change to become the better self you know that you can become.
Your Perspective Matters
There is research out there on explanatory style that shows how people who tend to blame negative events on permanent aspects of themselves (ex. “I’m just not an intelligent person”) are more likely to feel melancholy and fall into depression or suffer from health problems. If you relate to Eeyore, it may be time to learn a more optimistic explanatory style and focus on specific and modifiable areas where you need improvement (ex. “I stayed up too late reading a book when I could have been studying, next time I’ll set a timer”).
Know the difference in your decisions and external pressures.
There may be situations where you are obviously to blame, but there may be some situational factors that push you in one way or another. For instance, you stayed up late playing video games, but your siblings were also playing video games, making it hard to concentrate on studying. Don’t use this as an excuse, but use it as leverage. Next time you know you have an exam the next day, don’t wait to study at night, know that you may need to study at a friend’s house to diminish the video game distractions. Use these pressures to help you learn to make better decisions.
Change Your Focus From Yourself To Others
Don’t just focus on critiquing your positive and negative traits, consider how your actions can help others. Keep your relationships in mind whether friends at school, coworkers, relationships you want to nurture. There are studies that suggest the people who pursue compassionate goals rather than just self-image goals have less conflict in relationships, receive more support, and feel less loneliness. We may fail to recognize the needs of those around us if we’re too focused on comparing ourselves or protecting our own self-esteem.
Learn Self-Compassionate & Self-Criticism
Self-compassion can be just what you need when you are prone to shame when it comes to self-criticism. This is the part where you can comfortably take responsibility, but learn not to beat yourself up. For example, you can more comfortably say “Yes, I messed up, but this doesn’t make me a bad person.” This is where you remember that you are a human with strengths and weaknesses and room to improve in different areas of your life. Those weaknesses don’t have to be scary anymore.
A constructive critique is a good way to make sure you are on track to meeting your goals. Be sure to separate your personality from your behavior (just because you made a mistake, doesn’t mean you are a mistake), consider which consequence you’ve got (analyze your past behavior and find out what you did to learn for next time), and express positive intentions for your future behaviors. You can evaluate your life and improve your lifestyle whether you’re looking to do better in school, at the gym, or just become a nicer person. We’re here for you.