5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism

Woman smiling in a mirror not letting harmful self-criticism get in the way of her success.

Could self-criticism be holding you back from leading a meaningful and fulfilled life? Is it derailing your success in the pursuit of your goals?

For many of us, self-criticism is just the way we talk to ourselves. Our inner dialogue goes something like this: “I can’t do anything right.” “I look horrible.” “I’m such an idiot!” “What’s wrong with me?”

How would you answer if I were to ask, “What does it mean to be kind to yourself?” Would you say, “I’d buy myself something expensive, or I’d go on a long trip somewhere exotic?” Or perhaps I’d hang a sign in my kitchen saying, “Out of order until further notice,” and head to the beach with a book all by myself. Oh — the possibilities are endless, aren’t they?

But, I wonder if anybody answered with “I would talk nicer to myself” or “I would look for the good in me and not just the bad.” 

Be Kinder To Yourself

Often, and probably too often, we are our own harshest critics. If we treated our friends like we treat ourselves, we probably wouldn’t have any. 

Case in point, after two friends recently attended a wedding, a curious thing happened while discussing some pictures posted on social media. What one friend saw in the photos was her and her friend smiling, laughing, dancing, and enjoying themselves at the beautiful event. However, the other friend saw a long list of what she perceived was wrong with herself. For example, she thought her arms were too fat, and her hair wasn’t right, she hadn’t said the right things, etc.

The ironic thing is, she did have a wonderful time at the wedding. But while looking at the pictures, she didn’t focus on how happy her friend was that she had been there or even the great time she had. Instead, all she could zero in on was what she perceived to be wrong with herself.

Effects of harmful self-criticism

Unfortunately, people mistakenly think such self-critical statements safeguard them against mistakes, laziness, and complacency. Or they will keep them in line and ensure they achieve their goals. However, the opposite actually happens. 

It can drain their energy and confidence and paralyze progress. Destructive self-criticism triggers feelings such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, and hopelessness. 

Whether being overly critical of how they look or because of something they did, people who rebuke themselves are more likely to become depressed, anxious, and lonely. 

Is all self-criticism bad?

I say absolutely not, for we all benefit from constructive self-criticism from time to time. 

Why? Because it’s vital for our growth and development and, ultimately, our success. If self-criticism is used correctly, it can be a helpful tool for pointing out problematic behaviors. The kind of behaviors that could be standing in the way of us achieving our goals. If misused, it can have a damaging effect on our self-worth and confidence.

When we can objectively observe the behaviors we don’t like, we can take the necessary steps needed to change that undesired behavior so we can become the best version of ourselves.

So let’s look at how you can practice self-criticism without undermining your self-worth and confidence. 

5 Steps to overcome harmful self-criticism

Millions of us find ourselves battling self-criticism that is hard to escape. But, the good news is that you CAN defeat harmful self-criticism and challenge that voice that puts you down. Below are five steps that will help you answer that voice.

  1. REPLACE SELF-CRITICISM WITH SELF-CORRECTION. Instead of criticizing yourself, thinking it will correct your mistake and motivate you to do better (which it will not), look for a solution, and change your behavior.
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE POSITIVES. No one needs help seeing the negatives, and even if some of the negatives are true, why not consider the positives also?
  3. BE AS KIND TO YOURSELF AS YOU ARE TO OTHERS.  Recognize it as a double standard when you are harsher on yourself than you are with someone else. Just like you need your friends on your side, you need yourself to be in your corner as well.
  4. LET YOURSELF BE HUMAN. If you make a mistake, don’t think you look perfect, treat someone wrongly, etc. Don’t spend hours criticizing yourself. We ALL make mistakes and have flaws and defects. Just like we accept and love the people we know who make mistakes and have imperfections, accept and love yourself. At times, we all have some unlovable, quirky, and somewhat bad qualities. We can recognize our shortcomings without digging a hole and climbing into them. You can rise above your self-critic and say, “YES, I am human. Deal with it!”  
  5. FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS, NOT ON YOUR SELF-CRITIC. Sometimes no matter what you do, that loud voice will still be yapping away, telling you something negative. So give it a wave and say, “Yes, I hear you, but I am going to get on with my life doing what I have to do.” 

“Being self-critical is good; being self-hating is destructive. There’s a very fine line there somewhere, and I walk it carefully.” — Daniel Radcliffe 

Answering your self-critic is the best way to fight for your self-esteem. It would be best if you had yourself on your side. You have to be willing to give yourself credit for what you do that is right and improve what is wrong. In other words – Be Kinder To Yourself! 

