Managing Your Standards

Dear Dr. Hurd: I have heroes I admire, and I try to live up to the standards of those heroes. But sometimes I make mistakes and I’m disappointed in myself for not living up to my standards. I also become anxious and depersonalized, or detached from myself. Any suggestions?

Dr. Hurd replies: The challenge is to STILL see yourself as a hero despite the fact that you have made mistakes, even more than once, and feel like you have let yourself down at times. If you get caught up in thinking, ‘A hero doesn’t make mistakes,’ then you’ll never improve. If instead you think, ‘What would a hero do in this situation?’ hope again exists. Why? Because the premise of the question is that you ARE a hero, or can be again, and WILL be again, so long as you keep your focus on the present, the near future and the future more generally.

Nothing will depersonalize you like focusing too much on the past—on your real or alleged mistakes, or the real/alleged mistakes of others. It does absolutely nothing for the present or the future to dwell on these. The only effect it does have is to make you extremely anxious or depressed. Depersonalization and strong anxiety result from dwelling on the past. If you don’t live up to your standards, you start to hate yourself and as a result you detach from yourself. Don’t come to see the depersonalization—or the anxiety—as who you ARE. It’s merely a symptom—a troubling symptom, for sure, but a symptom of the fact that you need more rational thinking which focuses on your strengths, the present and the near future.