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Mar 8, 2010

Make Yourself Proud

When you’re struggling with changing a habit or pulling yourself out of a state of depression, it’s tempting to think that the cause of your failure is due to a lack of willpower, talent or commitment.  It can be a crushing experience to dwell on how hard it is to take your life to the place you’d hoped it to be right now.

But the problem may have nothing to do with willpower.  It may have nothing to do with “you” at all.  The real problem may be with the identity you’ve constructed for yourself.

Victims of Choice: When Self-Talk Goes Bad

When you construct an opinion about someone else, you develop it based on a number of factors: what you’ve heard / read people saying about the person, what you’ve seen of their behavior yourself, and (most importantly), what you’ve decided those observations mean.

You decide someone else is generous or selfish, fun or boring, a success or a failure, based on the way you put those pieces together (whether your observations are correct or not).  And once you construct that “first impression,” it’s very, very likely that it will never change.

If your first impression is overwhelmingly good, then you’ll “color” everything that person does in a positive light (we’ve all seen people who could “do no wrong” in another’s eyes).  If your first impression is bad, then everything that person does gets colored negatively (and you’ve probably experienced this firsthand if someone gets the wrong impression about you).

In fact, your “first impression” may be completely influenced by what someone else has said about a person before you’ve even met them, locking in that perceived identity forever.  You’ll never give that person a fair chance or see their actions in an objective light, and that’s tragic.

What’s even more tragic, though, is how this phenomenon comes back to bite you.  If you believe people have negative impressions of you, then you start to “color” the perception of your own identity as well.

  • It could be as simple as someone giving you a funny look or ignoring you – you may find yourself asking “What’s wrong with me?”
  • Or perhaps a much-hoped for goal doesn’t work out, and you imagine that people are disappointed in you, and you dwell on this thought: “Why can’t I get anything right?”

Notice I used words like “believe” and “imagined” in those earlier paragraphs – as human beings, we’re very quick to jump to the conclusion that people are thinking negatively of us.  And of course, when that happens, we’re going to feel too ashamed or scared to ask people what they’re really feeling.  So we stick with our imaginings.

The Downward Spiral

This kind of negative self-talk sets us on a downward spiral, where we worry more and more about looking bad in front of others and we get paralyzed wondering why we can’t be “better” people.  With all the things we worry about on a daily basis, and in the shadow of all those other “successes” we don’t feel worthy of, is it any wonder we feel like failures and shams?

And the more we worry, the more we keep these worries to ourselves, lest someone find out “how screwed up we really are.”  But the truth is, we really aren’t that screwed up.  We’ve just taken all these observations about what we’ve done (or haven’t done) and combined them with things other people have said and things we imagine they must be thinking about us.

And all of this combined paints a powerful picture of ourselves that we strongly identify with … and that identity determines our actions – every single one of them.

Think about it:

  • If you think you’re a failure, how strongly will you take action to succeed?
  • If you think you’re unlikable/unlovable, how much will you put your heart on the line or pursue new experiences to connect with people?
  • If you think you have nothing of value to offer the world (or even one person), how often will you actually try to offer what you do have?

All this I say from my own experience.  I’ve felt all these things myself, and I’ve traveled far and long down this downward spiral.  And though I’m no psychiatrist, I can tell you a very effective way to start pulling yourself out of this painful descent.

Make Yourself Proud And You Construct A New Identity

What I’m going to tell you to do right now is so simple that you can get on it in the next 30 minutes.  You may feel some significant resistance to it if you’re stuck far down on the spiral, but don’t give up on yourself.   Here’s what you need to do right now:  Take one small action that you can be personally proud of.

That’s all.  Do one thing today that flies in the face of your negative self-conditioning.

  • If you believe you’re a junk-food addicted slob, then trade one single can of Coke for a glass of water, or one piece of fruit for a bag of chips today.  Make yourself proud of this tiny act of rebellion.
  • If you’re telling yourself you’re a lazy couch potato, take one five minute walk today, or walk the stairs in your office one time.  Make yourself proud that you did something today.
  • If you believe no one wants to talk to you, find one person you know of and email them something supportive and make their day.  Make yourself proud that you had the guts to try.

