Regardless of how good you are at something, it’s not easy to silence self-criticism and appreciate yourself. Keep reading for some tips to help you overcome that.
In this article:
How to Stop Self-Criticism and Replace It With Self-Compassion
Causes of Self-Criticism
What is Self-Criticism? It’s when a person has a negative view of themselves and hold themselves up to high, even impossible standards to reinforce that viewpoint.
Self-criticism and self-loathing don’t happen overnight. People end up hating themselves due to at least one of the following reasons:
- Years of neglect from caregivers
- Emotional and psychological abuse during adulthood (typically from an intimate partner)
- Traumatic experiences
People who self-criticize believe they’re inherently “flawed” or “defective.” Self-criticism reinforces these beliefs and sends them in a feedback loop that takes a toll on their health and relationships unless action is taken to stop it.
What Self-Criticism Looks Like
Self-criticism can come in many forms. Here are some examples of self-critical dialogues a person may have:
- “Why do I bother trying when I’m going to fail anyway?”
- “This will never work out.”
- “Nobody really loves me and they’re all going to leave me.”
How to Overcome Self-Criticism
Changing your mindset from self-critical to self-compassionate isn’t easy, but here are some steps that can help you get on track:
1. Distract Yourself
Thinking about your mistakes and figuring out how to fix them is normal. It’s replaying them over and over like a broken record that takes a toll on you.
Look for something that can distract you from your self-criticism. It could be a phone call to a trusted friend, cleaning your room, or going for a short walk outside.
2. Pay Attention to Your Critic
You can’t overcome self-criticism if you’re not paying attention to what your critic is really saying. This self-awareness especially comes in handy during times of stress when that inner voice is at its loudest.
Learning to recognize when you’re becoming too critical of yourself lets you zoom out and have a more objective view of your situation. From there, you can correct yourself and know what lessons you can learn from your experiences.
3. Put Your Thoughts in Writing
Whenever your self-critic tells you you’re going to fail, here’s what you should do:
- Write down all the signs that point to failure.
- Next, list down the things that tell you you’re not failing.
- Read the things you listed down.
This exercise allows you to rationally organize your thoughts and see for yourself how much of it is true and how much of it is just your mind exaggerating the situation. When you keep a written record of your thoughts, you not only clear your mind, but you also have a written record of your journey and how far you’ve come.
4. Be More Realistic
Once you recognize these negative thoughts, replace them with more realistic dialogue. Being realistic about life makes you more resilient to challenges and open to opportunities.
- Exaggerated: “I’ll never amount to anything.”
- Realistic: “If I work hard on this, I’ll be able to succeed.”
Don’t veer too much in the other direction though. Being overconfident is just as dangerous.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing yourself to others steals your ability to embrace the little things and be happy with what you have.
Everyone lives their life at their own pace. Don’t compare your Chapter One to someone else’s Chapter Five.
6. Seek New Opportunities to Grow
Setting achievable goals and seeking new opportunities to learn gives you small wins each day. This builds up your confidence and helps you achieve even bigger feats.
Your comfort zone is a safe place, but when you let self-criticism take over, you miss out on the chance to grow and spread your wings. Do something new each day, even if it’s as simple as trying a new restaurant or reading something outside of what you normally do.
7. Treat Yourself How You Treat Those Close to You
Would you tell your friend things that would hurt them deeply? Probably not.
Treat yourself the same way you’d treat a friend. Be kind to yourself, for it’s the one friend that’ll truly be there for you through your lifetime.
8. Accept the Present and Practice Gratitude
However you envisioned your life to be (and how close or far you are from that), accept the place you’re in without beating yourself up about it. Being at peace with yourself and opening yourself to where life takes you gives you that sense of contentment.
Judging yourself through self-criticism disrupts you from that journey and keeps you stuck where you are. Instead, list down things you’re thankful for, no matter how small they are.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
Despising yourself shapes how you think and interact with others. These are some of the most common signs that you’re practicing self-criticism.
- Neglecting physical care, like not showering or brushing teeth
- Changes in eating habits, such as over or under-eating
- Lashing out towards people they perceive as a “threat”
- Isolating from other people
- Substance abuse to numb feelings
When your self-loathing has gotten to a point where it’s affecting your physical and mental health, seek the help of a counselor or mental health professional to get out of that loop. You may need therapy to equip yourself with the skills to recover from a self-critical mindset, or even medication if it’s due to a chemical imbalance in your brain.
There’s no cure-all for overcoming self-criticism. You may even resist and fall back to old habits, but this shouldn’t discourage you from your journey to self-appreciation and acceptance.
You’re worthy of good things and you have the power to choose recovery. When you choose recovery, you can approach life with kindness and appreciation for yourself.
Have you gotten yourself to a point where you loathed yourself? How did you overcome that self-criticism? Share your experiences in the comments section below.