THE BLOG
04/11/2014 02:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2014

Are You Your Own Toughest Critic? You're Not Alone

I have been overwhelmed by the responses that I received on my last blog post. So many people identified with the same struggles around negativity and general unkindness I had subjected myself to for many years. I'm not surprised at how many people felt compelled to share that they understood. I know. I did it to myself, and I know how tough I could be. I also have worked with thousands of women and men who do and say the same damned things to themselves; and I've listened to my friends.

We all do it. We call ourselves "idiot" (or worse) for the slightest infraction. We remember the one thing that went wrong on a project or that one bit of negative feedback, instead of embracing the greater good. As women, we struggle to have it all, and then we feel like losers when we fail. We doubt our potential and mistrust our abilities. We compare ourselves to others, noticing all that they have and can do -- and noting all that we don't and seemingly can't do. And we judge, not only ourselves but others, and in doing so, we create walls between us. We all do it.

But commenters were surprised.

How could I, they wondered, have felt any negativity or said such mean things to myself? One reader shared: "It truly brought tears to my eyes. I greatly appreciate your amazing honesty. I would have never thought someone like you could have ever doubted herself... I never thought we would have something like that in common. I constantly struggle with these thoughts." Numerous responses like these remind me that outsiders think that my life, including my attitude about myself, was pretty good. In fact, not just pretty good but quite fantastic. And they reminded me that things are not always what they seem (but we don't always remember that).

Similarly, my clients seem to have it all together. Well-accomplished (remember? I work with some pretty incredible executives, entrepreneurs and people in transition). Fit. Happy. Engaged. Booked social calendar. Confident. Never a doubt in their minds about what's next.

But inside, in their brains and in their hearts, there was some form of unwelcome negativity, whether they were aware of it or not. Some clients have been better off in their mindsets than others; some worse. Bottom line, each was giving him or herself way less credit, love and appreciation than was deserved. They had doubts, they had fear, and all of this was having a negative effect on life as they knew it -- at work, in their personal relationships and in their ability to trust in their potential and achieve more. This was affecting their ability to be happy, or even content.

So if you identified at all with me, know that you aren't alone. In my coaching practice, I've seen that people are unnecessarily hard on themselves or hold themselves up to unrealistic, impractical expectations, thereby holding themselves back from authentic happiness and real success -- missing out on what can be because they think they can't.

It's not a lost cause, clearly. Change is possible. "You on your best day" is achievable more often than you think.

First step, recognize the meanness in ourselves, and as a result, perhaps toward others, and then extend compassion. Give yourself some understanding, acceptance and love. It doesn't have to be a lot, just more than you've afforded yourself to date. If you're able to do that, you'll begin to see all that you actually are able to do and achieve. It's way more than you think.

A friend just posted on her Facebook page: "Lift each other up more" and went on to encourage us all to embrace our differences, to embrace each other. I wholeheartedly agree. Let's just start with ourselves.