I’m not telling you do something earth-shattering here, but this one small act can have massive repercussions if you repeat it (or do similar actions) on a daily basis.  By rebelling against your negative identity you’re effectively weakening it by example.

By making yourself proud on a regular basis, you’re going to gradually overwrite that negative identity as a positive one takes shape. If you’re that junk-food addict, you’re eventually going to start saying “I’m not really an addict- after all, I have one piece of fresh fruit a day,” and before long something amazing will happen: your new, positive identity will spur you to make better choices.

If you’re used to eating a little fruit a day, you start seeing yourself as a more health-conscious person – it becomes part of your identity – and it makes it easier to make choices that are congruent with that identity.

You know this is true – just look at how your negative identity makes it easier for you to take the weak actions that support it.  As you construct a stronger positive identity, making choices that support it won’t require as much effort.  It will just feel like something that “makes sense” to do.

Your Assignment:  Tell Me What You’ll Do To Make Yourself Proud

Take a moment and think of what’s bugging you in your life, and what single action you can take today to make yourself proud.  Is it making one better meal choice?  Is it closing all your browser windows and focusing for 45 minutes on your work?  Is it taking time to spend with someone you’ve neglected?

Think about it, and post it in the comments below.  If you’re not comfortable putting your name, just put “Ass-Kicker” in the name field and no one will know who you are. :-)   Just put it in writing, and get it done today.

Do it now – you’ll thank yourself for it.

That is all -


43 Responses to “Make Yourself Proud”

  • Mar 8, 2010 Valerie

    My self-confidence is low that my expertise is really *enough.* It’s been, as you say, making me procrastinate, and not get things done I know I should do to build my business.

    So, I have just been putting my head down and making to-do lists and working hard at GETTING THEM DONE.

    I did today’s item right before I got your email.

    I sent out my first email newsletter. I wrote and re-wrote and agonized and finally I just clicked “Send!” It made me feel good! One more item off the to-do list. One little bit of value to my clients. One item I was nervous about – out the door!

    Thanks Dave!

    Valerie´s last blog ..What is a Domain name? Everything you ever wanted to know (and more) My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 dom

    called back a potential employer to schedule a second interview this week

  • Mar 8, 2010 TheGeekyWife

    It sounds totally ridiculous, but I’m going to make the bed today. I run around doing all this productive stuff, but then I walk into the bedroom and suddenly things feel unsettled. I’m not sure why that is.

    Thanks for the kick, Dave! I know my husband will be pumped when he sees this blog. :)
    TheGeekyWife´s last blog ..Kinder to Ourselves My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 Damian

    I recently started a motivational-type blog, more to do with mental illness, however. My problem is that I am extremely self-critical, especially when not meeting goals I’ve set.

    Lately I’ve let up on myself for some reason and things are going better (more blog posts, more social media interaction, etc.). I’m proud of myself for a lot of things, number one being a father. Great post, Dave.
    Damian´s last blog ..The Smallest Moments Make Up A Life My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 Fiona

    I’ve always had some problems staying on task and beating my procrastination (just so much fun stuff to do!). So, today, I plan, nay I WILL write 5 more pages for my e-book, and I’ll also write a post for today for my blog.

    Here’s to ass-kicking!

  • Mar 8, 2010 ass kicker

    I am going to work on launching my new business with no fear of failure.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Allen

    I just wrote 2 posts to be published later this week on my blog (3rd week of 2+ posts). Wrote a post for a more personal blog that only my friends and family see (2nd post in the last 8 months, I had stopped posting all together for a while). And about to send this to two friends that I think need to hear this.

    A good start to the week! Thanks for the encouragement!
    Allen´s last blog ..Link: “Gen-Y Consumers and Business Selection” on Handshake 2.0 My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 nedi

    I’m going to face at least one of the technical computer challenges that have halted my progress. I’m going to learn what to do next, or who to call next, so I don’t stay stuck.

  • Mar 8, 2010 StanManX

    TheGeekyWife is right, I’m pumped :)

    Tonight I am going to destroy a Wordpress theme. If there is time, I’ll make it pretty again, but that might have to wait until tomorrow…

  • Mar 8, 2010 Carol Logan Newbill

    Well… this may fly in the face of ass-kicking, but I am stepping away from work today. I have been going 7 days a week for the past six months or more, and last night I had a meltdown when a client hated the colors on her new blog template. Fortunately we were dealing in email and she didn’t know I had a meltdown, but it was scary enough that I said “time to take a break.”

