How To Stop Beating Yourself Up at Work

Melody Wilding, LMSW
6 min readAug 23, 2022
Photo by MART PRODUCTION

Do you find it difficult to stop beating yourself up at work?

I have a client named Keisha who works at a biomedical company as a research analyst. She showed up for one of our coaching sessions in a state of distress. “I can’t stop thinking about something that happened at work this morning,” Keisha told me.

She’d spent hours getting ready for an important staff meeting, with attendees scattered across four continents. Keisha studied the agenda, prepared talking points, arrived early, ready to participate.

But the meeting didn’t go according to plan. Keisha had trouble being heard over more assertive co-workers. When her time came to speak, she felt so anxious that she tripped over her words. Keisha obsessed over what happened during the meeting.

She kept replaying the incident in her mind and being hard on herself. Why didn’t she speak earlier, and why couldn’t she assert herself more effectively? Why did she ramble on and over-explain when she meant to “stick to the script” with her talking points?

Keisha is a perfect example of a Sensitive Striver, which is my term for high achievers who also think and feel everything more deeply. She’s ambitious and holds herself to high standards. But Keisha’s unrealistic expectations of herself can send her into a tailspin of overthinking. She takes work personally.

If this pattern sounds familiar, then you might also have the bad habit of beating yourself up.

This can manifest in a variety of ways, including worry, judging yourself harshly, preoccupation with small mistakes, overanalyzing your weaknesses, and blaming yourself.

Maybe you’ve assumed your self-criticism is productive because it keeps you on your toes. Keisha and other Sensitive Strivers try to use it as motivation, in the hope of being so tough on themselves that they perform well. However, research has proven that self-criticism, in excess, is counterproductive. It leads to increased procrastination along with lower self-control and motivation. In reality, self-criticism puts your brain into an…

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Melody Wilding, LMSW

Author of TRUST YOURSELF. Executive coach to Sensitive Strivers. Human behavior professor. Featured in NYT, NBC, CNN. https://melodywilding.com/book