Update 23rd March 2022: I did a follow-up to this article. Listen to it here:
This is a friendly reminder to stop being such a fucking cunt to yourself.
If you’re anything like me (if you’re on my site, you probably are), you have extremely high standards for yourself. You have big dreams, lofty goals, high hopes – and you’re furiously working towards them (or, you’re in the process of working up the courage to start working towards them). You’re a man on a mission.
And boy have you dedicated yourself to this mission. You spend hours a day working towards your gym goals, reading self-improvement sites, working on your Tinder/Hinge/etc, improving your fashion, learning to be more honest with girls, making progress on your goals, a little at a time. You’re acutely aware of everything you have to do to get to where you want to be, and by Christ, you’re going to hustle like mad until it’s done.
But every now and then, or maybe every single day, you have missteps. You make mistakes, you get something wrong, you do something silly. Sometimes you have a lazy day/week where you make no progress towards your goal, instead choosing to self-medicate with video games/TV/porn/alcohol. And it crushes you, because you know you have a million things you should be working on… Yet here you are, wasting precious time.
That inevitably leads to you beating yourself up, often with horrible self-talk that borders on the self-abusive. You yell at yourself, telling yourself not to be such a pussy, not to be such a lazy bastard, not to be such a fucking failure. “Other guys aren’t fucking up this badly, it’s only me that’s a loser”.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. A tonne of us are assholes to ourselves because we’re not where we want to be and haven’t achieved the goals we want to achieve. We beat ourselves over the head and berate ourselves for not being good enough, flagellating ourselves for our perceived failures, wondering if we’ll ever manage to get our shit together. We act like totalitarian dictators, refusing to accept anything but 100% perfection… a standard that isn’t even remotely possible.
In short, we’re total cunts to ourselves.
The question to ask yourself is: would you treat your best friend like this?
Why is it not ok to treat others like shit, but somehow it’s ok to treat yourself like shit? Are you somehow so special – more special than anybody else – that you deserve special punishment you wouldn’t dole out to even your worst enemy?
Drop your fucking ego – you are not special. The arrogance you must have to think you deserve special punishment nobody else deserves… You’re not any more important than anyone else, so don’t treat yourself like shit if you wouldn’t treat others like that. Sure, have high standards for yourself (lord knows I do); but don’t be a toxic asshole to yourself when you have moments of imperfection.
Self-improvement is supposed to be something you enjoy; a fun journey you spend the rest of your life going after. It’s not supposed to be an excuse for you to berate yourself or indulge in hateful self-talk. Self-improvement is not a stick you hit yourself over the head with.
I have as much experience with this as anybody – I used to have the most evil self-talk imaginable. Any time I made a mistake or failed at something, I’d tell myself, “You’re such a useless piece of shit, you never get anything right. You’ll never make it if you keep fucking up like this.” I didn’t allow any room for mistakes or missteps, expecting myself to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time.
Over time, and with techniques like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), I worked on reframing those negative thoughts into more positive ones. I reframed “You’re useless” into “You’re only human”.
“You never get anything right” became “You sometimes make mistakes, and that’s ok. Don’t stress.”
“You’ll never make it” became “You’ll make it, as long as you just never quit”.
Over time I became a more positive, self-loving person, and I learned to stop being such a fucking cunt to myself. It took a lot of work and a lot of patience, but I eventually got there.
The antidote is to be kind and forgiving to yourself when you have moments where you know you can do better. Talk yourself up, rather than beating yourself down. “Come on, I know I can do better than this. I am better than this. Ok, I’ve got this – I’m gonna kick some fucking ass.” Give a pep talk to yourself, pick yourself up, and force yourself to do better.
“Don’t be such a cunt to yourself” has also worked wonders for plenty of my friends, family, and quite a few of my coaching clients. One guy in particular had some very clearly negative self-talk right from the very first session we had together. I waited til he’d finished speaking, paused for dramatic effect, and said, “Mate. You are an absolute cunt to yourself.” It floored him.
After the session he said, and I quote: “You know, when I first came to you for coaching I wasn’t sure how much you could give me. That one little nugget changed my whole outlook right there and then.”
It’s insane how much of a radical concept “Don’t be a cunt to yourself” is for most of us. When you’re laser-focused on self-improvement, and you’re constantly looking to the future, it can be hard to look back and give yourself credit for the things you’ve already achieved.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, we’re only human. We’re going to have good days, and bad days, and days in-between. We’re going to totally suck sometimes. We’ll have days where we crush it and make massive progress towards our goals… and we’ll have days where we do absolutely nothing. As long as you’re making progress over time, you can’t beat yourself up for having a few lazy/crappy days here and there. Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend.
Remember, you’re not the enemy.