    Today, Dave, I am taking a break. I’ll take a walk. I’ll do laundry. I may read email. But I am not working today.

    Tomorrow I ‘ll kick ass.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Sara

    Great post – love the idea of starting small!

    As for me…I’m going to stop multi-tasking (a.k.a. jumping randomly from task to task without focusing on one) and finish a big project today.

    Your words are so true! By continually telling myself that I lack focus, I’m really giving myself permission to keep up this bad habit.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Sid Savara

    Hey Dave.

    Right on man. I love your useful, motivating posts – especially early on a Monday morning ;)

    I’ve been lurking here for a while, and purchased How To Launch The *** Out Of Your Ebook. i’m working on doing the exercises, fleshing it out and today I’m going to commit to sitting down and having that 20 minute imaginary conversation to flesh out my outline.

    I keep saying it’s “in my head” – time to put it to paper!
    Sid Savara´s last blog ..7 Common Procrastination Excuses My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 Liz

    Timing is everything! I just published a post announcing my newest teleclass. And that was the ONE thing I was gonna do today no matter what. So (even though the rest of the day is crazy busy) I’m putting today in the win column already!

  • Mar 8, 2010 Liz

    Somehow the aforementioned blog post didn’t get included… let’s try this again!
    Liz´s last blog ..Do-Overs and High-Fives… the first Monday edition My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 Michelle Pugh

    I consider my “ass” kicked”- and please, stop reading my mind…… !

  • Mar 8, 2010 Colin

    I am going to record a video of me explaining long multiplication so the student that finally got the idea today has an on-demand explanation for the next time he forgets.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Rhonda

    Thank you for this posting, my head has been driving me crazy for such a long time. Its like its on a continual loop of “start in a minute”, “You cant keep that pace up” and “You are so sleepy today”. This may be in part due to the strong medication I’m on and partly my head voice.
    Example I said to myself about 4 this afternoon right I’ll read the book I need to read by Friday, do it for a bit and see how I get on.
    Its now twenty to seven and I’ve been going through my emails ever since. Oh aye, my head said I didn’t have time to read and I was too tired.
    This pathetic head voice, now that I’m aware of you, is being pushed out through the door. I refuse to hang around negative people and doom and gloom merchants but I’m just as bad to myself! Talk about not liking yourself, good grief if I said half the things to others no one would talk to me.
    Thank you -my hubby as said just get on with it, and stop being down on myself; but I’m important to me, I deserve all the nice things that are going to happen when I reach my goal. I am worth it, and when I buy that briefcase I’ve wanted forever even though its over £400 I will know I like anyone else is good enough to own it.
    Smiles now, no more tears. Be nice to myself that’s what I’m going to do.


  • Mar 8, 2010 Barbara D

    Just delivered some keyword market research to a client, and even though I did a good job, the doubts are still hanging around. I’m going to write down 10 things that reinforce why I kicked ass on this particular task and tape it to my computer for the day.

    And if this works, the next time I feel those nagging insecurities after completing some deliverables for a job am going to make a similar list…

  • Mar 8, 2010 Rhonda

    Can I advice Barbara to read the article on the wrong way to look at your goals and change them I’ve just read it and I think its brilliant.
    If anything gets the message across what KickAss really means this is it.
    Hope it helps, dont think what may be wrong, second guessing I’m sure uses a lot of energy I think, and second you have achieved it, it is done. Yippee I say make yourself a cup of tea and smile X

  • Mar 8, 2010 stacey

    I am volunteering in Kenya and have had money stolen from my room by the host brother, malaria, typhoid and lost another $150 in a mutatu last week and almost got paranoid my new Kenyan boyfriend stole it from me. I am so run down I got tempermental with some people in a village where eveyrone lives in mudhouses and have no electricity. I feel bad. I need to become better at saying no. More polite. And not judge others for the sins of others. I also am going to set aside the first hour of tomorrow to call a newspaper and get something sorted so I can earn some money to make up for hte money and time lost.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Jennifer

    I am going to go home tonight and tackle some of the house stuff I have been too tired after work to get to. I know I will feel better once my house is decluttered. I have just been so tired and drained lately, but I know neglecting these things only makes me feel worse. Thanks for the motivation.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Amy Crook

    I’m going to sit down and make a big Monday list of all the stuff that needs doing, so I can turn the vague sense of dread and overwhelm into a concrete list of things that I can check off and feel accomplished and proud of. I’ve done this the past couple of Mondays and it really helps!

