Episode 382: Beating Yourself Up Vs Holding Yourself Accountable (Repost)

Episode 382: Beating Yourself Up Vs Holding Yourself Accountable (Repost)

Today I’m sharing an important episode that will make such a difference in your relationship with yourself.

During our 30-Day Stop Overthinking Challenge inside Perfectionists Getting Shit Done, one of our PGSDers asked whether she should feel bad for not following through with her plans. What followed was the advice I’m giving to you in this podcast episode!

If you ever feel guilty for not following through with your plans or you worry that not beating yourself up will mean you’ll keep getting in your own way – this episode is going to help you understand the difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable. I also share some helpful advice on the most empowering way not to let yourself off the hook.

Find the full episode transcript and show notes at samlaurabrown.com/episode382.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • Why beating ourselves up is addictive
  • The real reason that beating yourself up won’t motivate you to be better
  • How to hold yourself accountable with compassion
  • Why following through with your plans is an act of self-care
  • What to do when you catch yourself beating yourself up

Featured In The Episode:

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Feel guilty when you don’t follow through with your plans? Then this episode is for you! I’m sharing the difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable, why they’re NOT the same thing, and how to empower yourself in a healthy way.



Hi, and welcome to another episode of The Perfectionism Project, a podcast full of perfectionism advice for entrepreneurs. My name is Sam Laura Brown, I help entrepreneurs release that perfectionism handbrake so they can get out of that way, and build a fulfilling and profitable business. I’m the founder of the Power Planning Course and Perfectionist Getting Shit Done, which is otherwise known as PGSD. And for even more perfectionism advice to help you with your business, you can follow me on Instagram @perfectionismproject.

Sam Laura Brown

Today I am sharing a really important episode of this podcast with you. It’s an episode that I originally released in 2020. And it is one that I have referred to so many times in other podcast episodes and is so important that I want to make sure that you definitely hear if you’ve already listened to it. Listen again, if you’ve never heard this episode before, definitely tune in, because it is going to make such a difference to your relationship with yourself.

So in this episode, I’m talking about the difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable. So you will hear in this episode that at the time this was going on, we were doing a stop overthinking challenge inside perfectionist getting shit done. And someone had asked me a question about whether they should feel bad that they hadn’t followed through with their plans, like if that would actually help them follow through next time.

And so this episode is my response to that question. And if you have been using pressure, if you have been using talking down to yourself, beating yourself up as a key productivity strategy for yourself and key success strategy, I really want to invite you to listen to this episode and to take on board what I talked about, because it’s really about how beating yourself up is not the same as holding yourself accountable.

And we often beat ourselves up because we think well, if I’m kind to myself, when I design I didn’t want to do or that I wasn’t happy that I did, that I’m just going to do it again. If I feel good about it, I’ll keep doing bad things. And that’s not the case. And so in this episode, I go into why I go into what holding yourself accountable in a healthy way actually looks like and how to do that practically. So I’m going to leave that introduction here. And have you listened to the episode and I hope you find it incredibly helpful.

Hi, and welcome to episode 199 of the perfectionism project. My name is Sam Laura Brown, and I am here to help you beat procrastination, overcome perfectionism and become your best self. Today I want to talk to you about the difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable. And yes, there definitely is a difference.

So this came up on day 22 of our 30 Day stop overthinking challenge that just happened inside perfectionist getting shit done. And when this came up, it was something that the PGSDers who they’re live on that call us if I could talk about on the podcast. So here we are, that the question that was asked on day 22, that prompted this discussion was one of our PGSDers is saying I didn’t follow through. And I’m not sure whether I should feel bad about that.

They were asking whether it’s feeling guilty and feeling bad about not following through with something that would help follow through in the future. So in this episode, we’re just going to chat about why beating yourself up doesn’t help you to follow through. The difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable, how to actually opposite, and how you can hold yourself accountable in a kind and compassionate way without beating yourself up.

