I’ve coached hundreds of leaders through deep dives on their teams to understand each person’s individual development needs. One of the common themes that come up in these sessions is this idea of a leader being too hard on themselves.

We found that these people usually were very driven and wanted their area of responsibility to be a successful part of the organization. They also typically had a high level of care for their people. The feedback about the individual was that they took constructive feedback hard and were in fact harder on themselves than their actual leader could ever be.

Maybe that hits a little close to home, or you know someone that describes.

I certainty was that leader for a time. I had a high drive to be the best field location in the organization. We had very high expectations for our people while having a great time with wonderful results. It was also not uncommon for me to get wrecked as my leader layout constructive feedback during visits. I was too hard on myself and I often felt failure after the visit.

Negative self-talk can eat you alive in your personal and professional life. Being mindful of positive self-talk can make a lasting impact on your overall leadership and emotional health.

4 types of Negative Self Talk

Before we fill our lives with positive self-talk, we need to understand negative self-talk so we can identify when it’s happening and how often it occurs.

  • Personalizing: The, “It’s not you, it’s me” mantra. This is one of the most common forms and basically follows the pattern of when something bad happens you automatically blame yourself for the outcome. It’s important to do some reality testing here to determine if you are truly responsible or are there outside circumstances at play.
  • Real-Life Example: You weren’t chosen in the interview process. Constructive feedback at work.
  • Filtering: Here you filter out the good things in the situation and magnify the negative. An example of this would be an area leader’s visit to one of our locations. They leave a heap of positive observations and affirmations while giving you a couple of things to work on. After the fact, you only focus on the couple of negative things and discount all the positive pieces that they gave you.
  • Real-Life Example: Filtering teachers/professors/mentors’ notes on a paper/project/challenge. 
  • Catastrophizing: This is where you automatically think the worst in situations. It’s important here to think about the likelihood that your thought will actually occur and consider other possible outcomes.
  • Real-Life Example: You always get stuck in heavy traffic. You feel like you are always going to be excluded. 
  • Polarizing: It’s either all good or all bad. There is typically no middle ground in this thought process. You have to be perfect or you are a total failure. Maybe you have a goal to run or walk three times a week and you are only able to do it twice. Your overall focus is on the “failure” and not on the progress that you are making.
  • Real-Life Example: Hobbies/home projects are perfect or you failed overall.  Being destroyed by a “B” in school. When a friend/customer experiences a service failure. 

Identify those areas in your life where you are sabotaging yourself with negative self-talk, and remember that it’s not created equally across all parts of your life. You may struggle with personalizing-type of negative self-talk at work and be fine at home.  You may be polarizing at home, and be fine where you volunteer your time. 

Now that we know those areas of opportunity, we’ll cover some tips for positive self-talk and reflection next week. 

Make a better tomorrow.