When you criticize yourself often, you learn to associate the most hurtful words, such as “stupid,” with yourself. You then tend to say these:
- You never know anything because you’re stupid.
- You always make stupid decisions.
- Your whole life is stupid.
What Is Self-Criticism?
Self-criticism is your act of constantly criticizing the mistakes and shortcomings in your own life. It is your harshly judgmental and unsympathetic behavior toward yourself.
According to Thompson and Zuroff, there are two types of self-criticism:
- Comparative Self-Criticism (CSC) and
- Internalized Self-Criticism (ISC).
Some amount of self-criticism is healthy and helps you learn from your mistakes. But if your self-criticism levels are toxic-level-high, it stops you from making decisions, starting new projects, and trusting your abilities.
Studies show the tendency to self-criticize is not necessarily caused by low self-esteem. It may also stem from the desire for perfection. But, whatever the driver behind it, there’s no denying high self-criticism creates a negative mindset leading to discontentment and distress.
How Do You Stop Self-Criticism Without Falling Apart
Your inner critic is too strong to shut up and let you love yourself for what you are. Self-criticism is a harmful habit you desperately want to overcome, but don’t know where to start. Here’s help.
But first: Know that help is available. You can turn to the psychological and counseling service providers who can assist you in turning your self-criticism into self-compassion, empowerment, and contentment. You can get their help to stop your damaging self-criticism habit.
Plus, there are practical tips you can easily work into your everyday life to take small but sure steps towards a healthier mental and emotional well-being.
Here are seven actionable tips to help you stop being always self-critical:
1. Stay vigilant of your inclination to criticize yourself
When you become aware of the negative thoughts—the complaining, and the comparisons—the different facets of self-criticism, you shift your position to becoming an observer. As an observer, you can extricate yourself from the negative behavior and put the situation in a more logical perspective.
Now you see that even when your negative emotions have a purpose and value, they are not always true.
So, stay vigilant of your toxic self-critical thoughts. Once you see the inner critic raising its head, challenge it. Not all your thoughts speak the truth; in fact, most are negative. So, challenge them by questioning the evidence behind their ideas.
Reminding yourself your thoughts aren’t entirely accurate increases your self-confidence.
2. Be more honest and open to yourself, like a good friend
Every time you hear that scrutinizing voice inside, try sharing it with somebody who cares about you. The loving voice of a parent, sibling, friend, or partner can hush that negative voice.
Also, if an unkind comment from someone triggers your self-criticism, talk to the person about how her comment makes you feel. You may find you may not have fully understood what she meant, and you just let your imagination run wild. Plus, it presents an opportunity to iron things out.
When going through a rough patch or your mind is questioning your capabilities, ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend if he was going through this?” Then offer those same gentle, compassionate insights to yourself.
Remember often to take things lightly. Laugh at yourself and see your mistakes as funny goof-ups.
3. Focus on the value of your work, not winning praise from others
Although compliments and praises can validate what you do, they do not necessarily depict the true value of your work. For instance, if your job made things less burdensome for someone, this is a great value. Or, if you helped to find a solution to a problem in any way, this is valuable as well.
Acknowledge and celebrate your past achievements.
A great way to not fail at anything is to set two goals — one high (aspirational) and one low (acceptable). Having one ambitious goal raises your odds of success. And it also increases your odds of feeling like a failure and self-criticism.
But if you have two goals and you fail to hit the high target, but hit the acceptable one, you can applaud yourself for not having failed. This reduces your chances of being self-critical.
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop seeking their approval or praise of your work. Practice self-acceptance.Compliments from others may not depict the true value of your work. People may be lying to you or trying not to hurt you. Click To Tweet
4. Always try to keep yourself in the “now” moment
When you focus on the present moment, the critical part of you shuts down. You can’t be thinking about what happened in the office earlier when you are living in the present moment. This could be the best way to overcome self-criticism — cultivating a daily habit of mindfulness meditation.
Pay attention to your thoughts, and you may notice you are subconsciously calling yourself names or talking yourself out of taking up challenges and difficult projects. Stop yourself.
Whenever you catch yourself overthinking, change the channel and create opportunities to stay in the moment without judging yourself.
To increase your present-moment awareness, meditate regularly. Direct your full attention to the rhythm of your breathing and the calming sounds around you.
Alternatively, take a nature walk and appreciate the trees, the fresh air, and all the things that thrive even if they do not have true caretakers. These “now” moments are powerful in silencing the inner critic.
5. Feed your interests. Follow your hobbies and passion
Write down the things that fascinate you, such as cheese and wine, tango, photography, painting, or the minimalism trend. After writing them down, take action by signing up for a class, or finally buying that Fumio Sasaki book.
When you feed your interests, you create a shift in your mindset and direct your thoughts and actions towards improvement instead of your different flaws. It can make you more creative (which can alter and expand the way you interpret and tackle issues) as well as make you more confident, resilient and joyful.
Also, unleash your child-like curiosity and often venture outside your comfort zone.
6. Remember loving yourself is a never-ending learning process
You cannot keep up an all-or-nothing mentality when your goal is to become a better person. So, when you falter now and then, rise and restart. This life has many tomorrows and every new day is an opportunity to get it right.
However, do keep track of your behavior through journaling. This is an excellent way to see your progress at being kinder to yourself and serving as a positive force to the people who matter to you.
7. Turn to reflecting and analyzing instead of criticizing yourself
Nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. However, instead of making it a habit to remind yourself of your flaws and having an internal dialogue discussing what is wrong with you, reflect on yourself instead.
Reflection brings to light what you did wrong, but it also spurs personal correction. With reflection, you take steps to rise above your failures, and it is highly effective in proving to your inner critic that turning things around is possible, and that you are greater than your mistakes.
Replace your negative thoughts with realistic thoughts. Consider the worst possible result, and tell yourself beforehand how will you handle yourself when they happen. Reminding yourself you can navigate difficult situations boosts your confidence. It also reduces a lot of the fear and anxiety related to an event.
Here’s Ronnie Grandell, clinical psychologist, coach, and non-fiction author who specializes in compassion focused therapy, talking about 3 ways to tame your self-criticism:
If you are too hard on yourself with your criticism, you need to stop. This mentality of yours could be one of the reasons why there’s no joy and contentment in your life. It prevents you from seeing the real good you are capable of, as well as your ability to work on your flaws.
Your established habits and ways of thinking are powerful, and putting an end to them is not easy. But while it may not happen in a mere snap of a finger, it is also not impossible to stop self-criticism once and for all.
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We often boast we know how to deal with criticism. However, when we confront a harsh critique, we react in ways that we claimed we would never do. How to handle criticism like a pro?
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Authors’ Bio: Justine Corry is a clinical psychologist and enjoys helping people get to the heart of what is not working in their lives. Along with Dr. Gemma Gladstone, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 10 years of experience in private practice. Edited by Sandip Roy.
• Our story: Happiness Project
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