This Wednesday was World Mental Health Day and it got me thinking about the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat others and the gap in between.
One weekend last month I was really lucky and played a lot of golf.
I played 9 holes on the Friday night, 18 Saturday, and 18 Sunday.
And I had really good rounds on the first two days, even earned a medal. My first medal at the new club. It’d been a while since I’d played any sort of proper competitive golf.
On the Sunday I started okay but I got to the fifth or sixth hole and I hit a shocker of a shot.
You know what? The thing with golf is that you play 80, 85 odd shots (at the level I’m playing at). 80 of them are good and five or six of them are shockers. You just have to accept that. Otherwise, I’d be playing off much lower numbers.
I found myself walking along the fairway after having hit this terrible shot beating myself up.
I was calling myself every name under the sun. And it wasn’t just at my head, I was saying out loud to myself.
“How the hell did you do that”
“What a plonker”.
… A few other choice swear words in there as well.
Now, the guys I was playing with I’d only just met. Literally the first time I’ve met them, because it’s a new club.
I stopped for a moment because I could see them looking at me, laughing knowingly because they’re used to it.
I had this thought. What if it was them saying those things to me?
One of the other guys that I was playing with wasn’t playing particularly well, and he hit a lot of rubbish that morning. He’s obviously a much better golfer usually, he just had one of those days.
At one point, he was in a bunker, hit the ball, hit the lip of the bunker, the ball went up in the air, and while he’s looking for it, it landed on his own head.
Now funny as it may be, it also cost him two shots having the ball hit himself.
Yet nobody turned around and laughed at him.
No one told him what an idiot he was. No one said to him, “Oh my God, why didn’t you get that out of the bunker”, or “how rubbish are you?”. No one.
Everybody was just sympathetic. “Come on mate, you’ll get the next one, don’t worry, you’re still in this”.
Everyone was very encouraging.
So why is it that when I messed up, and I suspect many of us will recognise this, that I was very quick to beat myself up?
The first thing that I did was to tell myself how poor I was doing, how rubbish I was, how I shouldn’t be playing, what’s the point, I should just give up.
If I spoke to Steve like that, or if Steve had said that to me, I probably would’ve lamped him. I really wouldn’t have been very happy about it.
Because he wouldn’t have been saying it in a friendly way. He wouldn’t have been saying it in a way that was a little bit sarcastic or joking. He would’ve meant it, in the same way that I was meaning it when I was saying it to myself.
So I guess what I want to say is, why is it that we’re so quick to jump on ourselves and beat ourselves up when we do something that’s even vaguely wrong?
Maybe a way of dealing with this is to stop and think for a moment and look around and see who else is with us, and ask ourselves ‘if that person was talking to us the way that we talk to ourselves, how would we react to that?’
How would we respond to that? Would we be comfortable with it? And what gives us the right to beat ourselves up any more than anybody else?
We are gonna screw up from time to time, but just step out of yourself and treat yourself as if you are your playing partner.
Unless you are an extremely cruel, vindictive person, you would not genuinely criticise somebody else’s misfortune or errors.
You would encourage them, you would support them, you would tell them to pick themselves up and do better next time, but you wouldn’t beat them up.
You wouldn’t tell them what an idiot they are. … you wouldn’t tell them what a muppet they are.
And I suspect all of us do this. Whether it’s lifting weights, running, working, not making a sale, trying to put a bit of marketing together.
Whatever it is, we’re brilliant at beating ourselves up internally.
Just think about that for a little while. What would you do if somebody else spoke to you like that?
And maybe that’s the way to catch yourself. Go “whoa, hang on, if somebody else was telling me this stuff, how would I feel?”