During exam periods, we can often be extremely self-critical. When we set out to complete our plans but fail to follow through, it can feel as though we are letting ourselves down and jeopardizing our futures. However, I’d like to share a mindset that has helped me ease these worries, which is that negative reflection is worthless.
This doesn’t mean that all reflection about the past is worthless, or that we shouldn’t find flaws in our behaviour. I use this mindset to encourage myself to separate negative emotions, judgement and guilt from the process of reflection.
What I’ve realised is that negative self-critique is completely useless in the process self improvement. Regardless of what I want to improve, I don’t need to feel bad about what has happened, because it cannot change.
For example, I have recently had the feeling of struggling to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. I knew that this was a significant problem, as it often interrupted my schedule for the day and made me feel lazier and less productive. As a result, I associated this knowledge with a sense of guilt, shame and self-critique. Changing my mindset has allowed me to (try to) actively squash these feelings, as I understand that they are unproductive to my overall well-being.
While it may be true that feelings of shame and guilt can encourage us to change, negative emotions are not a requirement for growth. If I decided that I wanted to improve my morning routine, I would be able to set up a plan that would allow me to do so, regardless of whether I felt bad about it or not. In contrast, judging myself for my past actions takes up valuable mental bandwidth and lowers my self-esteem, achieving the opposite of what I want.
Ultimately, I’ve been trying to apply this process whenever I think about what I have or haven’t acheived. Especially during exam periods where the stakes are high, being kinder to yourself and managing your mental wellbeing is an important step to take. By no means have I eliminated these negative feelings, but I always try to remind myself of this mindset when I reflect on the past.