Because for most of us, we only know how to hold ourselves accountable by beating ourselves up and we don’t actually realize that they’re not the same thing and that we’re setting ourselves back. So far. By beating ourselves up. I also just want to quickly mention as well, there is another podcast episode on this topic if it’s something that you’re really wanting to work on. So episode 62 is on how to stop negative self talk and beating yourself up.

So that might be a good one to listen to after this episode. So I want to begin by just talking about why beating yourself up is the opposite of holding yourself accountable. We think that if we can just feel bad, we’ll do good things in the future. And we’re scared that if we don’t feel bad that we’ll do bad things. But what happens is when we beat ourselves up, we feel bad, we feel guilty. We shame ourselves, we say we shouldn’t have done something. What happens then is that we get to indulge in the beat up.

We get to indulge in that pity party and being a victim. And that actually takes us away from the kind of person we want to be and the kind of life that we want to live. And the reason that we do this, A, it’s habitual our brain is just in such a habit of beating ourselves up and having that negative self talk that it just happens without us being conscious of it. So you have to be so compassionate and kind to yourself about that. Your brain is doing its job by thinking the same thoughts over and over and over again.

So it’s habit, but also it protects us. Because if we are busy beating ourselves up, then we don’t have to go out and do the scary things, and uncomfortable things that we need to do in order to grow. And in order to achieve our goals, because it’s exhausting beating ourselves up. And that’s part of the benefit of it. That’s part of the reason that we continue to do it, even though it feels so shitty. If there wasn’t an upside to beating ourselves up, we wouldn’t do it.

It serves us in so many ways, it helps us to stay small to hide ourselves, to stay busy with the beat up. Instead of going out there and doing all those things that we know were capable of doing, you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast, if you didn’t believe that you have potential, you simply would not be listening to this. So there is part of you that really, truly deeply believes that you have potential, and that you’re meant for great things. There’s also part of you that believes that you aren’t good enough. And you have self doubt, and you have impostor syndrome. And I get it.

And I know how hard it is to reconcile like how can I believe in myself so fiercely, and yet doubt myself so deeply, at exactly the same time know that it’s the same brain providing both of those sorts to you, and that you get to choose what you believe that they might not both be true, but we’re not going to go into that today. But I just want to really bring your attention to the fact that beating yourself up really serves us by keeping us small, and that it is the opposite of holding ourselves accountable, because it takes us away from holding ourselves accountable, because it takes our eye off the ball.

So that we don’t have to actually really confront what were scared to do, or what we need to do differently in the future. And it just creates this cycle. I also did an episode on the self pity cycle, I think from memory was episode 84. I’ll link it in the show notes. But we get in this self pity cycle where we make plans and we don’t follow through with them. And then we beat ourselves up and then we make plans again, and then we beat ourselves up. And it just ends up being this cycle that can feel so challenging to break free of.

But once you can start to see that the reason you’re in that cycle is because it’s serving you that can help empower you to get out of it. Also, when we beat ourselves up, we are less likely to do what we wanted. Because now there’s even more negative emotion that we are trying to escape most of us are very good at feeling the feelings add actually feeling shame, or actually feeling guilt, or actually feeling bad. We think we are because we’d say we feel that way. A lot of the time, what happens is when those feelings come up, we try to be productive and cover it in productivity, or Instagram, or Netflix or food.

We don’t actually allow ourselves to feel the feelings. And so if you aren’t in the habit of feeling your feelings, which most of us aren’t, because we were never taught that, then it means when you’re beating yourself up, you’re gonna go into trying to escape that negative emotion, which for sure isn’t going to actually help you to follow through with what you wanted to do. Unless you’re wanting to go on Netflix more to watch more shows, to go on Instagram more to eat more food short, if you wanting to do those things, then maybe it’ll help you.

But for most of us, that’s not the kind of thing that we’re here to do. There is important meaningful stuff that we’re scattered doing that we’re feel uncomfortable doing. But we know that it’s going to grow us and we have that restless feeling that we keep getting pulled towards doing that. And beating ourselves up, takes us away from that and it puts us into escape mode. Holding ourselves accountable is something different to beating ourselves up.

