Dear Self-Critical Friend: You're Allowed to Start Over

BY Faith Watson        October 20, 2015

Sometimes there is an exact moment you can pinpoint, by the way it feels, when it dawns on you: you're not at all where you're meant to be.

You took a wrong turn, made a bad move, went way too far... 

In this moment of realization, your stomach sinks. Maybe you have already retraced your steps, pulled out your hair, frozen in a panic or lost your temper. You hear yourself say, “oh, bleep!”

So, now what? What's your next move?

There are many reasons to resist heading all the way back to the beginning after an investment of your time, your money, your energy, or your reputation:

  • No one wants to accept they wasted their effort.
  • It’s tough to give up on our amazing ideas or our excellent logic.
  • We’re too strong to tuck our tails between our legs, hang our heads, and admit defeat.


Wrong! You can have a do-over. You have permission to return to square one. If you've realized you're lost, you are encouraged to get directions home.

You might assume something signals waste and defeat, but actually, new beginnings are a pre-cursor to winning. We’re talking evolution, here. We are always learning and adapting. When you stop spinning your wheels, it signals that you are in control and making a conscious decision.

But when we feel stuck in our struggle, we might make the mistake of assuming that there is no way out of it. If you’re beating yourself up too much about what you can’t seem to do, or if you’re feeling stubbornly attached to making whatever it is you are doing work no matter what, you need to realize this important truth:

This is not your last chance. You are allowed to start over.

You’re not stranded like a castaway. It's your choice to turn around, wipe the slate clean, refuel, and head out again when you're ready, to wherever you're going this time.

So don’t believe the bit about not being able to go back—not only can you choose to begin again, it can be the wisest choice you ever make.

Still, somehow we’ve been receiving mixed messages. We confuse doing what is best for us with failing, or weakness. It’s like how "throwing in the towel" has come to represents giving up. And how giving up on one thing strikes us as not being able to succeed with anything.

But that’s a misinterpretation. Originally, throwing in the towel was literally a signal made by a coach that their trainee needed to surrender the fight: the towel was tossed into the ring.

This means quitting, before someone important (like you) is so damaged they may not fully recover. It signifies an ending that is a rescue. Saving someone (such as you) should be a good thing, not a negative.

Are you staying in the ring for the wrong reasons?

Because most of us aren't boxers, we don't have an entourage of people watching out for us, identifying when we've gone past the point of potential reward outweighing the damage being done to us.

And we're mostly doing damage to ourselves, when it comes to staying in situations where we can't imagine a possible solution, or envision an ending, or figure out a way to endure.

If you have a harsh inner critic, you are likely the type to stay in, at all costs. You probably feel obligated to figure it out, or fix it, or make it work. This is the place where perseverance and tenacity can get all mucked up with stubbornness and pride.

Key phrase for you in this situation: "at all costs." Too many costs are incurred if you stay in the ring for the wrong reasons. Like…

  • Because you never give up no matter what.
  • Because you will be embarrassed if you don't win/finish.
  • Because someone else you know did this, so you can too.
  • Because you need to prove you're the best. Even if it kills you.

And so on...

This is a time for you to teach yourself how to weigh costs vs. benefits. How to value you're own time, health, peace of mind... just as if you had an entourage in the ring with you.

Someone (that is you) needs to know when it's not worth it anymore.

You have permission to watch out for yourself and throw in that towel before whatever it is you're trying to get through, gets the better of you.

Because YOU need the best of yourself, and so do all those you love and serve.


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Faith Watson

Faith Watson created 52 Permission Slips to help you feel allowed—literally that you have permission—to take the best care of yourself. To help readers calm down, free up and live happy by accepting the simple beauty of their human condition, week by week. And to experience amazing improvements without needing to hack stuff. By day, she is an online marketing copywriter and coach at pen to Zen helping entrepreneurs create meaningful marketing messages and authentic copy they can truly be proud of. Faith loves sharing on Facebook so head on over.

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