This happens more often than we care to admit. And though we try to talk ourselves out of it, we are often unsuccessful. Recently I fell victim to the day after blues. I know better. But knowing better doesn’t always result in doing better.
Last weekend I gave a presentation at a conference. There were no technical difficulties and not once did I fall down or split my pants. All in all, I felt pretty good about it. Afterwards, some folks even told me that I did well.
And I felt good.
And then I didn’t.
Why are we so hard on ourselves the after a presentation, a job interview or a classroom observation? It seems to me like we are guilty of the day after blues anytime we work hard on something that matters to us. I get it. We want to do well and we want to feel good about our efforts and our performance. But this constant self-doubt and negative self-talk can’t be good for our mental health. In fact, I think it makes us worse.
So, now what?
Below are five strategies that you can use to deal with the day after blues:
Allow Yourself Some Time To Critique
Reflection, and oftentimes critical self-reflection, is how we grow. It doesn’t always feel good but I do believe it is necessary. Having said that, I believe if we spend too much time finding everything that was wrong with our work, we will end up mired so deep in self-pity that we can’t dig ourselves out.
Give yourself a set amount of time to think and reflect on what went wrong and then move on. Maybe you sit down the day after and make a list of everything you’d like to do differently next time. Okay, but only do that once. Maybe you set aside several ten minutes mind-dump sessions to jot down all the things you wish you hadn’t done. Yup, I get that. But once you set aside this time make sure that you stick to it. No more. Make that promise to yourself. Your mental well-being and your next project deserve your full attention.
List 3 Things That Went Well
It’s easy to dwell on a mistake and amplify it such that it colors your impression of the entire event. But what went well? You can smart small. Maybe you felt good about your slides. Or maybe you liked your outfit that day. And maybe, just maybe, you got some positive feedback from your efforts. Don’t shrug them off. If someone took the time to complement you then you owe it to them to accept it and to digest it, if only for a moment.
Once you have listed at least three things that went well, put them somewhere that you can see them. Social media inundates us with reminders that we are not perfect. That someone is better at something than we are. It’s difficult to block this out completely. What we can do though, is remind ourselves that we are good. Put these three (or more) positives on a Post It note where you can see them everyday.
Ask For Feedback
What I have found is that we often our own worst critic. I don’t know why this but I know that I am not alone when it comes to next day self-flagellation. Because we are so connected and invested in our work we have a difficult time analyzing it objectively. And to make matters worse, we often deflect complements, shrugging them off as if our accomplishments are commonplace. Whereas, when we make a mistake, we seem to think we are the only ones who have ever done so.
All this to say, we must ask for feedback from others. Now, this feedback can’t come from just anyone. It is best if we ask for feedback from someone we trust and from someone who is willing to tell us the truth. Radical candor is a must. While feedback from folks we don’t know can be useful, it can also lead us down a rabbit hole with no end. Anyone can criticize someone’s work but I have found that the most helpful feedback comes from those who have a genuine interest in helping us improve. So, choose your critics wisely and listen to what they have to say. It is how we get better.
Feed the Right Wolf
The human brain is a very complex and often difficult machine to manage. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we often can’t get it to do what we want. We know we shouldn’t dwell on the negative, but we do, even if there isn’t much negative to find. Our brain has a way of finding or “making up” negative things to fixate on.
So how do we get rid of negative self-talk?
We can’t eliminate negative self-talk altogether, but we can temper it. And we can drown it out with positive thoughts. It is not always easy, but with a little practice it can be done.
There is a Cherokee legend about a boy who was struggling with two wolves that were inside him. One was evil and constantly filling his head with thoughts that cause him pain and sorrow. The other wolf was good and frequently reminded the boy of his strengths and virtues. What frustrated the boy was the seemingly never-ending battle between the wolves. And so he asked his grandfather which wolf would eventually win the battle that takes place every day inside his head. The grandfather replied, “that is easy, the one that you feed the most.”
Feed your positive wolf more by:
- surrounding yourself with people who lift you up
- reminding yourself that you are good
- knowing that we all make mistakes
- envisioning a bright and positive future with you in it
Start Your Next Project
When is your next presentation? Start preparing for it.
How about next week’s lesson? Plan to make it awesome!
Do you have another interview? Start getting ready.
It’s time to move in. You’ve already put yourself out there (interview, observation, presentation,etc.) and you’ve gotten from it what you can. It’s time to start working on your next big thing. Use the energy you are spending looking backwards to step forward.
Spend more time planting. Constantly measuring and comparing ourselves to others is a trap that I find myself falling into. My ego gets in the way and I become jealous. This does no good and is a waste of time and energy. It’s time to get going.
It’s been a week since my presentation. I feel better than I did the morning after. I have given myself adequate time to critique, I have reminded myself what went well, I have asked and received feedback from people I trust, I am feeding the right wolf and I am working on my next project.
The next time you start feeling the day after blues just try a few or all 5 of the strategies above.
We got this!