How Not To Make Yourself “Difficult”

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?


“I hope the rain is nice to you this weekend,” so wished a Starbucks barrista as I headed off with my latte. I thought it was an oddly worded wish – which made it rather charming. Later that afternoon I met with a client who needed more than friendly rain!

Greg (names changed) was clearly upset when we met and with little prompting he blurted out that his daughter is finishing sophomore year of high school with a less than stellar GPA. Disgusted with her report card, he texted her that she should drop out of high school and get a job at McDonald’s. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t and told me that she’s such a loser he can’t believe she’s his daughter. This man needs more help than I’m capable of offering – and I told him so.


As shocking as this story is, I realized he is not the only client I’ve had who was crippled with dark feelings.

Sally came to me because she was tired of being ‘mean’ (her word) to herself. She knew she needed help when, on her last date, she beat herself up for being a bad date because she wasn’t able to help the guy fix his problems at work. She knew it was irrational and still she felt guilty for not being able to come up with a solution to her date’s problem with his boss.

Kirk, another client, revealed that he’s unhappy in his marriage. He admitted he married his wife not out of love but out of a desire to punish himself. He’d been a playboy in his youth and had hurt the feelings of many women. Feeling contrite, he believed that his heart needed to be broken in turn and so he married a woman who treated him badly.

Tracie, who came to me a month after getting married, shared that she had wanted to write her own vows but she didn’t think she was smart enough and so she had her maid of honor write vows for her.

John hates himself for decisions he made over twenty years ago. He hates that he was naïve and impulsive. Now successful, he’s been given an opportunity to potentially reach goals he had set for himself decades ago. Yet, he doesn’t believe he’s worthy of success because of those earlier mistakes and so he’s going to walk away from this new opportunity.

Are these examples extreme? Yes and no.

I am in awe of the preposterous (though immensely clever) ways people devise to be mean and harsh and unforgiving to their own self. (And I’ll toss my name onto that heap.)

But here’s the real truth ~

  • A harsh critic prevents you from starting.
  • A harsh critic prevents you from finishing.
  • A harsh critic prevents you from learning from your mistakes.
  • A harsh critic prevents you from enjoying your success.

Harshness doesn’t create clarity and so doesn’t generate energy.

Confidence is confident because it creates clarity and so energizes.

Is there a particular way in which you’re mean to yourself? Are you tired of walking around with self-inflicted emotional paper cuts?

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Interview yourself. Identify the belief that’s sapping your energy and ability.
  2. Why do you believe that belief?
  3. What will happen if you reject that belief?
  4. If something good would happen, why would you deny yourself that goodness?
  5. If something bad would happen, why wouldn’t you be able to deal with it?
  6. Who benefits from you sabotaging your life?
  7. Choose to do the hard thing – choose to be kind to your self.

Confident people don’t make excuses for decisions that don’t unfold as planned. AND because they don’t make excuses they are capable of offering empathy to their own self

And, yes, confident people know “it” is hard to do this. They also know it is more costly than it is hard.

Recently I gave a workshop at UCLA Extension on “dealing with difficult people.” What I am ever more aware of is that sometimes – many times – the most difficult person we have to deal with is our own self!

Why? Because we can be most difficult when we are most unkind to our own self.

Thomas Edison believed that “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astonish ourselves.”

Isn’t it time YOU astonished yourself?

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