  • Mar 8, 2010 Hugh

    Hey Dave I’m new here but I thoroughly enjoyed this ass-kicking post!

    Two things for me to do today:

    1. I’ve been procrastinating on a few non-enjoyable tasks at work, so I’m going to take an hour and bang them out this afternoon and get them off my back.

    2. I have 40 pages left in a book that I’m reading that was due at the library last Wednesday. I will finish it tonight and return it tomorrow and move on to the next book.

    Regarding the beginning of your post where you talk about your self being influenced by what other people think, say, do, etc…There is one saying that I keep in mind that will make your life a hell of a lot simpler. That is, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Once you say that to yourself and believe it, a ton of stress vanishes from your life!
    Hugh´s last blog ..Is Eating Healthily Too Time-Consuming? My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 Michelle Toy

    Thank you for this! I’ve been caught in a cycle of negative self-talk lately, so your kick in the pants is appreciated.

    Thanks to you – I have responded to a reporter on arranging a date and location to do an interview on my journey. Later today, after I row 2 hours, I will contact a radio station to do the same thing.

    I am a go-getter. YES
    Michelle Toy´s last blog ..Ottawa Event – April 15 My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 8, 2010 Ben

    Dave, wow this explains a hell of a lot. Thank you for this. I reached out to an old colleague today who was struggling and let me them know how much I enjoyed working with them. I think it definitely made their day better.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Jebin


    I was feeling really miserable for not measuring up to my expectations and well… other’s expectations too… I seriously felt why I had really very bad will power and all… But after reading your article made me realise a lot of things…. this article’s really great.

    Well tomorrow Being a person who cant sit still and read a book for at least 30 minutes…. I have planned to read at least 15 pages of “my experience with truth” – by mahatma gandhi… well let u guys know how it went….

  • Mar 8, 2010 Ass-Kicked

    I’m going to do the next thing marked with an asterick on my list without jumping around and procrastinating.

  • Mar 8, 2010 Simon K Lloyd

    I really needed to read this today ~ it has been filled with things I wanted to do but didn’t which made me feel bad ~ but I didn’t take into consideration the things I’ve needed to get done, and have needed to for some time.

  • Mar 9, 2010 JMac

    Dave – Well-timed!
    Was speaking to a client about how she’s upset that she MISSED the diagnosis before now. Well…according to the laws of the Universe, she wasn’t supposed to figure out the diagnosis before now. The healing and transformation weren’t possible then, as the disease hadn’t progressed enough.

    See – we are only ready for transformation when we are ready. And we can’t really ever do it alone. So – this is for all of us – we did what we did because that’s what we did. Not because we’re broken (aka unlovable, not good enough, not smart enough, etc.) The reality is we are ready NOW for THIS transformation, whatever it is.

    So Rock Your Day and Ass-Kicking Mondays are amazing gifts of transformation!! Transformation is making something totally new. It’s not change, as that implies keeping the old you / habit / thinking around. Once your day has been rocked, it’s rocked. You can’t go back.

    My day has been rocked like this: I let go of perfect and started loving “Done”. All of the support-work I have been doing fruitlessly (but lovingly, too) for over a year has started bearing fruit TODAY. And it’s not just 1st year lemons, either – I’m talking watermelons!! To boot – another client just upgraded my hotel suite for this weekend’s presentations!

    The funny thing is…I almost forgot to really notice all of those amazing things that happened today, until I read this blog entry. So seriously, Dave – thank you. MY DAY HAS BEEN FULLY ROCKED.

