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StudentI thought I was prepared. I had worked hard but I didn’t meet my expectations.

Had I overreached? Was I overconfident? What had I missed? What did I do wrong?

When goals and expectations fail – we failed that test, we lose that prestigious job we worked so hard to get, our marriage is on the rocks, our children are in serious trouble – the list goes on and on – we are embarrassed. We not only feel deflated but want to slink into anonymity and disappear from view.

Our first reaction is to find someone or something to blame. We beat ourselves up or we put the blame on others. Neither of these two extremes helps. Both use selective information to explain what happened.

Messages from our past have a strong influence over us today. 

While it is important to be honest about our efforts, when we beat ourselves up, we develop tunnel vision that screens out other pertinent information. Details are deleted, minimized or magnified.

Past failures and disappointments flood our consciousness. It is not only I should have done more or I should have worked harder but I’m a screw-up, I’m not talented enough, I’m stupid, etc.

Our self talk becomes defeating and we judge ourselves incompetent. We are flawed and therefore conclude that we are incapable of succeeding. It colors the present and it colors the future.

Our comparisons with others also become distorted and biased against us.

The other extreme is not helpful either. When we shift blame to others or things outside our control, we are reducing or removing any responsibility we might have had. It’s not my fault will not help you in the long term, because you will not be able to gather the necessary objective and vital information to make a difference in the future.

So how do we navigate those discouraging or embarrassing moments?

Don’t run from your feelings. Stand up to them and face them truthfully. Then deliberately remove yourself from the blame game. Become objective. Think like an impartial reporter gathering facts. Ask yourself

• What was in my control to alter or change the outcome?

• What was out of my control?

• What one positive, constructive thing can I take away from this?

• What did I learn about myself (avoid any self-defeating labels or judgmental statements)?

• What important information can help me in the future?

Confidence is important – an elevated and exaggerated ego is not.

©2013 Marlene Anderson

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