Self awareness and honesty about your foibles and flaws are generally considered virtues. You need to know the true status of things if you want to grow and be a healthy functioning human, right? (I’m in the wrong line of work if the answer to that is no.)
Honest self awareness and self criticism aren’t the same.
Self criticism goes beyond a healthy quest for self improvement.
If you’re prone to self criticism, you’ll fall into a familiar cycle of setting unrealistic and uncompromising demands and expectations. Those demands lead to falling short of an ever rising standard. Then bam, you feel like a failure and assault yourself with a cycle of self criticism.
“an intense and persistent relationship with the self, characterized by (1) an uncompromising demand for high standards in performance, and (2) an expression of hostility and derogation toward the self when these high standards are — inevitably — not met” — Golan Shahar, Ph.D.
That cycle of self criticism not only makes you miserable in your head, it contributes to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use disorders, juvenile delinquency, physical health conditions, and even suicidality.
Rather than being the result of the above symptoms and disorders, the self criticism is thought to be the cause.
Self criticism is taking the joy out of your life.
It’s hard to see the good things in life while there’s a barrage of self critical thoughts in the background. And if you see them, the enjoyment feels out of reach.
Even in your closest relationships, self criticism can leave you feeling on edge, hostile, and wary of others.
It’s like you’re constantly fighting an internal enemy.
Make friends with yourself instead.
There are enough opportunities for challenges from the outside world, so be friends with yourself on the inside. What would you tell your best friend during an assault of self criticism?
Stop taking yourself so seriously.
You’re already good enough. You don’t have to be constantly producing or achieving something. You’re lovable right now.
When that inner critic starts talking to you:
Take a few deep breaths, and step back so you can see the situation as a neutral observer. Without emotion, take an assessment of the situation.
No matter what happened, tell yourself you love and accept yourself right now.
Remind the inner critic, you’re not concerned with the labels and beliefs you’ve outgrown. It doesn’t matter today that you failed a spelling test in 3rd grade or that you got cut from the basketball team.
Love yourself right now. You can continue to grow and have goals, but love yourself right now. You’re already good enough.
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