So when we’re holding ourselves accountable, I like to see that as the kindest thing that we can do for ourselves. It’s the greatest act of self care, to do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it. That’s something we value so highly in others. We really love when other people are reliable and when we can trust them. When we can trust their what they say they will do will actually be done. Yeah, when it comes to ourselves, we seem to think that that’s different.

And then it doesn’t matter if we follow through with what we said we’d do to ourselves because we’re the only one involved. And when we were all growing up, I’m sure most of us were told that it’s so important to be a good boy or a good girl, and really, please others. And so we have that people pleasing going on, which is one of the signs of perfectionism. And I know that definitely for myself, I find it easier to show up for something if other people are involved.

And there’s one option we can take one route we can take, which is to make sure other people are always involved in our plan, so that we show up because we’re scared of letting them down. But that isn’t really coming from a good place. Yes, we might be following through with something positive, but it’s coming from this place of fear and scarcity. Instead, we really want to learn how to actually show up for ourselves when no one else is involved, and when no one else will notice.

And that doesn’t mean we’re not going to show up for other people too. They’re not mutually exclusive. We can show up for others, and we can show up for ourselves. And we can learn how we how to show up for ourselves by looking at how we show up for others. If you’re like, I don’t know how to follow through with my plans when I don’t feel like it. Think about how you follow through when someone else is involved and lean on that belief system that helps you do that.

Because the only reason you’re following through is because you have a different set of beliefs when it’s yourself following through is that you probably believe that won’t make a difference. Why should I bother? Like all these reasons, I’ll just do it tomorrow where someone else is involved, it’s our I bet it is going to do that. And you go and get it done, you go and do the thing that you said you would do. So we really want to be developing self trust.

And something we work on so heavily inside perfectionist getting shit done, because perfectionist really lacks self trust, because of the way that they have shown up for themselves over time, and then use that as evidence that they can’t trust themselves, which makes them not want to set goals and not want to make plans, which then further depletes that self trust. So in PGSD, everything, whether you realize it or not, is designed to help you develop and nurture and build that trust with yourself.

And fundamentally, that self trust is built on following through with what you said you would do. Also, part of that is not beating yourself up. You have to have your own back. Why would you trust yourself, if you know that there’s going to be a beat up on the other side of you following through even if you tried your best that future self is going to beat you up for not doing things perfectly, that really depletes self trust, when we are beating ourselves up.

So there’s so many reasons to follow through with the plans that we make. And again, we are making those plans with our prefrontal cortex that has the bigger picture in mind that has our dreams in mind that has our goals in mind, we have to really put some weight on that instead of putting all of the weight on ourselves in the moment that wants the instant gratification.

And yes, that’s what we’re wired as humans to do, which is why it’s so important to know, you’re not going to feel like following through with your plans. But you put that on your calendar or on your to do list for a reason. But again, holding ourselves accountable is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves, kindness, ie not beating ourselves up. It’s a greatest act of self care.

And instead of seeing seen beating yourselves up as something that is helping you to stay accountable, I really want you to see that as letting yourself off the hook and other ways that we let ourselves off the hook is telling ourselves it won’t make a difference. That’s us letting ourselves off the hook, telling ourselves we’re not good enough that we should have done things differently. That is letting ourselves off the hook. And shortly I’m going to explain what we can do instead of telling ourselves that wasn’t good enough, I should have done it differently.

There’s something much more empowering that we can say to ourselves, but it really doesn’t help to believe that we should have been different in the past. How does that empower us that has already happened, we have already done the thing. And again, we think that if we don’t feel bad, we’ll do bad things in the future. But it doesn’t work like that. You can have compassion for yourself. You can be kind to yourself, and that makes it much less likely that you’ll do, what you won’t do the thing you want to do in the future.

So just remember that there is that difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable. And you can have compassion for your past self who did the best at the time as you could and how do we know that because that was what you did. We’re all just trying to do our best and sometimes our best, doesn’t look anything like what we wanted it to look like. We don’t think it’s anywhere close to how good our best should have been. But it was our best, it was the best that we could do.

