Posts Tagged ‘self-criticism’

This teeny little story (that’s super easy to tell) can pack a punch. It’s a tangible example of how shame/self-doubt/self-criticism is not “true” so much as a particular filter on the world, taking into account only certain pieces of information about ourselves and working them into a particular narrative about who we are and what we do. Mindfulness practice can not only help us become more aware of such identity-narratives and the impact that they have on us (and those around use), but it can also help us widen the filter of our perspective to take in more information, moment by moment. As this tale shows, sometimes we just need one new bit of information to turn our whole perspective on its head!


  • The website this story is on is actually a wonderful resource of powerful teaching tales. Indeed, I’ll likely be linking to other stories on it again in the future. Just as I provide “application notes” for using the stories and games on my blog to teach mindfulness, this website provides notes on how to use these stories for certain types of healing.
  • This story is a beautiful compliment to the game I presented last week.
  • You could do a whole range of follow-up activities with this story: discussions that focus on some of the themes I mentioned in the introduction; art projects where participants draw links between themselves and the cracked pot, identifying flaws and how these can be seen as blessings (and then being mindful of how such a re-frame may (or may not) shift one’s feelings around the perceived flaw); and so on…

I had a bit of my old self-criticism rise up within me this past week, so I thought that it might be a good time to share a game (and next week a story) focused on the theme of self-compassion. Compassion and kindness towards others is often presented as a major component of mindfulness training, yet if we can’t be kind towards ourselves our outward-directed compassion will only go so far. And many of us could use a bit of self-compassion—as my wife is fond of saying, if we treated others the way we treat ourselves inside our own head, it would be considered abusive!

So here’s a wonderfully funny game that turns our relationship with failure on its head, from self-criticism to celebration. The instructions below are from Ted DesMaisons’ blog, replicated here with permission from the author.


  • …Each person comes in front of the room one at a time.
  • After “claiming” the stage, that person shares with pride a made-up failure of theirs. Something like, “I put a pair of new blue jeans in with my mother’s clothes and everything turned blue,” is great—not completely inconsequential (like “I forgot to turn the lights off when I left home”) but also not devastating or traumatic (like “I ran over my dog…twice”).
  • Once they’ve shared the ‘failure’, the rest of the group gives them a wild and rousing ovation in celebration.
  • The person on stage should take a grand and vigorous, deep “ta-da!” bow, soaking in the applause to full effect. The game finishes when everyone’s had the chance to celebrate having ‘failed.’

Instruction Notes:

  • …Emphasize that the failures should be made up once the person gets to the stage. You don’t want to initiate a therapy session here.
  • Often times, kids will shrink from the applause and will want to take a quick bow and run off stage. The whole point is to soak it in. What would it be like if we celebrated our failures?
  • Make sure to model what you’re looking for before they start. If they see you delighting in the exercise, they’ll give themselves much more permission to do so.

Application Notes:

  • Make sure to explain why you’re playing this game before you play it or to debrief it afterward: we’re trying to create a new relationship to what we think of as failure. When we fail, it often means we’re pushing ourselves to develop new skills. It means we’re taking risks. And our so-called ‘failures’ can lead us to possibilities we never would have imagined. That’s all worth celebrating.