Tuesday 20 August 2019

John Masterson: 'Make it easy on yourself... get out and walk it off'

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images

John Masterson

Are we too hard on ourselves? I often think we are. Some of us anyway. We are very good at advising other people not to let small things that have happened get to them. I know I am. But I also know that I am not very good at taking the same advice myself.

I know you shouldn't sweat the small stuff, but sometimes I do. If somebody looks at me crooked, I am likely to wonder for days what did I say, when in all probability the interaction was totally insignificant. And I am much more likely to get into this kind of mental cul de sac if I am really tired and in need of a change. It is a bit like an orange light going off in my head.

I listened to a colleague rant and rave about an event that had gone well, but not perfectly. She had been in charge and she was furious that a small number of things had not reached her standards. Not one of the shortcomings was her fault. All had been checked with a supplier, who did not do their job to the required standard. In reality I don't think any of the guests noticed because she immediately put plan B into action and all went well. So I listened to her. And talked her down. And I thought that was the end of it. I had injected a bit of common sense and perspective. I had forgotten how uncommon common sense is, and how it usually has little effect on our emotions.

Three days later something sparked her off again and this time we got to the kernel of the matter. "I did everything properly and yet it is me who looks like I let people down. People will think it was my fault." As I said nobody felt let down, but the plan that had been in her head, and indeed on paper, had not happened flawlessly. More than anything she was worried about what people might think of her. And angry because it was 100pc unjustified. And it was keeping her awake at night.

The other side of this is that for most of us when we have a success and are feeling justifiably proud we do not bask in it for too long or we would get our comeuppance.

There is a thin line between being conscientious and wanting to do the best, and beating yourself up when things do not work out. I often quote a previous employer who regularly reminded us that the only people who don't make mistakes are people who aren't doing very much.

The bit that kept coming back to me about my colleague was the concern about what other people might think about her. This is not very logical as she knew that she had prepared appropriately and had also adjusted rapidly when things were going ever so slightly astray. She just rolled up her sleeves and dug in. So there is no logic to it. But there is a definite psycho-logic to it that we all recognise.

Many of us reach a stage when we say that we couldn't care less what other people think of us. This may be a great deal truer than it was in our youth when we were convinced that everyone was looking at us all the time. But it is never fully true. We all do have standards and beliefs and we like people to recognise us appropriately. The problem comes when we pay too much attention to what other people think of us. It may, of course, depend on what the other person, or people, may be thinking.

You don't have to be a perfectionist to be hard on yourself. Sometimes it happens because you're a bit burnt out and need to take a step back. I have always found that the best cure for this sort of thing is a good walk or even a run. We do these things to ourselves and often they are a sign that we are losing some balance about the normal ups and downs of life. Walking it off is way better than looking at the ceiling at 3am. There are very few things in life that should be allowed to interfere with a good night's sleep. And remember that Rory McIlroy forgets about a double bogey and is quite likely to birdie the next three holes. Golfing commentators refer to it as mental strength. Go walking and work those muscles.

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