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Week 6: How Self-Judgment and Procrastination add Stress to Juggling the Demands on You.

This week, we are continuing to focus on common tendencies that hinder our ability to best navigate the demands on our time, energy, and attention. Last week we covered people-pleasing and exaggerated reputation management. This week we will unpack self-judgment and the procrastination habit.


Most of us have such unrealistic expectations for ourselves, that we regularly subconsciously wallow in self-judgment. When asked to take on a project or task we’d prefer to decline, some of us say yes due to harsh inner dialogue. “Why should I say no? It’s not like I deserve a special privilege to opt-out.” Or “I’m not as good as that other person.”  Or, “Just suck it up and do it.”


For instance, imagine being asked to help give a presentation about a case that didn’t go well. If you decide that it’s important to you to help others learn from it and you have room to put it on your plate, or can deprioritize something else, you feel good about it. However, when you don’t have the energy, you could say “My schedule is such that I can’t help.” (Enter the self-critical judge): “I’m a terrible colleague (or doctor, or friend, etc.)


On some level, many of us believe that this manner of talking to ourselves is motivating. And perhaps, it has helped us in the past “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and keep going. Dr Shiraz Charmaine and others have described a photo exercise, which many of you have done with me in a group coaching session. Let’s try a twist on it. Take out a photo of you as a child, one of your own children, or a favorite niece or nephew.  Whatever self-critical thought you have in making a decision that is best for you – read it aloud to the child’s photo.  “Just because you’re tired you shouldn’t say no. You’re being a loser. You don’t deserve special privileges. Suck it up.” Pause. We would never say that as a level-headed adult speaking to a child. It’s time we start a better dialogue with ourselves.


There are better ways to fuel our energy and action. The negative self-talk adds to our already heavy cognitive load, negative emotional toll, and sense of inefficacy and overwhelm. If you want to participate, figure out what you will post-pone to create room. If you partially want to but just don’t have the bandwidth, give yourself permission to decline without beating yourself up. Choose self-compassion over self-judgment “My energy stores are low. I have to conserve and that’s okay.” As explained by Kristen Neff, “Self-compassion is a way of emotionally recharging our batteries.”


Let’s move onto the procrastination of declining or taking on an ask of your time, energy, and attention. Many times, procrastination is just a way of delaying the inevitable. You’re anticipating others’ thoughts, emotions, or responses, and you want to avoid them. Or, you can’t find the time to sit and think through something clearly so you put it off. Either way, you’re just adding to the mental burden of kicking the can down the street. Remember “Direct is kind.” (Brené Brown). And making decisions now, can help declutter your mind.


So, unless you are putting it off for a useful purpose (such as when you know you’ll have more information in a couple of weeks to make a better decision), then carve out the time to think, do your due-diligence, make a decision, pull off the band-aid and put your answer into the world. And once you’ve done that, have your own back.  By that I mean, know that you’ve made the best decision with the information you had at hand. You don’t have to continue to rethink it. Let it go. You can always pivot or learn from it in the future should you need. Read my past blog series on procrastination for more tips. 


In conclusion of our series, remember to use the decision algorithm, drop the people-pleasing, focus of others’ opinions, negative self-talk, and procrastination. You’ve got this. If you are in a time of stress, I leave you with another favorite Kristen Neff quote: “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.” 


Have a joy-filled week!  Tonya


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