How to Overcome Self-Criticism

Have you ever encountered the term self-criticism?

While it may be a vague idea for some, self-criticism it actually a real problem that could cause severe negative effects in a person’s life. It can undermine self-confidence, delay the accomplishment of goals, and even make it hard to stay in healthy relationships.

A lot of people consider their inner self-critic as a key motivator that helps them succeed in attaining the goals they set for themselves. However, it also entails a negativity-driven inner dialogue that often sounds like this: “Why can’t I do anything right? Why am I such a loser?”

When left to fester, such thoughts can be detrimental to a person’s mental strength. To overcome your inner self-critic, you must first understand what self-criticism means and how you can overcome it. Only then can you transform it into a more positive motivator.


What is Self-Criticism?

Self-criticism affects many individuals from all walks of life. In fact, it may already be affecting you.

Your inner self-critic is the voice in your head that points out your flaws and shortcomings. Sometimes, it criticizes different aspects of yourself including your physical appearance, skills, behavior, intellect, and even the way you feel.

Self-criticism is often fueled by failure. The pain you feel from a break-up, a failed test, or a bad day at work can trigger your inner self-critic. Once activated, the negative conversations you have with your critical self may reach a point wherein the very core of your existence is threatened.

Gradually, you lose the will to achieve your goals.


4 Steps to Overcome Your Inner Self-Critic

Sometimes, people can’t help but become too self-critical. While there are instances wherein it can help you succeed, it has unpleasant effects that can be too severe. This can reach the point where you can no longer appreciate your triumph.

To overcome self-criticism, there are four steps you need to take to deal with it once and for all.


Step #1: Look for Signs of the Problem

Be on the lookout for signs of self-criticism, such as self-blame and the tendency to degrade yourself as a person, rather than focusing on the specific problem. Avoiding risks, not expressing your thoughts, and self-comparison also indicate that you may be too critical of yourself.

On top of that, you might also experience the lack of satisfaction with achievements you would normally enjoy until you start living with extremely high standards. You would then start to worry about scenarios that haven’t even occurred yet, and continue overthinking and analyzing mistakes that have already been dealt with.

If worse comes to worst, you end up closing yourself off from everybody and begin thinking about harming yourself.


Step #2: Get to the Root Cause and Confront Your Imperfections

Self-criticism gets worse by the day if you don’t fully understand how to satisfy your inner critic. This means that you must identify the cause of criticism by determining what you want to improve in yourself.

After you determine what you want to change, it is time to confront it. While this may seem daunting, it is an important step you need to take to overcome your inner critic and possibly help you become a better person in the process.


Step #3: Mind How You “Speak” to Yourself

That inner dialogue you have with your inner critic often leaves you believing that the self-critical thoughts you have are 100% true. However, these thoughts often reflect an exaggerated version of the truth.

Because of this, it is important that you be careful about how you “speak” to yourself during these situations. When you acknowledge the exaggeration in these thoughts, you should also start changing your statements during your inner conversations in a way that is more realistic.

Of course, you must remember to tread the fine border between positive motivation and overconfidence, as the latter can be just as harmful as self-doubt.


Step #4: Convert Self-Criticism into Self-Compassion

While criticism is thought to help you become better, self-criticism actually shifts your mentality and leads you towards the opposite direction. It causes self-inhibition and self-punishment that may cause you to stray from your goals.

This is the very reason why you need to transform the critic inside you into a compassionate friend. According to research, self-compassion fosters positive feelings to balance fear and confidence. It rewires the human brain into believing that people are worthy and capable of success.


A Final Thought

Rather than motivating yourself to achieve your goals, becoming too self-critical can harm your self-esteem and leave you feeling incapable of achieving anything. Be more compassionate and use kinder words to point out your flaws during your inner conversations. Remember that you are worthy of kindness – especially from yourself.

Written by Justine Corry

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 within private practice.

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