Occasional self-doubt is considered normal and happens to everyone at some time or other, but chronic or excessive self-criticism can lead to some types of mental illness or worsen exciting mental health disorders. Self-criticism can severely impact your life, self-esteem, relationships, job performance and general well-being
The word criticism is synonymous with judgment, opinion, and assessment. Self-criticism means directing all this evaluation toward yourself. It is the act of pointing out one’s perceived flaws well past the point of personal growth. Self-criticism is both powerful and dangerous. In moderation, it works just right to stimulate improvement, but too much can negatively affect your self-confidence and become a barrier to one’s self-esteem and peace of mind. Self-critical thoughts can be so convincing we come to make them our reality, even though they do not correspond with actual reality.
The origins of self-criticism can start from early childhood but can also manifest through adulthood, unhealthy personal relationships or workplace environments. It can originate from teachers, bosses, competitive sports, or some parenting skills. It can also stem from learned behaviours. Self-criticism is not a personality trait or fault, regardless of how it began. You are not defined by how you treat yourself but regular engaging in self-criticism can certainly feel like it does and shaking off those internal critical thoughts can be hard
Examples of self-criticism that has become harmful to your peace and wellbeing
- "I'm a failure."
- "I can't do anything right."
- "I'm not good enough."
- "I'll never get better."
- “I am ugly, unfit or unwanted”
Examples of self-criticism that can be productive for personal growth
- “I shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night.”
- “I have been overworking too much I should work on finding better balance”
- “I scolded my son too harshly. I should remain calm while correcting him in the future.”
- “If I keep speeding, I might hurt someone or get a ticket. I should slow down.”
Strengthen your well-being and mental fitness
Acknowledge Your Success - Success does not only refer to workplace goals but all aspects of your life. Take a step back and really think about all the things you have accomplished in your life in the past and to date Make a list of all the things that you are proud of, no matter how small they may seem. You may quickly realize that you are filling up pages of successful moments
Be Kind to Yourself - Give yourself a break! Talk to yourself the same way you talk to a close friend who needed encouragement, support and understanding. Would you point out how worthless they were because they slipped up, made a mistake or wrong decision? Show yourself compassion!
Focus on the Present Moment- We have all made mistakes in the past but don’t focus on them. Focus on what you are doing in your life today and how you can improve for the future.
Take action- Self-criticism can lead to self-doubt which can lead to inaction. Set small goals and take small steps towards your goals and before you know it, you will start to see progress and improvement
Be Mindful of your thoughts- it will take time to retrain your personal thoughts about yourself so be mindful of them. Each time you find yourself pointing out your negative flaws or self-criticizing yourself find words find a phrase or word to replace your negative feelings. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Why did this critical thought come to my mind?
- Is this thought or self-doubt helpful?
- Would someone really say or think something like this of me?
- Did someone actually say those words to me before or am I just assuming they did?
Avoid Perfectionism – Let go of the need to be perfect. It is okay to set high standards for yourself but make the realistic. No one is perfect!
Stop comparing yourself to others- social media portrays everyone’s lives and families as perfect. They are not and the living that takes place behind the photos on Facebook is more likely similar to yours. With work stresses, family dynamics, managing illnesses and life. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others it can only lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Measure your progress and well-being on where you were before and where you are now.
Are you practicing Self-Criticism?
Take a minute to complete this test in order to evaluate where you are being fair with yourself, on the self-criticism scale. For each of the following statements and questions, indicate the number that best describes how you feel most of the time. Please write your answers down and be as honest as possible.
1-Strongly disagree; 2- Disagree; 3- Neutral; 4 – Agree; 5- Strongly Agree
- I am not happy with my life.
- I struggle to have long term meaningful friendships
- I pay too much attention to the personal appearance of others (they are too skinny, too fat)
- I always critique my body parts and cannot seem to be happy with my appearance
- I dwell on my past mistake often.
- I am hard on myself if a make a mistake or slip up on a goal I have set
- I cannot finish a project or work until it is perfect
- I feel if you cannot do something to perfection, you should not do it all
- If I do not get this right, people will think less of me
- I am overly sensitive if someone criticizes or points out my flaws
- If I fail to achieve a deadline at work you feel you have failed as a person
- If feel asking for help is a sign of weakness
- If I make a mistake I should think long and hard about it and I should be upset with myself
- If someone disagrees with me, it must mean they do not like me
- If I do not do my best all the time, people will think less of me
- If I am not there for my friend’s needs all the time I am not a true friend
Now that you have answered the questions, go back and add up your score A total score of 31 and above indicates a high level of self-criticism, 18-30 is average, 17 and below indicates a low level of self-criticism.
Practice Self Love- You are worth it !
Give Yourself Permission to Breathe
Remember to breathe!
Wherever you are in your life, we hope you give yourself permission to breathe. We hope that you take time every day to take stock of all the amazing parts of yourself, and you check personal criticism at the door.
The world we live in today is not easy; demands and stresses are bearing down on us every day. Our hope for you is that in a world that is always rushing, you can find a moment of stillness in your life to just be in the moment. Whatever that moment is.
If you feel grief, give yourself permission to feel it. If you feel tired, give yourself permission to take a rest. If you feel joy, then allow yourself to celebrate happiness. If you are not sure what you are feeling, release the pressure of trying to define the feelings and just be in the moment
Whatever happened today, this week or this month, give yourself “Permission to Breathe
- To remember
- To honour
- To celebrate
- To nurture
- To practice thankfulness
- To laugh
- To cry
- To Breathe