At that moment in time, we have to start having compassion for that, and honoring that. And it doesn’t mean that we can’t grow and evolve. It just means we have to have that compassion, sorry that we are able to get out of that self pity cycle and getting out of that cycle of negative self talk and beating ourselves up. So the question might have is, well, how the hell do I hold myself accountable if I don’t feel guilty?

Because you are probably thinking, that guilt is what’s going to help you be better. And I think it’s really interesting to just chat for a second about why a perfectionist wants to be better, and improve and reach their potential. And I’ll just speak for myself. But I have a feeling you might be able to relate that when I got into self improvement, personal development, and discovered this whole world. It was because I believed I wasn’t good enough, I believed that there was something wrong with me.

And I got so, so obsessed when I found the personal development well, because I thought this could fix me. And I wasn’t even thinking that consciously. But looking back, I can see that I had so much drive to do personal development, because it was coming from a place of insecurity, it was coming from a place of lack. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’m so grateful, I started my personal development journey from that place.

Because through starting from that place, I have then been able to grow and evolve to now it’s not coming from a place of lack, and scarcity and insecurity in the same way that it used to be. So if you feel like you were into personal development right now, because you were trying to fix yourself, do not be ashamed of that. You are not doing it wrong. It’s all going right. It’s all going how it should be. But we think that we can just improve ourselves enough. And we can just be successful enough and productive enough. And for most of us, we don’t even have it clear in our minds what that looks like.

It’s just this vague idea of success. And we think we’ll get approval and praise, we can finally release that tension in our shoulders, knowing that we feel good enough and that we are good enough. But there’s no no joy that comes from from being on that trajectory. Because when we don’t do our own work, and believe that we are worthy and lovable. There is no amount of praise and approval and success and productivity that can make us feel better.

You probably know this, because by most people’s standards, you probably have a decent amount of success. Other people probably think you’re quite productive, even though you’re like you have no idea how much I procrastinate. And probably those compliments that you’re getting are not landing, when someone is praising you for something you think well, they’re just being nice, or they don’t know what it’s really like, there’s always some excuse you give, and yet you’re on this treadmill, trying to get that praise and approval, even though when you get it, it’s not landing.

So I just wanted to mention that, that part of the reason we want to feel guilty, is because we think well, if I don’t feel guilty, that I’m never going to be able to make myself good enough. And it feels really painful to think that we think I just add some more guilt and shame on top. But it doesn’t work. So let’s talk about how to hold yourself accountable without beating the crap out of yourself or shaming yourself. So I have a few things to mention here. The first is to think about how you would talk to a friend and how you would hold a friend accountable. If they didn’t show up.

Hopefully you wouldn’t say to them, yeah, I knew you aren’t good enough. Like, I really hope you’re not going to say that to a friend. You probably be more like, Hey, what’s going on what happened? Like, I thought we were doing this certain thing and it didn’t happen? Like what’s what’s going on? And you get curious about it. Instead of saying, Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t hear a piece of shit or whatever you say. I don’t say that. It’s always about being a piece of shit. But we all have our own language that we go into when it comes to negative self talk and beating ourselves up. So I want you to be thinking when it comes to holding yourself accountable next time.

It comes to following through with your plans and you didn’t follow through to think about okay, what would you say to a friend who didn’t follow through on a commitment that they had to. You know, you might think actually, I wouldn’t say anything to that friend, because I hate conflict. Without when people pleaser and I just kind of let it slide, we don’t want to think about it in that way. We want to think about if you had the courage to say something to that friend into like, Hey, what happened there? What would you say? And it probably would be a question that would actually invite an answer.

Rather than just like when we are beating ourselves up. We’re not getting curious. We’re just saying, that wasn’t good enough. You should have done that differently. And all those sorts that don’t actually empower us to think of what we could do differently. We just say, you should have done that differently. Half I truly believe half the time we tell ourselves, I should have done that differently. We don’t even identify what to do next time.

So get curious as if you are holding a friend accountable is my first tip, when it comes to this, also, these tips are going to be so unsatisfying for you, because they’re very simple. But I really want to encourage you to practice this, it’s the practice. That is where the real work is not having some complicated tip. The second one I want to share is to stop thinking in terms of, I did something good or I did something bad and having that judgment.

