Self-criticism. It can be one of the most disabling components of our psychological wellbeing. Unfortunately for most of us, we will always be our own worst-critic. Relationships, friendships, work progression; self-critical thoughts can make us second guess our ability and worth in all of these areas.
Unfortunately, overly self-critiquing ourselves is strongly linked to low-self esteem, depression and perfectionism – something I have covered in a previous blog post. However, self-criticism can sometimes become second nature to us. So much so, our brains enter autopilot and we might not realise the damage we are doing to ourselves. Because of this, I wanted to run through some signs to help you determine whether you are being too self-critical.
Do you blame yourself for every situation?
This is what I primarily think of when it comes to excessive self-criticism. Do you feel personally responsible when bad things happen? I know I still battle with this. Things never always go according to plan. However, that doesn’t automatically mean the situation is your fault. The highlighting negative statement associated with this point? I am a failure. Stop undermining yourself. YOU ARE NOT.
Do you often compare yourself to someone else?
Social media is further adding fuel to this destructive fire. I think the younger generation browse through apps like Instagram and feel insufficient compared to some of the images that get posted. However, do not start comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight real.Lots of the things that get posted on Instagram which may result in you feeling insufficient require financial backing. For this point, it is important to repeat the following:
“money doesn’t buy happiness, and it never will.”
Evidence has shown this to be true. Unfortunately, this is often highlighted by news reporting of celebrity suicide. Chester Bennington, Alexander McQueen and Robin Williams are only a few of a countless list of celebrities who have taken their own lives. Do not fall into the trap of superficial happiness. You may never really know what people are struggling with. Focus on the health of yourself and your loved ones. That’s the most important. Be grateful for what you DO HAVE rather than what you don’t.
Do you have body image issues?
This has always been a big thing for me. I have considered myself overweight for the past ten years or so, including when I dropped from 15 to 11 stone back in 2012 (210lbs to 154lbs). Sometimes it can seem impossible to let go of physical appearance problems. It can plague people of all shapes and sizes, and that is important to remember. It isn’t necessarily to do with how you actually appear, but more to do with how you see yourself. If you don’t ever look good enough in your own eyes, you are being too self-critical. Perhaps it is time to ask friends and family members for a second/third/forth opinion. This will link back to comparing yourself to others. We all have different body types, and it is entirely normal. So please, do not let photos with 100,000 likes on Instagram affect how you see yourself.
Do you avoid giving yourself compliments?
It is essential that we all boost our own self-esteem with positive messages. Providing ourselves with motivation and support can really help us go that extra mile to get through a difficult time. However, for some of us, talking to ourselves positively can appear outright ridiculous. If you think this, it is a sign of excessive self-criticism. If you work hard at something, complimenting your determination is an essentiality.
Do you not accept compliments?
This furthers the above point. If you do not see positives about yourself, this generally makes it more difficult to accept compliments from others. For example, I find it difficult to accept nice words surrounding my personality, because of previous things that I have done which I consider unforgivable. However, I can’t change the past. I shouldn’t live my life in absolute misery because of a few mistakes. We all make them. Learning from them is the key importance.
Did/do you have overly criticising parents?
Unfortunately, some parents can get frustrated if their child doesn’t grow up into their idealised vision of what a person should be. This doesn’t occur often, but it does happen. Examples might be a child coming out as gay, whilst the parents remain rather close-minded surrounding sexuality. Over the years, that child/young adult will assimilate negative messages provided by their parents, which will develop their own inner critic. However, outside criticisms are opinions. For every negative individual, it is highly probable that you will find dozens of positive people to supplement them.
Do any of these sound familiar?
If so, you’re likely being overly self-critical. You may want to seek support to help fight against this. Approach friends and family members about your concerns surrounding these questions, and get their opinions. My hope is that they will be able to put some of your worries and anxieties to rest.
Additionally, I would highly recommend Self-Esteem, 4thEdition: A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving, and Maintaining your Self-Esteem. The book is written by Dr Matthew McKay, a clinical psychologist from the United States.
Everyone can be self-critical, but we cannot let it crucify us. We all provide something unique. We are all individual. There is no-one in the world like you, except you. That is a positive thing in itself. Please at least remember that when you are feeling down. And if not, remember this quote…
“You’ve been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay