Often times, it baffles me how out of control our thoughts can be and how far we can allow them to take us. One simple look from another person can send us on a downward spiral of self-criticism.
After a short, simple interaction with an acquaintance, we can feel inadequate and rejected. “They don’t like me. It’s because I’m not good enough. My dad used to tell me I wasn’t good enough so it must be true”. Down the rabbit hole we go!
What is self-criticism?
Self-criticism is identifying what we believe to be our shortcomings or deficits. One of hand, this can be helpful, as it can increase our motivation to do our best, help us make better decisions based on past mistakes, or it can take a weakness and turn it into a strength. However, there is a tendency for it to cause great distress, affecting our self-esteem if the levels of self-criticism are high. It can create barriers to us completing our future goals and cause us to stay passive when we really should be standing up for ourselves.
So why do we do this to ourselves?
One thing to remember is that self-criticism starts at a very early age. Perhaps a parent or caregiver was overly critical when you were younger. Maybe you were bullied in school. As much of the research shows, those connections and attachments made with parents and primary care givers, can shape our relationships in the future, as well as, shape our sense of self-worth. When a parent or caregiver is overbearing or harsh, it can make a child feel rejected, as if they are not good enough. When a peer makes fun of our clothes or says our interests are “lame”, it creates a feeling that our opinions, wants and/or needs are not important. This can lead to a lifetime of negative self-talk.
What are some common examples of negative self-talk:
- I’m not worth it.
- There is no use.
- I can’t do it.
- They won’t like me.
- I must be perfect.
- My opinion doesn’t matter.
- They must think I’m such a complainer.
How do I stop it?
The first step is awareness. In order to change a behavior, we must be aware of it. Once you are able to acknowledge it, you have more control over changing it. We can start by changing those thoughts and reminding ourselves that what we are thinking is irrational. Next, we can list any “evidence” we have that these thoughts are true. Investigate your thinking and see if what you are saying is truthful. Would you say this to a friend who experiences a similar situation? Probably not. Whatever you would say to them is what you should be saying to yourself.
So, the next time you say something negative to yourself, reframe it and make it positive. We all make mistakes and we all can learn valuable lessons. We don’t have to let our thoughts create fear and self-doubt. We can take our lessons and create a life of self-compassion and respect. We deserve it!