So in Perfectionist Getting Shit Done, we have a weekly review that you can do. And what we really look at is thinking about things in terms of what did work and what didn’t work. It’s so much more helpful to think, oh, that didn’t work when it didn’t follow through instead of I was bad. Like, we make it slightly moral, we make it something about ourselves. And then we wonder why our self worth is so tangled up in productivity and accomplishment and results. Because we say I am bad. No, that didn’t work.

It’s it’s so subtle, but it’s really going to help empower you all that did work, we really have to give ourselves credit, so much more credit than we are. And within 30 days of over thinking challenge, if you were there, you will know, I think one of the biggest themes that came out of doing that challenge together was giving yourself some damn credit. Most of the time, we only think about what didn’t work. And so it is better to say that didn’t work, then that was bad.

But we also have to give some airtime to what was good to what did work. And actually give ourselves some praise and credit for that. Instead of just oh, that didn’t work that didn’t work that didn’t work that didn’t work with this did work. So when you are coming up with all the things that didn’t work, I want you to create at least an equal length list of the things that did work, or the things that you could feel proud about if you allowed yourself to feel that way of the things that you could give yourself credit for.

And what I mean by that is when things work, we tend to give credit to everyone else. And when things don’t work, we give ourselves a credit for not working. And so you can see why we end up not feeling good enough because of all these different things that are going on, and how we are framing our own results and experiences. So I talked about this in the challenge in the sense of if you showed up for the challenge more often than not, it’s not because I was there every day.

It’s not because everyone else was there every day, it was because you decided to show up. So I’m glad I could be there everyone else’s there, they could have an experience with you. But you have to give yourself credit for showing up. So for example, if you have a friend that you’re working out with, and you say, Oh, I only work hard because my friends there and I wouldn’t do it. If they weren’t there no, then you’re deflecting, you’re giving all the credit to the friend, which means as soon as a friend doesn’t want to work out, or if they’re sick, then you’re like, Well, I don’t have any ability to do that myself. You don’t have that identity, that self trust that you can follow through when only you are involved.

So you want to give yourself credit, even though your friend is there, that you are the one deciding to get there. You are the one who are putting on your shoes. You’re the one who is putting on your workout outfit and getting to that workout. So please just have a think right now of where you can give yourself some more credit. An easy way to think of this is well, where are you giving other people credit for your results? And how could you give a little to yourself without and that doesn’t mean you’re not saying that they’re not involved.

You might say, Well, that’s not being truthful, to give myself other credit. It’s not being truthful, to give them all the credit, you have to give yourself some damn credit. Otherwise, no amount of praise and approval is ever going to land. You’re never ever, ever going to feel it. You will only feel that praise and approval that you want so dearly from others when you are giving it to yourself, to please give it to yourself. And finally, I want to talk about how to improve, quote unquote, there’s no real improving. Once you get to this place where you are doing personal development for the fun of growing and for the fun of setting the challenge yourself and overcoming it.

It’s so different to when we are in this mindset of improving. Because there’s that assumption within proving that there was something bad there before at least that’s the assumption most of us make. So what I’m talking about is when you are wanting to, to iterate, to evolve to grow, instead of thinking I should have done that differently, which again, most of the time doesn’t lead us to identify what we do differently, we just changed ourselves. And that’s that.

Instead, we want to say next time, I’m going to do XYZ. Again, this is a really unsatisfying piece of advice. And it’s very subtle, it feels like the same thing to say, I should have done that differently. And next time I’ll do this differently. We feel like when we say I should have done that differently, we’re saying next time, I’ll do it differently, but we’re not. So I want you to catch yourself. When you say I should I feel like the words I should, then I just trigger guilt, there really aren’t many times we think I should, that doesn’t make us feel guilty. So I think it’s worth removing those words from our vocab altogether.

