Self-Criticism: What It Is and How You Can Overcome It

There are days when your inner voice is just downright relentless and overly critical. Other times, it can be very rude. Then self-criticism comes in, and things can go downhill from there.

Toxic self-criticism does not feel good.

Some people become overly self-critical, paralyzing them—they cannot do anything.

Self-criticism can also kill your passion and curiosity.

This can happen to anyone and everyone.

While unfortunate to note, everyone has a harsh inner critic.

However, you don’t have to be a victim of your rude inner critic.

You don’t have to accept all the negative and nasty things your self-critic says about you.

If anything, the ability to silence your inner critic is a sign of strength. 

To truly reap the rewards of personal growth, you need to understand self-criticism’s true meaning and where it comes from.

What Self-Criticism Is

The word criticism is synonymous with opinion, assessment, and judgment. 

Self-criticism can be likened to directing all the assessment, judgment, and opinion toward yourself.

Self-criticism often stems from the early relationships in your childhood.

If you tend to be over-critical of yourself, it likely stemmed from strict parents, peer pressure, demanding bosses or teachers, etc.

If you are like most people, you are likely to find ways to be less self-critical or how you can stop self-criticism and how to stop those self-critical thoughts.

In many cases, self-criticism can also stem from learned behaviors.

For example, pursuing academic excellence can make your inner critic relentless.

Understandably, this can be very taxing to your mental well-being and health.

Ideally, you don’t see self-criticism as a personality trait, regardless of how it started.

You mustn’t be defined by how you treat yourself.

Similarly, your identity should not depend on your inner dialogue.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that shaking off your critical thoughts can be hard—it will require a lot of work.

At times, you will need the help of others to address to stop your self-critic for good.

Mental health professionals and coaches will not only help you develop your self-confidence, but they can also help guide you toward a better and kinder inner voice.

Identifying Toxic Self-Criticism

While some people know the likely sources of self-criticism, many are not good at identifying them.

Having this strong sense of self-awareness is ideal as you complete your tasks.

You must also reflect on how you feel as you encounter new opportunities and challenges.

Think about those times when your job entails that you work independently. 

When you feel overwhelmed, you must take a deep breath and evaluate yourself.

Below are some of the classic examples of self-criticism:

Trying something new. 

You notice that your local curling club is looking for new people to join the team. 

You and a friend have considered joining for a long time. 

However, now that the opportunity has presented itself, you are having second thoughts and doubting yourself. 

What if you won’t learn the rules right away? 

What if you are not athletic enough to keep up? 

Likely, you won’t join the team as your inner critic tells you you would be horrible and won’t have a great time.

Preparing for an examination.

The night before an important examination, your inner critic can convince you you you are not smart enough to pass even if you have been preparing and studying for weeks.

It is also likely that your inner voice just can’t let go of your high standards, and you begin to seriously doubt your capability to pass.

You likely tend to keep telling yourself that you are a failure and can’t seem to do anything right even if you have prepared accordingly.

Assembling new furniture.

This is something many people have experienced.

You just got new shelves for your room.

However, you have to assemble them all by yourself.

Your inner critic tells you you are not super handy, so you begin to doubt yourself.

You can also tell yourself that you are too stupid to figure things out alone.

You can end up becoming very frustrated as a result.

All the negative self-talk might cause you to abandon what you are doing, and you just ask others to do it for you.

The Impact of Self-Criticism on Your Mental Health

As evident in the examples above, self-criticism can stand in your way and cause you to stay stuck, unable to do or accomplish anything. 

Ideally, self-criticism should help you see your mistakes so you can avoid doing them in the future.

Unfortunately, self-criticism is often damaging.

Nasty inner dialogues and negative self-talk can impact your mental health.

Even if others treat you kindly, how you treat yourself matters most.

Below are other ways self-criticism can affect your mental health:

Relationships

While it might not be your intention, self-criticism can impact those around you.

This is especially true if you do nothing but think and speak of negative thoughts.

Over time, your relationships with others can become very strained.

You might even end up withdrawing from your connections and avoiding social activities. 

This can also cause you to feel isolated and lonely.

Eating Disorders

When your self-esteem is low, you tend to criticize everything about yourself, even your appearance.

Your self-perception can become so poor that you tend to obsess over any flaws, even the small ones.

These negative thoughts can even lead others to self-harm or take drastic measures to improve their appearance.

Eating disorders can impact both physical and mental health.

In addition, constant and severe self-criticism can make you hyper-focused on your appearance, and you will think you will never be good enough.

Guilt

Self-criticism can cause you to compare yourself to others, and it won’t end well.

Self-criticism can also cause you to feel guilty.

This is especially true if you fail at some things you are doing.

If anything, negative thoughts and self-criticism can hinder your personal growth and rob you of joy.

How to Overcome Self-Criticism

One of the most effective ways to overcome self-criticism is to be kind to yourself.

While small kind gestures will not change your life overnight, you will reap the benefits in time.

Below are other ways you can stop self-criticism for good:

  • Stop using self-criticism to motivate you to finish a job, assignment, project, or anything else you want to work on.
  • List your strengths, skills, and other great qualities and focus on them rather than your weaknesses and failures.
  • Speak with a professional if you have experienced any trauma. They can help you navigate your feelings so they won’t get the best of you.
  • Acknowledge that you are human and you are bound to make mistakes. Let go of perfectionism. It does not exist. Opt for progress as opposed to perfection.
  • Think about some advice you would give to a close friend or loved one in the same position as you. Then follow your advice.
  • Strive to have a balance of self-improvement and self-compassion. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Tell yourself that you are doing the best you can, which should suffice.
  • Observe, take notes, and be mindful of your feelings, thoughts, and reactions. This can help you figure out if there are certain things or people that can trigger you. This can also make it a lot easier to avoid those triggers.
  • Keep a journal of your progress so you will feel motivated that you are improving. It would also help if you kept a gratitude journal.

Final Thoughts

Your inner critic should not take over your life and cause you to become miserable. If you are finding it hard to tackle your self-critic on your own, don’t shy away from getting professional help. With dedication and the right people backing you up, you can silence your inner critic for good before you know it.