Changing the way you respond to your self-critical voice will not occur overnight. So be patient with yourself. Thinking style is a habit, but with time and practice, you CAN change that habit into more of a healthy balance.

Working with a coach can be very helpful if you want to explore additional strategies to cope with being too self-critical. A coach can walk you through various techniques that can help you learn how to be self-critical in a healthy way to increase your overall success in pursuing your goals

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’m looking forward to your call.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

How To Proactively Overcome Feeling Overwhelmed At Work

Black woman sitting with her head in her hands feeling overwhelmed at work.

Are you experiencing anxiety in your professional life? If so, you’re far from being alone. For indeed, stress at work is common for many people. Now anxiety can rear it’s troublesome head at various times and places, but I want to focus on today when you are feeling overwhelmed at work. And more specifically, how to proactively overcome those feelings. 

continue reading

How To Cope With Stress At Work

Businessman sitting with co-workers looking perplexed as to how to cope with stress at work.

The repercussions of the Coronavirus over the last 17 months have wreaked havoc in all aspects of our lives.  But the one affected area most American’s can relate to is the additional hassles and upsets it has caused in the workplace. American workers (and employers) are emotionally weary and burned out with the upheaval it has caused. And yet, they are left with the challenge of trying to figure out how to navigate through it. So knowing how to cope with stress at work is more valuable now more than ever.

continue reading

5 Creative Ways To Reduce Stress At Work

Two female co-workers taking a walking break to reduce stress at work.

Stress and anxiety in the workplace are nothing new. Yet, over the last year or so, workers at every level have experienced tension and uncertainty at increasing rates. So whether you are a stressed-out employee or an employer looking for ways to reduce stress for your team, learning creative ways to reduce stress at work can be beneficial to you both. 

Continue reading

4 Ways Poor Coping Skills Can Aggravate Your Anxiety

Woman with poor coping skills looking at anxious sitting with two co-worker.

Anxiety affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally and can make it challenging to get through your workday. And if you are like most people, you look for fast relief when your anxiety level is high. But, unfortunately, much of the time, you could be turning to poor coping skills that you learned early on and are deeply engrained. 

continue reading

5 Tips To Deal With Return To Work Anxiety After Covid-19

Women in in front of computer looking over her shoulder dealing with return to work anxiety after Covid-19

Return to work anxiety is a real thing. 

Fear is such a powerful emotion, and I think we can all agree it’s been in overdrive for the last year and a half. And now that we are starting to see the light at the end of this long dark pandemic tunnel, we are presented with opportunities to begin transitioning back into ways of life before Covid we just took for granted.

continue reading

24 Work Frustration Quotes That Will Help Put Things Into Perspective

Smiling co-workers looking at work frustration quotes on comuter.

No matter your job title, place of employment, or even if you love your job, there are times when stress and frustration can suck the joy right out of your day. Yes, there are many things you can do to cope with stress, but today I’d like to share with you twenty-four work frustration quotes I believe can help you to put things into perspective. Let’s get started.

continue reading

4 Anxiety Coping Skills For Adults With Overwhelming Work Pressure

Overwhelmed woman at work in need of some anxiety coping skills for adults.

Some people might associate the corporate world with executives who enjoy big salaries, expense accounts, world travel, and deluxe offices. And you might have even been one of those people — until you actually landed a corporate job and realized that not everyone enjoys those nice perks. In fact, your experience with the corporate world involved competition, demands, long hours, and a boatload of stress. It is for you that I write this blog to offer you a perk that is more valuable than a deluxe office with your name on the door. And that is to share some anxiety coping skills for adults that will help you not let the pressures of corporate life overwhelm you.

continue reading

5 Anxiety Attack Coping Skills To Use At Work To Calm Down

The workplace is often fast-paced and filled with ever-increasing demands making it a prime place for stress to spike. And when it does, and you become stressed and anxious, merely telling yourself to stop being nervous is a bit like telling yourself to fall asleep when you have insomnia—it doesn’t work. So, what do you do? Well, I believe if you learn these five simple anxiety attack coping skills, you will be better prepared to calm your anxiety the next time you begin to feel the pressure of stress.

Whether it’s a tight deadline, dealing with office gossip and politics or unrealistic expectation by supervisors, etc., if you don’t manage your anxiety, it has the potential to affect your job performance negatively and even ruin your career.

continue reading