How do you really feel about yourself? Do you think you’re doing just about as well as you can, or is there plenty you could be doing better?

If you know you have some improvements to make, you can look at it in two ways. First, you could tell yourself, ‘I’m so useless, I can never do anything right.’ Or you could say, ‘Come on, you’re better than this, don’t settle for less than your best.’

One will spur you on, and the other will bring you down. They’re both really saying the same thing: I did not do as well as I’d like. But you have to keep thinking you are capable of doing better rather than abandoning yourself to past habits or beliefs about yourself. So you messed up. It’s OK, get back up, say I’m better than this, and find out what you can do to prove it. Identify what’s holding you back and how you can work around it.

When you find yourself making choices that don’t match the person you know you are, it’s good to have a healthy dissatisfaction with what you are doing, so you have a chance to do something about it. But that’s not the same thing as beating yourself up about a bad choice. We all slip up sometimes, and take the easy route rather than what we know is the right choice for us. If we are too easy on ourselves, we’ll settle for mediocrity, a kind of nothing life where everything is OK but not great. Go too far the other way and be too hard on yourself, and the risk is that you’ll get too disheartened to carry on making good choices because you never feel good enough and you should just have this figured out by now.

You’ll never be perfect. Don’t worry about ever making it that far. But even a tiny step forward is a step forward. Whatever happens, you can always be better than this. But listen to how this is said. It’s not ‘You should be better than this’. It’s ‘you are better than this’.