“I can’t believe I did that…again. I am so stupid! Why can’t I stop! Why did I say that? Why did I do that? You’d think I’d know better. Loser. Idiot. Stupid.”
If we talked to others the way we talk to ourselves, would we be called bullies or abusers? Self-criticism and self-condemnation are frequent occurrences when we mess up in speech or actions. The thoughts of messing up or failing quickly turn into name calling and character attacks. A simple “I can’t believe I did that” turns into “I am stupid.” The focus goes from a criticism of the action to an attack on the person. We may then judge ourselves to be incapable and unworthy. Being disappointed in ourselves often leads to anger towards ourselves. Anger turned inward often leads to depression.
Being disappointed in oneself is fairly common. As long as we’re human and imperfect, we’ll mess up. We’ll fail. We’ll make poor decisions, and we’ll do it over and over again because we either think it’ll be different this time, we forget, or we simply don’t care.
Why do we find it so hard to accept that we fail often? Why is it equally as hard to differentiate between failing and being ‘a failure?’ Losing and being ‘a loser?’ Doing something stupid to being stupid?
If you’re disappointed in yourself often, here are a few things to consider:
- Expectations: What did you expect when you messed up? Most people would agree that “nobody’s perfect,” but that doesn’t mean they believe it. Or perhaps we would agree that we aren’t perfect, but we should meet a certain set of standards. We should do better, be better, or perform better means that we shouldn’t mess up, fail, or do a bad job. We should learn from mistakes and shouldn’t make them over again. Whenever we do what we shouldn’t, we are disappointed with ourselves because we fail to live up to our standards.
- Accepting Reality: Failing is probably the one constant that we fail to accept. We say, “I can’t believe I did that!” Well, why can’t you believe you did that? Do you think that you are incapable of messing up? Do you expect that you wouldn’t or couldn’t mess up? We ought to “think soberly” about ourselves and neither think too highly of ourselves nor too lowly, but instead to be realistic (Rom 12:3). We are not the “me I want to be,” that is, the ideal me. We have to accept who we are, and that means accepting that we are imperfect beings who make bad decisions at times, who choose to sin, and who fail in actions, words, and relationships. Accepting this is important.
- Worth & Grace: We make “worth statements” when we are disappointed in ourselves. If we call ourselves names (“Idiot”) or condemn ourselves (“I’m so stupid”), we are judging ourselves and essentially declaring our worth (or worthlessness). Instead of focusing on the action or decision (“that was dumb” or “I could have done that better“), we may focus on our personhood (“I am so stupid“)… and believe such statements. We assume such judgments about ourselves are truth, and so our disappointment with ourselves turns into anger, then depression. Yet if our worth were to be found in our actions (successes or failures), not many of us would have much worth in ourselves as we make mistakes, poor decisions, and sin on a daily basis. Although it’s appropriate to be convicted over sin, our condemnation has fallen upon Christ, therefore we do not need to condemn ourselves (Rom 8:1). We would also do well to have the same mindset as Paul who states, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (I Cor 4:3-4). He does not judge or condemn himself, but recognizes that responsibility belongs to the Lord. He has learned to live by grace, which is to give and receive favor that is not based on actions, neither is it earned by successes or limited by failures. His worth is defined by God’s favor, and not his own actions or words of other people.
I never knew how difficult parenting would be. I’ve made poor decisions. I’ve been self-centered in many decisions. I haven’t always loved well. I haven’t always shown Christ to my children. I look back and wish I could have a do-over, because maybe it would be different. And so, I live with regrets and disappointment, knowing that I have failed in many ways. And yet, even if I could have a do-over, I also believe I would mess up in both similar and different ways. Why? Because I am imperfect. I am a sinner…and God hasn’t completed His work in me yet. This is hard to accept, but accepting it is a must.
When we deal with disappointing ourselves, identify your expectations (recognizing the words “should” and “shouldn’t” will give you a clue!), accept the fact that you are a work in progress who remains broken, imperfect, sinful, and unfinished (Phil 1:6), and believe that your worth is not defined by your failings or your self-declarations (“I’m stupid”), but through faith in Christ. Speak the Truth to yourself (Truth is defined by His Word, not your feelings), and stop listening to yourself. Only then will we begin to overcome our disappointments in ourselves.
If you found this blog helpful, feel free to click on these links for more of the “When You Are Disappointed…” Series.