Are You Ever Too Hard on Yourself?

by Joan C Webb on May 24, 2011

ANTS image 5-24-11“In order to grow, I need to be hard on myself.” If you’re prone to surprising mini attacks of anxiety, agitation or fear (whether you’re good at hiding it from others or not), you may have an underlying belief something like this one.


You try to motivate yourself by making a mental list of the ways you fall short in your work/career, marriage, friendships, parenting, prayer life, volunteer service, or even self-care. But I’m wondering: How is that working for you?

Just this week during several calls with life coaching clients this topic popped up. Although I didn’t say so during the coaching calls (after all I’m committed to holding each coach-ee’s agenda!) I can identify. Definitely.

In his helpful book, This is Your Brain on Joy, Dr. Henslin shares how respected physician and author Dr. Amen often speaks of “automatic negative thoughts” or ANTs.  These ANTs include what he calls “Guilt Beatings.”

It happens when we’re “being overrun by thoughts of ‘I should have done. . .’ ‘I’m bad because. . . ‘ ‘I must do better at. . .’ ‘I have to. . .’ Guilt is powerful at making us feel bad. It is a lousy motivator of behavior.”

ANTS image Stomping on Ants 5-24-11STOMPING ON ANTS

Yet we can stomp on our shame-producing ANTs. Here’s Dr. Henslin’s suggestions:

  1. “Become a bystander to your thoughts–questioning their validity and asking yourself, Is there another way to think about the same situation that might be more true? More kind? More uplifting and positive?
  2. “Simply talk back to your mind the way a sassy teen might talk back to an adult. In this case, it is okay. Tell our ANTs to take a hike, and invite APTs (automatic positive thoughts) in, instead.”
  3. “Exchange [your] worries for God’s reassurances. . .  The Scriptures speak of  ’taking every thought captive’ (2 Cor 2:5) and ‘the renewing of our mind’ (Rom 12:2).

I’m going to STOMP ON MY ANTs this week. Want to join me? I’d love to know whether you find it a greater motivation for growth and development in your life.

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Pam C in Canada May 24, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I learned about trying not to think so negatively about my accomplishments in February/March at therapy. Sometimes it’s very hard to stop ANTs from coming, but with work, it is doable! I really like this quote from Oprah (2001) “If you make a choice that doesn’t please your mate, friends, or whoever, the world will not fall apart” – I’ve tried to live by that, and by the same idea, if I don’t get something done one day that I “should have” got done, then so what? Nobody is going to die and the world isn’t going to fall apart because I didn’t get it done. Just means that I’m going to have to do it at a different time.

Thanks for the reminder Joan!

Joan C Webb May 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Hi Pam! You’re right. With work and practice and intentionality and reminding ourselves and finding light-hearted ways to stomp on the ANTS and listening to our loving Heavenly Father instead of our inner bully, it becomes doable. Congrats to you for the good stuff you’re doing to help yourself. I’m impressed. :-)
I find because I’m imperfect and I live in an imperfect world, the ANTS march in again. And I have the choice to do something proactive about them. It’s an ongoing journey. I think I’m becoming more and more comfortable with that. At least for tonight. Tomorrow is another God-given day!

ShaRon Rea May 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

You are so right about stomping out the ANTs. I’ve started to Shhhhhhh my ANTs and it is working- a lot of the time. I’m starting my own business helping parents move through two major transition periods – raising teens and moving through divorce. I’ve done both. During this time a parent’s ANTs can drown out their own positive intuition that will move their children forward. I’m excited to be a healing element in these families lives. It is changing me for the better too! (:

Joan C Webb May 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Congrats on your successful “Shhhhh-ing of your ANTs!” And the best to you with your new business. Tell me more.

Diane Markins May 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Joan, you know all too well that I can relate to this. I just love that you make it so clear that while you coach others on this struggle, it is still a battle you must fight on occasion. Your transparency helps inspire lots of squished ants!

Joan C. Webb May 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Ahhhh, thanks, Diane. There has to be a good reason for cutting open the vein of honesty and transparency. And you just reminded me of it. :-)

Laurie Wallin May 27, 2011 at 3:22 am

“How is that working for you?” …probably my favorite question to ask clients. And myself when I’m in a rut! Thanks for the clear, helpful tips to motivate ourselves with truth instead of anxiety!

Joan C. Webb May 27, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Hi Laurie! Sooo, that means that the Q “How is that working for you?” DOES work for you! LOL
It is a pretty powerful Q. I think I want to use it more often when I’m self-coaching. :-) Thanks for the reminding that I can do that.

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