Many individuals have “faulty evaluation systems.” They are rarely satisfied when successful and are overly critical of their performance, even if they win, and win big. This can become a rigid pattern. In the past it may have driven them to great successes, but over time it can become a burden and an anchor from being more successful.

These individuals tend to continually try harder and often fall short in their own eyes. They will readily admit that they are hard on themselves, but they believe it is the only way to push themselves to their best performance. It is as if they have a calculator that is defective, but they do not realize it is always off one digit. When evaluating themselves, the calculator should read 1,000, but instead, it reads 100, or it should read 100 but instead reads 10. They get upset about the reading but don’t realize their evaluation system is faulty or broken. Instead of “being on their side,” they are always “on their case.”

There are three major, unintended consequences of being on your case rather than being on your side.

1.These people are never satisfied with their performance, and their self-confidence is affected.
2.Because everything seems to be less than they had hoped, they are miserable, tense, and unhappy.
3.Unconsciously, they treat others the same way they treat themselves—overly critical, picky, negative, and never satisfied.
Most individuals who are hard on themselves are blindsided to the problems inherent in their personal leadership style. Sometimes they require a wake-up call to alert them to the serious impact this kind of pattern has on their ultimate performance and well-being. If you recognize yourself in the above profile, answer a simple question: What percentage of the time are you on your case instead of on your side? Use a scale of 1 to 100. You can tell if you or others have a faulty evaluation system if after every performance you establish that you should have had:

better effort
higher quality
faster delivery.

The manifestation of this kind of attitude is typically feeling scolded by yourself for failing to live up to your abilities. It’s almost like you take out your whip and begin snapping yourself into shape. You may even say or think, “How could I be so stupid? When am I going to finally learn? What is wrong with me?” More, better, faster, more, better, faster: this becomes an automatic, negative self-evaluation system.

Andrea’s Story

Andrea was an executive in an agency and constantly felt she was behind in everything—e-mails went unanswered, voice mails were not returned, one-on-ones with staff were cancelled or rescheduled. Her self-evaluation system was harsh and unforgiving in spite of many of the positive things she was initiating at the agency. Andrea often spent her first moments with an employee apologizing for something she had failed to get around to. Her confidence was affected, and her negative self-evaluation started to influence others. Perhaps she wasn’t as competent as they had thought she was. . . .

In one of our coaching sessions Andrea achieved a breakthrough when I pointed out that she had apologized three times in 30 minutes. It was obvious she was overly critical of herself. She became painfully aware of how automatic this self-evaluation system was and, more importantly, recognized that it was quite possibly inaccurate. Andrea also became aware of how pervasive this pattern was in all her interactions and that it undermined her leadership abilities as well.

Andrea started out saying she was on her own case 80 percent of the time. Through talking about this pattern’s impact and building awareness, she was able to get it down to about 40 percent. It was important for her to understand that she was not trying to eliminate being on her case, but rather reframing it into being on her side. With some real commitment and practice she developed the ability to catch the pattern faster and redirect it from the former to the latter. Andrea became more on her side and, as a result, was less demanding of her staff and more on their side as well.

Changing our self-evaluation greatly improves how confident we feel and allows us greater awareness of how we evaluate others.

Redirecting Questions

The best way to change from being on your case to being on your side is first to notice how you behave and then turn the evaluation into a learning and action plan. Below are some examples of whipping statements and statements that will help you redirect yourself to being on your side.

“On Your Case” Whipping

How could I be so lame?
Don’t I know better than this?
I’m an idiot for doing this!
Why didn’t I start this sooner?
I could have done a much better job!
What is wrong with me?
I should have known better!

“On Your Side” (Phrases That Redirect Your Habit)

Which parts of this performance went well?
What didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to?
What exactly didn’t work out here?
Which part is under my influence?
Is there anything I could have done differently?
What will I have to do to accept this performance and not beat myself up?
What can I learn from this performance?
What will I have to improve next time?
Is there any learning, training, or help I need to improve my performance?
What will be my next step?
How will I make sure I stay on track?

What was your reaction in hearing these questions? It is important to first acknowledge what went well in order to establish the proper perspective in your evaluation and to curtail the “more, better, faster” pattern. This chart shows the difference between the two self-evaluations.

On Your CaseOn Your SideQualitydemandingrespectful damagingconstructive irrationalrational  overgeneralizedrealisticResultsdissatisfiedencouraged less confidentenergized overwhelmedconfident for the future

Questions and Actions to Be More on Your Side

Circle the terms above you have experienced the most.
How accurate is your evaluation system?
On a scale of 1 to 100, what percentage of the time are you on your case?
How do you feel after you’ve been on your case?
What are the consequences for you and others for being on your case?
Do you treat others as harshly as you do yourself?
If you don’t change this, what do you stand to lose or miss out on?
Keep track of the times you have stopped being on your case and then redirected to being on your side. How did you do it?
What is most difficult about being on your side?
What helps you to be on your side?
Record in your planner the percentage of time you are on your side each day, from 1 to 100, and reward yourself.

Your calculator can be fixed, and you will subsequently feel more confident and ready for new risks.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Relly Nadler is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, corporate trainer, and author. His books, Leaders’ Playbook: How to Apply Emotional Intelligence-Keys to Great Leadership and the Leadership Keys Field Guide, are full of emotional intelligence (EI) secrets, strategies, tools, and profiles of leaders. Relly has coached CEOs, presidents, and their staffs and has developed and delivered innovative leadership programs and facilitated team trainings for Fortune 100 companies. He is recognized around the world for his expertise in linking emotional intelligence and experiential learning to business objectives. Go to for more information and free EI secrets.