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Are you being too hard on yourself? If you’re your own worst critic, you’re undermining your peace, happiness, and contentment.
People who are constantly hard on themselves for not living up to their expectations often dwell in the negative. After all, that’s where unhealthy criticism typically lives. Fortunately, that’s a problem that can be addressed and improved.
So how do you stop being so hard on yourself?
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you ease up on yourself. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
1. Understand why you are so hard on yourself.
The key to finding a solution is understanding the problem’s source. There are several reasons why you may be too hard on yourself. You may know that you aren’t working up to your full capabilities. You may be pursuing positive reinforcement and accolades from other people. Maybe you’re struggling with trauma or mental illness that needs to be addressed.
Whatever the reason, you will want to try to understand why you are so hard on yourself so you can find a solution that works for you.
And if you’re having a hard time with that, it may be helpful to talk to a certified mental health counselor who can help you explore those feelings more.
2. Personify your inner critic to counter them.
You may find that personifying your inner critic allows you to better counter that narrative. Give your inner critic a name and look at their narrative as someone else telling you something negative. Even though that narrative is a part of you, it’s not an accurate reflection of who you are and your efforts.
By personifying your inner critic, you can more effectively argue against it. Instead of these internal thoughts being a part of your monologue, you can instead think, “Hey John, shut up. I’m doing my best over here.”
Furthermore, it makes it easier to counter those negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
“You could have done better. Instead, you bombed that presentation, and everyone thinks you’re incompetent.”
“I can always do better. No one is perfect, and I don’t have to be, either. I cannot assume I know what everyone else is thinking.”
3. Schedule time for critical examination.
Some people find it helpful to schedule a specific time for a critical examination. That helps to train your brain to expect to partake in a particular action at a specific time. This may also help you direct your thoughts when they become overwhelming or intrusive.
“I don’t criticize or examine myself until I journal in the morning. That will give me some time to sleep it off and come at it from a fresh perspective.”
That does not mean you should spend this time beating yourself up for not living up to unreasonable expectations. It’s not an excuse to tear yourself to pieces. Instead, your self-examination should strive to be factual.
Could you have done better on that presentation? Probably. But you tried your hardest, and there’s nothing more that you can do about it now.
4. Avoid generalizing situations. Be specific.
Many people who are too hard on themselves typically think in broad strokes. That is not helpful because it can’t be constructive at all. “I suck” isn’t feedback. That’s just you being a jerk to yourself. Instead, you want to examine specific elements to see where you may have faltered and where you can improve. Let’s go back to the presentation example.
You get up in front of your coworkers and give your presentation. You may have stumbled over words, and one of the slides was out of place.
Instead of saying, “I suck. I’m terrible at presentations.” You can instead say, “I need to work on my verbal presentation skills” and “I need to double-check my slides next time to ensure they are in the proper order.”
These specific points of feedback are actionable. You can’t improve on “I suck.” That statement offers no path to better yourself. There’s a good chance that other people aren’t judging you as harshly as you’re judging yourself. Even professional speakers stumble sometimes or mess up their slides.
It happens. It’ll happen to you. What matters is how you handle it.
5. Make “what if” work for you.
“What if?” statements are intangible meanderings that are typically negative and used as a tool to tear yourself down. What if everything goes wrong? What if I look stupid? What if I suck? What if people laugh at me?
And…what if they don’t? What if everything goes right and you nail it? What if your audience thinks you did an amazing job? What if you don’t suck, and your preparation all pays off? What if people applaud you instead of laughing at you?
People who are hard on themselves rarely consider positive “what if” scenarios. And, let’s face it, that’s hard to do if you don’t feel good about yourself or experience a lot of self-doubts.
6. Do not use unreasonable standards to harm yourself.
If you see the signs that you’re too hard on yourself, it’s time to reexamine your standards to ensure they are reasonable.
Sometimes, a person who is too hard on themselves sets the bar so unrealistically high that they can no longer reach it. This isn’t always a conscious choice. It may be that you made an assessment, a negative perception interfered, and you decided it was totally reasonable.
Ask yourself if other people have reached that standard? Not just one or two, but more than that. Looking at your peers to see how they’re doing may be helpful. This isn’t necessarily a matter of comparing yourself to your peers. Instead, you want to get an idea. Let’s give you an example to better illustrate this.
You have a quota at work to make 100 sales calls. You look at your coworkers and see that only one person out of all the other employees can meet that quota. In that scenario, it’s not a matter of whether or not you’re performing well enough. It is far more likely that the set quota is off and unreasonable. It has nothing to do with you or your ability to perform.
