One of the first parts of improving something is determining what you need to improve and what you don't. You have to know where you excel and where you fall short of your own personal expectations. The problem with evaluating yourself is that humans tend to be self-critical. We have a tendency to look at something with the critical eye and see nothing that is worth saving.
Remember when you were in school and you would hand in a paper? You worked your tail off on a paper or assignment and when it comes back, you have a shiny red B on the top of the page. You thought to yourself awesome - a B! but once you started to scan the paper you realized that there were far more red marks and notes than you had expected. The back of your brain would start first, telling you how poorly you did on the paper, even though there is a B on the front page. We get lost in criticism and don't see it for what it really is - help.
You made a speech and now you're going back to listen to your conference call recording or watch the video tape. You're ready to see what went well and what didn't, but you feel like that was an A+ performance. The problem is once your mind is open to evaluation it can quickly become judgmental and critical. Your A+ feeling can drop to an F- never do it again feeling. Before you give up completely - here are some things you need to remember about self-evaluation.
We Don't See The Big Picture
You had a B on your paper. That's a pretty amazing grade for something you worked incredibly hard on. When you scan the pages all you can see are the notes and suggestions. They are seen as an immediate negative and take over the space in our mind that was occupied by a feeling of success and happiness. We do the same thing to ourselves now when it comes to making improvements. Being overly critical is a difficult beast to defeat.
You'll Never Know Everything
You will never be the best . Athletes who get paid millions of dollars report to practice and have to make sure their skills are at the best level they can be. They still drop pop flys in center field and throw wild pitches. They still fumble the ball and get their passes picked off from the opposing team. You will never be in a position where you don't need to improve something so if that's your hold up, you need to let it go.
What Did You Like
When you get done with a speech and you feel like a million bucks, it has to be a good sign. When we mess up or let ourselves down, we know it as soon as we hang up the phone or step off the stage. When you get done with your presentation and feel awesome - you should be able to find some things that you did very well. When evaluating your speech, stop about halfway through and look down at your notes. How many negatives have you found? How many positives? If there's nothing positive on your page you're probably being a bit of a jerk to yourself.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask
Someone you trust can give you great insight. When you don't trust yourself to see what's good and what isn't a close friend or a co-worker is probably willing to take an hour or so of their afternoon and give you some thoughts.
In the mood for some raw feedback? Send out a survey to participants when your presentation is over. Ask them to tell you one place you can improve and one place where you did pretty well. (Positive reinforcement is a joy to improvement)
The next time you sit down to do some personal improvement be easier on yourself. Think about the grade that is actually on the page, rather than the notes for improvement. Those notes are places where you can become an even better speaker, writer, or employee. How do you evaluate yourself and take something away from it that is going to help you improve and not feel bad about yourself?