Feedback: Self-Feedback

My blog theme this month will explore the concept and practice of feedback – giving feedback to ourselves, to others, seeking it out, and how to use feedback to propel us forward. Many of us think of feedback as a critique from others about our behaviours, intended to be somewhat supportive, and to help us improve whatever it is we are doing. However, feedback can be so much more than that, and, if channeled properly, it can make a big difference in shaping our self-confidence and future successes.


Not surprisingly, we humans aren’t terribly good at self-evaluating; it’s hard enough to get a handle on how others see us, let alone how we view ourselves at any given moment. In fact, it would be impossible to gain a completely honest or accurate perspective of ourselves from everyone who knows us, particularly because we wear many different hats at any given moment in our incredibly complex lives. What we can do, however, is spend a little more time giving ourselves feedback in order to monitor our actions, emotions and what we say. It’s about gaining perceptive, enhancing our emotional intelligence, and tuning in.

Tuning in

Self-feedback isn’t something we should do ‘here and there’ or make a New Year’s resolution to commit to, it’s meant to be an ongoing process. Many of us have been involved in doing self-assessments in the workplace as part of a formal appraisal process (yes…that dreaded performance review!), which is aimed at improving workplace performance and helping us focus on our career goals. That’s how our personal self-feedback works too – we try to identify areas that we know we can improve upon and ask ourselves what we can do differently next time. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve done or said something a little offside, or embarrassing, or it was misinterpreted by others and caused some sort of friction. Usually after such moments, we tend to either berate ourselves with negative self-talk, ruminate about it endlessly, or shrug it off completely. Unless we’ve spent time with giving ourselves some feedback, not much learning or growing can take place if we haven’t assessed our behaviour and tuned in to what really went down and what our role was. Here are a couple of tips to get more on track with self-assessment:

  • Be specific and try to focus on one aspect at a time that you want to evaluate (or at least limit the number of areas so you aren’t sporadic).
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things and test ideas, giving yourself feedback to make adjustments along the way.

Another example of using self-feedback comes with knowing ourselves, our bodies, and respecting our own limits. In my mountaineering expeditions, we rely heavily on the feedback from our own bodies when determining how far we can push into the altitude on a given day. When climbing too far or too fast, headaches and nausea are our internal feedback mechanism indicating the onset of acute mountain sickness. If pushed too far, cerebral or pulmonary edema will ensue; that’s when self-feedback becomes a literal life-saver! In our everyday lives too, we need to check in with ourselves and pay attention to our internal signals. Our bodies will tell us first when we’re maxed out, stressed out or ill; the feedback is there, we just need to listen.

A little perspective

Here’s a helpful way to think of this concept and put it more in perspective:

Would the person you want to become talk and act the way you are talking and acting? If not, what needs to change?

When paying more attention to ourselves, tuning in to our actions, and really listening to the feedback from others, we’re doing that much more to make incremental self-improvements, helping us live our best lives.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” – Sigmund Freud