Self-criticism to a certain extent is not bad. It encourages self-improvement and keeps your ego in check. But if you are inclined to be too self critical, you’re setting yourself up for depression, failure and a lot of unhappiness in the long run. If your inner voice constantly belittles you, you eventually become what you believe you are.
Women more than men are more likely to be self-critical, according to a Today/AOL survey. Another study of Weight Watchers found that the average woman criticizes herself at least eight (!) times during the day.
If you indulge too much in this type of negative self-talk, you need to change your unfavorable perception of self and turn it around into a valuable tool to help you become a better version of your own person.
What is self-criticism?
Self-criticism is the habit of focusing on one’s own perceived shortcomings and weaknesses. These could be issues involving your looks, career trajectory, financial status, skills, and relationships. In psychology, being overly self-critical is considered a negative behavior.
Done on a regular basis, as habits are, the self-bashing crushes your self-confidence and you develop low self-esteem that leads to depression. Here are some signs that you’re too hard on yourself:
- You feel that every negative occurrence or outcome is your fault, even if some factors are beyond your control.
- You compare yourself to others, and always think you don’t measure up to their level.
- You can’t accept compliments, and you belittle your own achievements when praised.
- You overanalyze your mistakes, replaying them over and over in your head.
- You are a chronic underperformer even if you have the capabilities.
- You don’t ask for help because doing so is a sign of weakness.
- You procrastinate doing what needs to be done because you fear you can’t do it well.
The dangers of being too self critical
- Depression: self-criticism leads to feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing, causing you to be depressed
- Anxiety: when you constantly judge yourself and are found wanting, you become anxious and stressed
- Eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating especially in younger people is a result of excessive self-criticism on weight
- Relationship difficulties: a chronic self critical behavior makes you come across as needy and insecure; it also encourages other negative behavior like lack of desire for communication and perfectionistic trait.
How to deal with your self-critical attitude
Develop an awareness of your tendency to exaggerate self-criticism. Catch your thoughts and nip negative self-talk in the bud. If you’re thinking that you’re not good enough, ask yourself if you would say that to your spouse, kid or a good friend.
Keep in mind that your thoughts are simply subjective perceptions and not reality. If you find this difficult, look for proof that your thoughts are true. For example, if your mind is set that you will not get a promotion in the next two years, ask yourself why. This will also serve as a motivation for you to work towards that goal since you can’t find valid obstacles to getting promoted.
Practice meditation. Do it daily for 20 minutes or so. Rid your mind of all thoughts, even good ones. Sit in stillness and silence. Be in the present; don’t think about the past or future. When you meditate regularly, you become nonjudgmental, even of your own self. You leave your ego behind and realize that the self-negativity you harbor is meaningless in the context of the vast universe.
Change your inner dialogue from self-criticism to self-improvement and acceptance. Make a list of your perceived weaknesses but don’t beat yourself up. Instead, accept them and find ways to overcome them and improve yourself in the process.
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