Do you beat yourself up over every tiny mistake?
Posted: Jul 8, 2015 in July 2015
If you answered yes, this may impact your motivation and your self efficacy. I just returned from a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Weight Loss and Maintenance workshop at the Beck Institute. The tool of giving yourself credit, was discussed at length in the context of weight loss and maintenance. Most of my patients at BMI admit that they do a very thorough job of giving themselves feedback on every facet of their day that doesn't go perfectly. However, they are far less likely to stop and acknowledge the things that go well. In fact, some go as far as to negate their accomplishments ("I was just doing my job" or "I should have been able to reach my goal faster"). If this sounds familiar, learning how to give yourself credit is a great skill to increase and enhance your motivation!
Let's use Sue* as an illustration of how you can give yourself credit. When I met Sue for the first time she said: " I know what I am supposed to be doing to lose weight and it makes logical sense to me. But for some reason, I'm just not doing it!". I explained the importance of giving yourself credit in generating and maintaining motivation. After all, if losing weight and maintaining weight loss was easy, no one would be struggling! It is normal to expect our motivation to ebb and flow in the context of any behaviour change (weight loss included). That is why it is so important that people learn how to give themselves credit. When we give ourselves feedback on only the things that don't go 100% according to plan, we find that we selectively attend to this sort of information, ignoring data to the contrary.
1. Be mindful of the things that are going well in your day. Each time Sue weighed and measured her food, or went to the gym, or had a scheduled snack, or recorded her meal she gave herself credit.
2. Don't wait until the end of your day to take stock, give yourself credit every time you take a small step on the path towards your larger goal. In the beginning Sue tried giving herself credit at the end of the day for all her daily accomplishments. She found that when she gave herself credit throughout the day, her motivation was less likely to flag.
3. How you give yourself credit can be as simple as saying: "Good job!" or giving yourself a literal pat on the back. Some people like to have a more tangible tracking format, so they put a coin in a jar each time they give themselves credit; when the jar is full they then go for a pedicure or a round of golf.
4. Be patient with yourself! This is a new skill like any other, so it is reasonable to expect that it will take time for you to master this technique. Think back to when you learned how to drive... you didn't just hop behind the wheel and start driving. Instead you probably had to be particularly mindful in the beginning (put on my seatbelt, check my mirrors, turn on the ignition...). In the beginning Sue put a sticky note on her computer monitor at work and another on her bathroom mirror to remind her to implement this new skill. She also found that setting an alarm on her phone cued her to check in with herself throughout the day.
*as ever, all identifying information has been changed