Self criticism and mental health. 4 signs that you may be trapped in it.

Everyone knows the definition of self-criticism, however, not everyone knows that self-criticism is an inner voice that hurts our overall well- being and negatively affects our self-perception, self-acceptance and overall mental health. The base for self-criticism lies in our inner self-talk: the type of internal communication that we have with ourselves on daily basis. Self-talk includes all thoughts about ourselves ( “I am great” vs “I am a terrible mother”),  our opinions about situations (“That went well” vs “It was horrible”), and all rumination about the past (“If I just did it differently”), present (“What is wrong with me?”), and the future (“I am never going to do it right!”).

Self criticism many times is hard to notice as we tend to think on the “autopilot.” Words come to our mind, negative views cripples in, our ability to use mindfulness is turned off, and eventually the rumination breaks don’t seem to work. In those moments, you need to use the strategy called: Stop-Think- Act that allows us to pause, assess the situations, and shake off the negative self-talk by challenging the rational behind it: “Am I using the right judgment or I am just beating myself up?”

Here are 4 signs that you may be trapped in self-criticism:

1. Tendency to feel guilty:

Nothing is good enough for you. You tend to overanalyze every single mistake and instead of looking for solutions, you tend to dwell on things you did wrong. You feel personally responsible for everything that goes wrong and you feel disappointed when things don’t go your way even when there is a chance for improvement. You often feel like you failed.

2. Avoiding taking a chance:

You are afraid that you are going to make mistake or be criticized by others so you simply don’t do anything that deep down you would like to do. You tend to be afraid of saying something “stupid”, doing something inappropriate, being ridiculed or misunderstood so you tend to stay quiet. 

3. Skepticism:

You tend to think: “What if…” You always analyze the possibility of something going wrong and often question or criticize your own work, actions, choices you make. You tend to get defensive when given feedback and take things personally, often feeling critiqued by others. 

4. Questioning:

You tend to questions your actions, behaviors, words you say. You analyze other people’s reactions, non-verbal communication or words and often assume that they dont like you or think that you are: not fun, stupid, fat, boring, uneducated etc. You often lack distance to things happening in your life. 

How to break free from the cycle of negative self-talk

Remember, that constant self-criticism is a form of self-sabotaging. It always makes us choose the wrong option, it “guilt-trips” us and makes us feel defeated, negative, pessimistic, hurt, lessened. Whatever you are self-critical because you have received negative comments about yourself or your actions throughout your life, you have developed the negative self- talk as a result of struggles with mental or emotional health, personal relationships, or internal struggles, you have a choice to make a change and develop skills that will help you to reframe the way you think about yourself. Our brain is very plastic: it believes in negative as much as it believes in positive messages.

To change the perception of yourself and increase your healthy self-talk, try to reframe the way you think about yourself and replace every negative comment with the opposite – alternative, positive one, practice self-compassion: treat yourself with friendly kindness and use non-judgmental, supportive and realistic self-view.  

To conclude, let’s finish with the famous quote by Brene Brown:

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.”

To find out more about fostering self-compassion and acknowledging our worthiness and its impact on challenging self-criticism check: