Being too self-critical is epidemic in our society. It’s almost a national pastime to beat ourselves up over real and imagined imperfections. We became unwitting devotees watching our parents and teachers direct their anger towards us with negative judgments and demeaning labels instead of channeling emotions in appropriate ways. Being receptive little students, we pledged allegiance to those unkind messages and internalized commitments to keep them alive. Today we know the words by heart and speak them inside without even thinking.
For many of us, the expression “you are your own worst enemy” holds a lot of truth. We’re torn between identifying with our “true self,” which is self-accepting, goal-directed, and life-affirming or the “self-critical self,” which mercilessly beats us up and thwarts our efforts to reach our goals.
Whenever we criticize ourselves, we compound the issue. We turn one problem into two — there’s the social blunder, poor financial decision, or disapproving glance in the mirror — and the demeaning self-loathing that follows.
We can systematically start to feel more self-love by recognizing when our critical inner messages start to play and relentlessly wage war.
Are you more than ready to silence the tyrant? Then try these four effective strategies to stop being self-critical when you make a mistake so you can show yourself more love:
- Write down the most common destructive things you say to yourself, such as “I’m so stupid.” “I blew it again.” “ I’m such a bad person. I’m unlovable.”
- Determine what contradicts your old messages and write them down on a card or paper. Change the funky messages to something more positive and objectively true, such as “I’m doing the best I can. / I did the best I could.” I’m fine and I’m doing fine.” Or “Life is for learning. We all make mistakes.” Or “If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently.” Put your truths on a 3×5 card and carry them in your pocket, day-timer, or taped to your computer or dashboard of your car.
- Relentlessly repeat your new thoughts, especially when you’re judging yourself poorly or when you’re crying and feeling down. Repeat them ten, twenty, thirty times! It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. Just repeat them. Interrupt all the “yes, buts” and other discounting thoughts that surface and continue to repeat your new truths.
- Shower yourself with kindness in the form of self-appreciations. Compliment your own abilities, characteristics, qualities, and efforts. It’s not boasting or bragging. It’s looking on the bright side.
Write down three self-appreciations each day. At the end of each week read your list out loud with conviction and enthusiasm. Adding a smile, or even half a smile while repeating your list, will give it a boost.
If this feels totally weird and you can’t come up with a single self-appreciation, start with something small. Name a specific positive trait, talent, or quality and look at yourself from this new perspective. Try something like:
- I‘m intelligent.
- I’m responsible.
- I take good care of my parents.
- I like to help others.
Beating yourself up for not living up to impossible standards is a dead-end road that leads to Point Misery. See how wonderful you feel when you relentlessly focus on the good. Emphasizing your positive qualities and contradicting that internal critic will definitely improve your attitude about yourself. Starting today, turn your self-criticism into self-appreciation. You’ll feel the difference immediately and hear a new pledge of allegiance to the united states of Joy, Love, and Peace!