Self criticism clouds your reality.....yep and it can even change your whole life landscape. It can change your life to the extent that you feel misplaced or displaced. It can open the door for that destructive perspective of, “I am a victim” or “it is everyone else’s fault”. Then in turn this limits our ability to take responsibility for not only our actions, but also our thoughts. So to put this differently self-criticism often goes hand in hand with guilt, depression and anxiety, can precede depression, difficulties in relationships. Self-criticism is also a factor in eating disorders and self-mutilation and loneliness.
For many of us self-criticism is just the way we talk to ourselves. Our inner dialogue, that can be silent or audible and regularly sounds like this: I am a failure, No one can love me, I can’t do anything right. I look horrible, What’s wrong with me? I’m such an idiot, I am always screwing up! And did you know that we so often assume they’re 100 percent true, that these thoughts are accurate reflection of real life? But the truth is that they’re not. Our thoughts aren’t necessarily realistic or even meaningful. And we don’t have to believe them or act on them. Remember that what we think about comes about....so if we are always telling ourselves that we are a failure, that no one will love me, I look horrible, I am an idiot...you got it – that is exactly what is going to become real. Even if we are thinking it, for thoughts are energy and matter follows energy, our thoughts will become fact, however spoken words are far more powerful, so they will become fact far quicker!
We think (very wrongly I might add) that such self-critical statements somehow safeguard against laziness, mistakes and complacency; that they’ll somehow keep us in line and ensure we achieve our goals, however the opposite actually happens. The feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, anger, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment and hopelessness that self criticism brings up for us destroys our resolve, drains our energy and confidence and paralyzes progress
Now there is constructive self-criticism and unconstructive self-criticism.
Unconstructive self-criticism, is destructive, inconsiderate, judges the “you” (not your work or behavior) and is totally unbalanced – it reeks of failure and disconnects us from the actual reality which can lead to confusion, guilt, blame and shame.
Constructive criticism, gives us specific insight into what we could have done; it’s an honest, unbiased, considerate and respectful enquiry of our behaviour and work. This helps us to learn another way of doing or being. To have this level of honesty can be seen as “easier said than done”, however if we can confront our inner demons we can slowly retrain ourselves to think differently and limit and delete those feelings of hopelessness and despair that plague those who self criticise. There are no “wrong” or “bad” choices – there are just results or consequences for our choices and if something turns out the way we did not want it to, then we have another choice of taking another action.
So many people believe that being hard on themselves is the only thing that will make them better people, however there is NOTHING in research to back this belief. Self-criticism has been shown to increase procrastination, worry, anxiety and severely restrict us from attaining our goals. If you already feel worthless and incompetent, you may feel like there is no point in even trying to do better next time, or at the worst not even have a next time.
From my personal experience with self criticism – and I have had lots of practice unfortunately – it is sinister and destructive, and has you in a web of entrapment – often when you know that you do not want to be there. The mind is a tool that for some of us we require teaching how to use it well and appropriately, for things of use, uplifting, progress, potential and prosperity. Self criticism is like a vortex that drags or sucks you down, all you see is how stuck you think you are, problems and lack – what you have not got or who you are not.
So how about stepping out – one step at a time, from this viscous cycle of self criticism. As I mentioned earlier what we focus on is what manifests, and it sure takes effort to flick the switch from the self critical mode to self appreciation. I can say with full assurance it sure is worth it, every bit of concentration, focus and effort to find that place where you can see even a glimmer of light, which if you keep focused on, will become a glow and eventually the darkness and destruction will fade either right out of the picture, or at least into the very far corner of your life. Yes, I can hear you asking “will it stay out or in that far away corner?” Chances are not entirely, however if you have managed to banish self criticism, even for a short time, then you CAN do it again. Chances are that it will not hit you for the six it did last time, and you will come out of that place sooner and more easily. Practice is key here. You take any sports person, musician, dancer, or child learning to walk or read or write – they have to practice, practice, practice, and even when they have “got it” they still practice.
Life is a practice, where we are practicing how not to do things that hurt us or others, where we practice how to do things better or differently, where we practice how to love on a daily basis. Anything that we do or say that hurts another hurts us. If we cannot love ourselves, then we are not free to really love another, even if it is our own child, for how can we feel for another what we do not feel for ourselves. If we are critical of ourselves, then we are critical of others. And if we are critical then that is the sort of person we will attract into our lives – whether we want it or not.
For many of us the self criticism is a voice in our head, and is subtle, yet we get swamped by it. Sometimes it has the force of a tidal wave, and leaves us emotional, exhausted and wrung out as it recedes, because it does not take the debris of the of shame, guilt, sadness, anger, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, desolation and hopelessness it leaves in its wake.
So begin to practice Constructive criticism, to give you clearer insight into what is actually going on. What is truth in your situation? Often talking to another helps us to put things into perspective...because we are SO emotionally involved and entrenched in our own lives and often find it challenging, if at all possible to actually step back even one step and look from there. The further back we can step the clearer picture we get, and while some can do this alone, it is often easier with another holding space for us. The bottom line for me is to ask myself, “would I speak to my best friend like I speak to myself?” and “If I am talking to myself, or even thinking thoughts like this, would anyone want to be my friend – NO – so then change your thoughts to those that would invite friendships” It helps me to start appreciating myself again, to start looking at all the things I DO have in my life that are wonderful. And so the practice continues...as I journey this life. Sometimes I will go for months and months then I will get hit by an unsuspecting tsunami, and I have to dig deep, hang on and forge myself different thought patterns until I come back to safety.