  • Mar 9, 2010 JMac

    Oh yeah I forgot to answer the assignment in full – I’m also going to do that last load of laundry that I never seem to finish every single week. Small – but like I said: Today I let go of perfect and started loving done. :)

  • Mar 9, 2010 John Gallagher

    Fab. Totally fab.

    The thing I’m gonna do today to make myself proud is to pack all my clothes that are strewn around my room into my chest of drawers. Small start, but hey.

    Thanks for an awesome tip on how to pull ourselves out of that black hole.
    John Gallagher´s last blog ..What’s your Greatest Asset? My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 9, 2010 Mihai Neacsu

    I’m gonna clean up my room and afterwards I’m going to take some decisions I’ve been putting of for some time.

    Thanks for the kick Dave!

  • Mar 9, 2010 Cliff Georgia

    I need to be unafraid of making mistakes. I keep on wondering about outcomes.

  • Mar 11, 2010 Felicia Fredlund

    I’m going to write some fiction. 30 minutes I think.
    Thanks for the encouragement to do what makes us feel good.
    Felicia Fredlund´s last blog ..Easy Learning is the Bane of My Existence My ComLuv Profile

  • Mar 11, 2010 Carlos Serrano

    Great Monday Kick Dave.

    i’m creative director for my design studio. Aside from my regular client work, i like to compose music, write and draw stuff.
    i have realized that if I give these non-client activities a daily hour assignment and do my best to follow them close I’ll be able to get much better results from ALL of my activities.
    You kick ass. Monday Ass.
    thanks a lot

  • Mar 13, 2010 Magnolia

    I wrote out a short schedule this morning. I ran across this post in my inbox this past week and as usual, loved it. I deal with this stuff in my head ALL THE TIME. It’s rather satisfying to know that I’m *on to something* rather than engaging in what I’ve perceived as my usual neurotic-banter with myself.

    I’m going to be 53 years old in two weeks. I’m on the cusp of actually launching the writing career that I’ve dreamed of my entire life but kept locked away because my negative self talk kept telling me I “couldn’t do it, stupid”.

    Anyway…..this year has been the banner year for me in terms of pushing myself out of my comfort zone (read: rut) and DOING something to make my dream come out of my head and into my life.

    I get overwhelmed with all that is in front for a variety of reasons and realized that the only way I’m going to get any forward motion is to throw down an anchor until my head stops spinning. Writing a few things down to help me *do* something instead of hyper-ventilating over what I’m NOT doing has been my “one thing to do today”

    I woke up depressed and anxious. I made myself walk downstairs and write down 5 things I’m going to do today. 3 of the 5 have nothing to do with my writing career, but the other 2 do. So, I am proud.

    Now, I need to get away from this comment section so I can go *do* one of the things on my list – buy food. :)
    Magnolia´s last blog ..Easy Pickled Beets My ComLuv Profile

  • Apr 20, 2010 Growth Spurt

    What annoys me is that other peoples opinions show up in my head about something that should really be mine. I tell my self to man up, or let my self know that this is my head, nobody elses. I’m proud that I believe that I’m a fucking awesome person without anyone telling me so. I know I will get what I work for.

  • May 8, 2010 Gina Magini

    What a great article. I am going to write several pages on my new book. I am. I mean it. Really.

  • May 17, 2010 LUCKY

    This is the day I turn the corner. I’ve been caught in the ‘Death Spiral’ for a long time. I have always had a lot of confidence in myself and my family.

    I lost everything but my family during the Great Recession. I mean everything.

    But today it starts over with one small step. I’m going to call some old friends. The upside is I get to start with a fresh sheet of paper.

    It’s like wishing you new in high school what you know now. Damn, I was awesome at the top of my game.

    I know the moves. Today I get my mind right and start over.

  • May 25, 2010 Kate

    I started making myself proud after learning that my husband of 10 years wanted to split. I’ve worked hard to take one step at a time to change my negative attitude to a positive one. It’s been 6 months since we first started fighting, and the future of our marriage is still questionable, but I am proud of the personal changes that I’ve been making for the sake of myself, my kids, and everyone around me. This is an excellent blog, and one that I wish I had read months or years ago. Thanks for the kick!

  • Sep 12, 2010 pennyguin

    I am gong to finish writing a song and submit it to a songwriting competition.

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