Being Your Own Worst Critic
We all have that little voice in our head- the one that reminds us of every flaw, second guesses every decision, and perpetuates negativity. If you’ve ever resonated with the saying, “I am my own worst critic,” know you are definitely not alone. Being your own worst critic is the tendency to be overly self-critical and judgmental of your own actions, abilities, and accomplishments. This mindset often involves setting unrealistically high standards for oneself and focusing on perceived flaws or shortcomings, even when faced with external validation or success. Learning to combat this negative self-talk is crucial for our well-being and mental health. In this blog, we'll explore the tendency of being your own worst critic and discuss powerful strategies to combat this inner voice and foster self-compassion.
Here a few examples of what being overly self critical can look like:
- Perfectionism: Setting impossibly high, out of reach standards for your work and feeling dissatisfaction or like a failure with minor imperfections. This leads to persistent negative self-talk, telling yourself you are never good enough and overanalyzing mistakes.
- Downplaying achievements: Minimizing or dismissing your own accomplishments and attributing your success to external factors, like luck or other people’s contributions and not your own skill.
- Comparing yourself to others: Constantly measuring your own life and achievements against those of others, leading to a persistent sense of inadequacy or feeling like a failure.
- Fear of failure: Avoiding pursuing new challenges or opportunities due to fear of not meeting your high standards, leading to missed chances for growth and development and stagnation in life.
- Ignoring positive feedback: Dismissing compliments or positive feedback from others as not true and instead, focusing on where you fell short.
It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves in a society that is so competitive and promotes competition around every corner. Job titles, salaries, promotions, Ivy League resumes, grades, and of course, social media!
Living with all this noise can be quite distracting and help you lose sense of your core values. This is like driving with one hand on the wheel while constantly adjusting or eyeing your rearview mirrors.
We can call this outside noise and influence “chatter”. It can be difficult to feel good about your accomplishments without tuning out the chatter. But the important thing to keep in mind is that the chatter is internal. It is the illusion we create within ourselves that we have more to do and always have more to improve on. With the right tools, we can train ourselves to recognize when it is this chatter in the driver’s seat versus our more rational, self-compassionate selves.
Here are a few ways to combat our inner critic:
- Practice Mindfulness: Embracing mindfulness is a powerful tool to break free from the cycle of negative self-talk. Mindfulness involves taking a pause when you catch your inner critic and paying attention to what you’re feeling in the present moment without judgment. Take a moment to breathe deeply and observe your thoughts. Mindfulness helps create distance from these thoughts, allowing you to respond with self-compassion rather than the usual harsh judgment.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: Question the validity of your self-critical thoughts. Take a moment to reflect or write these thoughts down. Then consider, are they based on facts? Do you have evidence to support these criticisms? Often, you'll find that the inner critic exaggerates and distorts reality. Replace those negative thoughts with positive affirmations that you do have evidence for: your strengths and accomplishments. Talk to your therapist about challenging negative thoughts–they can help with CBT interventions!
- Practice Self-Compassion: Try to flip your role with a friend. What if a friend came to you and told you the things you were saying or thinking to yourself? You might be shocked at how harsh they were on themself. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a friend facing such challenges. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your feelings without judgment, knowing everyone makes mistakes, and embracing that our imperfections make us all unique.
It's important to note that a certain level of self-reflection and aiming for self-improvement is normal, but there can be a fine line between being motivating and being kind to yourself. An inner critic becomes problematic when it significantly impacts your self-esteem, well-being, and ability to find joy in and appreciate your accomplishments. Being our own bully is a surefire way to delay gratification and sabotage our own ability to grow and develop healthier thought patterns.
Balancing self-awareness with self-compassion is key to maintaining a positive and constructive mindset, to navigating challenges with resilience!
Here are a couple resources that may help combat this inner voice. Whether it is an app, book, or talking about this with your therapist, you can explore where these thought patterns come from and slowly regain control and replace the negativity with a more realistic and resilient mindset.
- The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh: A classic book on mindfulness practices that can transform your relationship with yourself.
- Headspace or Calm App: Incorporate guided mindfulness meditations into your daily routine.
- Self-Compassion.org: Dr. Kristin Neff's website offers resources, guided meditations, and exercises to enhance self-compassion.
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff: A book that provides practical strategies to cultivate self-compassion and transform your relationship with yourself.
All material provided on this website is for informational purposes only. Direct consultation of a qualified provider should be sought for any specific questions or problems. Use of this website in no way constitutes professional service or advice.