Get yourself a frying pan from the kitchen and hit yourself over the head with it.

Those are probably not the words you’d expect from a coach. Did I train at the Bob Newhart ‘Stop it’ school?

Maybe I did.

But I have often uttered these words to clients because I tell them it’s much easier and quicker to hit yourself over the head with a frying pan than to keep beating yourself up with your thoughts.

Let’s face it; it’s a lot less effort.

It usually makes my client laugh or at least smile.

And they get it.

Why are you beating yourself up?
I had a client recently who told me that she’d discovered that her father, a prominent member of their local church, had an affair ten years before.

She was upset, and her version of him had shifted like a turn of the kaleidoscope.

But what consumed her most was that she felt he should suffer. She felt that as her mother had forgiven him, he had got away with it.

I asked her if she believed he hadn’t suffered from his affair, and she said that he had stepped back from his church commitments around that time and no longer took communion.

And so she thought he had suffered and probably still did. Her mother had told her that he was constantly beating himself up.

And my client was beating herself up every day too.

The past is often the biggest metaphorical frying pan

We think about what we or other people did and what we or other people didn’t do. We wish that we or other people had done things differently, and we beat ourselves up.

But it won’t be the pain of the past because the past is gone; it’s fresh pain daily. It’s a new thought about the old subject that hurts you.

Feeling like a failure is another way we torment ourselves. You’ll keep the pain alive if you keep thinking about a failed relationship or career.

Or maybe your frying pan takes the form of imagining what other people think of you?

If you know what anyone else is thinking, a whole new career exists for you.

If you’ve lived with someone for a while, you can take an educated guess at what they might think on a specific subject, but this is still coming from you and not them. And you don’t know what the people you haven’t even met at a party will think of you.

If you’re in the habit of beating yourself up because you’re thinking about what other people are thinking, get the frying pan out of the cupboard right now and hit yourself over the head.

How to put the frying pan back in the cupboard
I had a friend years ago whose dog used to howl every time they got the frying pan out of the cupboard. This was because they’d set the fire alarm off a few times when frying food, and the dog associated the pan with the noise.
I want you to associate your metaphorical frying pan with noise.

Recognise that the thoughts you have that cause you pain is just noise in your head.

If you slip back into thinking about the past and what could have been different, you will find it tricky to bring yourself back to this moment because you’ve had years of practising this habit.

The past is a story you’re telling yourself. Yes, I understand there were circumstances, but if you think about the last meal with family, you can see how many different versions of the past there are despite everyone experiencing the same circumstance.

If you ask everyone at the table what they remember from the meal, they might, at a push, describe the same food, but they will all have different versions of the event.

One person might have been lost in their head, thinking about a new squeeze. Another might have been seething at a perceived slight from a family member.

One might have been pleased to be together, and another couldn’t wait to leave.

You get the picture.

So next time you catch yourself dwelling on past hurts, close the book of that story and stop beating yourself up.
And if your favourite theme to beat yourself up is listing your failures, do your best to fail to do this anymore.
You can only feel like a failure if you haven’t achieved a goal that you set for yourself.

Yes, read that again. That you set for yourself.

Because even if the task or deadline comes from someone else, your feeling of failure can only come from you.
If failure has become your habitual frying pan, switch to thinking about what you have achieved. Even waking up in the morning is an achievement, so don’t be afraid to add every little thing to the list.

And if you get caught up worrying about what other people think about you, notice that you’re thinking about them. And they’re probably worrying about what you think about them.

If you wonder what other people think of you, imagine that they’re thinking about how wonderful you are and see how that changes your mood.

Final thoughts
The next time you find yourself having a pity party inside your head, either get the frying pan out of the cupboard and hit yourself over the head with it a few times or put the metaphorical frying pan away and lock the cupboard.
This might not be easy at first because you’ve spent years wearing a well-worn groove in that neural pathway, and your thoughts will naturally go down the same route they usually do.

But when you notice that you’re back to beating yourself up, you have a choice to start a new track or hit yourself on the head with the pan.

I made a choice years ago, and now, I only reach for the pan when I make pancakes.