• Tina

I'm bad bad bad ... criticising yourself

Critical self is one of the TOP unhelpful thinking styles our clients identify, and this thinking style can come in all shapes and sizes ... "I'm really bad at that", "no-one would love me", "if only I was thinner", "I am responsible for all that goes wrong"... I could go on, but I am sure you get my meaning. To critise yourself is to put yourself under attack. Somehow what we are, how we look, how we respond, how we feel, how we act are all interpreted within ourselves as being bad. In the worse cases nothing about us is positive.

We can look at others and only find fault in ourselves, this might sound like compare and contrast however it’s not, if you are using a critical self-mindset there is nothing to positively compare yourself too. This thinking style has an over reliance on the opinion of others, which leads to a devastating impact on a person’s self-esteem. In nearly every area a person using this thinking style will find themselves wanting. It does not take too much of a leap of faith to realise this soon leads to a person becoming closed up, withdrawn and lacking confidence, this is one step away from being to feel depressed or anxious.

This thinking style is believed to have emerged during childhood and it can involve the role of care givers and other significant others. Bullying may play a part, as may having an emotionally unavailable parent or carer meaning when you turn to them, they are not there because they are struggling with their own life. Being subjected to abuse (of any kind) whilst you were growing up.

When our parents or carers give us autonomy, they are encouraging us to attempt things for ourselves and make the mistakes which will undoubtably follow, healthy parenting does this without censure. If you have parents or carers who provide this type of support, then it is more likely their child will develop self-confidence and grow up with a sense of security regarding their own choices and not be overly critical of themselves.

On the other hand, having parents or career who are very controlling and rigid in their approach may have the effect of fostering negative self-perceptions and a low sense of self-worth in children. There is lots of evidence to show when we feel rejected by our parents or carers, are not treated with warmth and compassion, or are frequently criticised then we are more likely to grow up overly critical of both ourselves and others. 

Critical self-talk is a thief - it robs you of building self-confidence and resilience building in the face of challenges.

There are many ways we can try to overcome this thinking style and I have discussed many already namely capturing the thoughts you have, looking for evidence to support them (assuming there is some), try to stop the ruminating on the same issue and look for a different perspective on the problem. However, for the critical-self sufferer often a more compassionate approach to yourself is likely to have a huge benefit.

There's a huge difference between telling yourself that you're not good enough and reminding yourself that there's room for improvement. We all need to be responsible for our flaws and try to be committed to doing better in the future. Although it sounds a bit counterintuitive, you can do both simultaneously.

This is best with an example ... you might accept that you feel anxious about an upcoming presentation at work while also making a decision to improve your public speaking skills. Just because you are anxious does not mean you are a failure and will fail. If you accept this is an area you wish to improve then try to look at it as investing in a different version of yourself.

I have added a video which explains self-compassion and how it can help us overcome critical self - with examples of how to use self-compassion exercises with some examples. It’s a great video I hope you enjoy it.

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