“But wait! That one person is still crushing it! Why aren’t I?” Who knows? Maybe they hang up and get on the next call faster? Maybe they’re just good at sales? Maybe they have a better-quality call list? There are many reasons they might be doing better that have nothing to do with your ability to perform.
7. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
This may come as a surprise, but you’re only human. You’re a fallible creature on a rock spinning around the sun in a vast universe. You are going to make mistakes. Not only are you going to make mistakes, but you are allowed to make mistakes and should expect to make mistakes.
Everyone does. What’s most important is how you address your mistakes.
How do you fix your mistake? Is it an apology? Do you need to replace something that you broke? Do you need to spend more time preparing for the next thing? Possibly double-checking your work?
What can you do to fix this mistake right now? And what can you do to prevent that mistake from happening again?
8. Define what success means to you.
“Success” is an inconsistent metric. Everyone has a different idea of what success looks like. Furthermore, not everyone has reasonable standards for success. Your perception of success may not be accurate or appropriate for whatever it is that you’re doing. Success may be an intangible concept you can never fully attain because it’s just smoke in the wind. You reach for it but can’t grasp it because it’s not concrete.
You need to have a concrete idea of what success looks like so you can grasp it and say, “Yes! I succeeded in reaching this goal!”
A good way to define success is to set specific, reasonable goals so you can stay focused on the goal.
“I want to be good at painting” is an intangible goal. What kind of painting do you want to do? What would make you good at that style of painting? How can you be better at that style of painting? Do you want to attend a class at a local art center?
These specifics help you set standards of what success looks like. That way, if you don’t meet your standard of success, you can set a new goal and strive for that.
9. Do more of the things that you associate with positivity.
People who struggle with being too hard on themselves may struggle with positivity. It may be that you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, or a mental illness which can translate into self-doubt and self-criticism.
Bear with me before you click off the page because I know that probably sounds like, “just think positively, and everything will be fine!” You want to try to fill your mind with more positive things to help counteract that negative stream of consciousness, so you don’t spiral and stay in the hole. If you focus on the negative thoughts, you’ll spin into the negative thoughts, which will increase your self-doubt and negative narratives.
Try to do some positive things before you sit down to think about your efforts. That should help you attain a more balanced view of the situation.
10. Take action that will carry you closer to success.
One of the worst things you can do if you struggle with negative thoughts and self-criticism is to sit around and think too much. We’re not talking about some planning or casual consideration. Instead, we’re thinking about spending hours ruminating about all the things you didn’t get right or that will go wrong with your effort. Remember, what if everything goes great?
Don’t spend too much time thinking, overthinking, thinking about how you’re incapable, or thinking about everything that can go wrong. Instead, get to work. Stop thinking and just do.
11. Ask whether it will matter in a week/month/year.
Many people who are too hard on themselves fear failure and are obsessed with perfection. But this can be tackled by habitualizing the question “will it matter in?”
Every time something doesn’t follow your ideal plan, instead of falling into a self-critical frame of mind, simply consider whether this bump in the road will matter in a week, a month, or a year.
Consider that you might not even remember it or that you will look back with a smile on your face, then watch as you start to feel more sympathetic towards yourself in the present moment rather than berating yourself for whatever went wrong.
12. Embrace uncertainty.
Regularly remind yourself that neither you, nor anyone else, can predict what might happen in the future.
What you currently see as a failure might actually turn out to be the beginning of something wonderful, and what you think of as perfection today might not be as perfect in the future.
Embrace the fact that life is unpredictable and somewhat chaotic at times. You might not yet be able to see the good in the bad or the bad in the good, so why fret about which is which and beat yourself up about it?
13. Develop a thick skin.
It is almost inevitable that you will face some criticism from time to time, so it is important that you form a thick skin in order to restrict the damage it does to your sense of worth.
Learning to take on board suggestions is vital if you are to avoid seeing them as personal attacks, and it is healthy to consider these alternate points of view as learning opportunities.
Remember, just because someone else disagrees with how you do something, it doesn’t mean they are right and you are wrong. Never let someone else undermine a view that you hold passionately just because they see it differently.
14. Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
When you are struggling to believe in yourself, it pays to have plenty of loved ones around you whose belief never falters.
They can help to pull your mind out of the darkness and back towards the light by reassuring you of your many talents, and by giving you a sense of perspective so that you can enjoy where you are today and all the abundance it has to offer.
When other people are so sure of you, it can’t help but make you a little surer of yourself.
Still not sure how to stop being hard on yourself? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to challenge the types of thoughts that are simply too tough on yourself so that you can be a little kinder.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.