But in this instance, we want to be thinking about anytime you say I should have done that differently. And probably your brain does that so quickly. It’s just on such autopilot that you won’t even notice. So in the beginning, you’ll just be catching it after the fact, then With practice, you’ll catch it during and eventually be able to catch it even before it happens. And you’ll be able to redirect your mind somewhere else completely. But in the beginning, we just want to catch this after the fact. Don’t beat yourself up for thinking that way.

So when you say I should have done something differently, it’s probably just chatter in your brain that you might not even be aware of. But when you do happen to notice it, to say, Oh, wait, no, I mean, next time, I’m going to do XYZ and be specific. Have it actually be something that you could take action on that you could follow through on that would help you. Don’t make something vague. And don’t make it something that you couldn’t actually do. Make it something that you can actually follow through on. Set yourself up for success. So instead of saying, Ah, I should have worked out today, but I didn’t, which doesn’t tell us what to do differently.

Next time, I don’t feel like walking out, I’m just gonna go and put my goggles on and go for a run anyway. And I know I’m not going to feel like it. But when that happens, I’m going to tell myself XYZ, be specific like that, instead of just I should have worked out today, then you feel bad, you beat yourself up. And then to avoid all that negative emotion, you go and eat something and then you beat yourself up for eating something that wasn’t in your own best interest.

And then it just continues on and on and on. So by being kind and compassionate with yourself and saying, Okay, well, next time, I’m just going to do this differently. Instead, it can really help you to get out of that cycle. So again, just to summarize, to hold yourself accountable. What would you tell her friends? Get curious, hey, what went on? Hey, honey, Hey, sweetie, what happened there?

And let yourself actually answer that I recommend doing some journaling around it as well. I know I haven’t mentioned this in this episode. But journaling is so important. In the 30 days of overthinking challenge, we did a five minute thought download every single day. It’s so different to thinking in your own head. And of course, we do that all the time, all day every day, that’s going to continue happening, even if we’re doing thought downloads all the time.

But if you can just get a bit of distance from what’s going on. And you can release it. And ideally, if you can start thinking on paper, I have my best thoughts, my most creative ideas, my most empowering ideas when I am thinking on paper, so I encourage you to get into that habit. And if you’re like, I don’t know if I should feel bad about that or anything along those lines, let that be a trigger to get your journal or to get a piece of paper.

And just write about whatever’s on your mind. And it can be negative and it can be petty and it can be whiny, that’s totally okay, your thought download doesn’t need to be positive. And most of the times it won’t be because we’re doing cleaning. I like to think of it like having it be cleaning a room, for example, that you’re not going to clean the room when it’s clean, though it does help to maintain it, but you need it the most when it’s messy and dirty. And that’s what we’re doing when we’re doing the thought download.

So totally okay, that the thoughts you write down and give me negative and petty and whiny and complaining and you might look at that and be like, Oh, I don’t want that to be me. And I want to be a positive person. And this isn’t positive. So I shouldn’t write down those thoughts. No, it’s part of the human experience to have those thoughts and we’re not that original with the thoughts. So you can trust that most other people when they’re doing the thought download will be writing pretty similar things down.

So you want to be investigating why you didn’t follow through on paper and doing journaling as well. It helps us to not get into a thought loop because you’re not going to write down the same question or sentence 20 times in your journal but you might think that way in your head and just, Why did I do that way and you’re not gonna write that down. So that’s really helpful. Then reframe things in as it didn’t work or it did. Instead of that was good or bad or I was good or bad. And instead of saying I should have done something differently, reframe that next time I will do XYZ and be specific.

So I hope that has helped you to understand a little more about the difference between beating yourself up and holding yourself accountable. And I hope that I have sold you on not beating yourself up in order to get yourself to follow through in the future. I hope you’re having a beautiful day and I will talk to you next time.


If you want to make sure that the hard work you’re putting into your business isn’t a waste of effort, then I invite you to check out the power planning course. It’ll teach you how to plan properly as a perfectionist with power planning so that you can get out of your own way in your business. And so that every hour you put into your business gets doubles the return. You can find out more and sign up today at samlaurabrown.com/powerplanning.

Author: Sam Brown