How to Combat Self-criticism

By Dotun Ola

Many times we act conditioned by what we believe others will think or say about us and, in the end, most of the time it is we who judge ourselves more harshly.

Self-criticism is that little voice that judges and values us inside our heads. Most of us hear it, but for some people, self-criticism can be very damaging.

The voice they hear is always there to criticize their behavior, make them feel guilty for the negative events they go through, and, ultimately, ruin their self-esteem and keep them from their dreams.

The voice of our “inner critic” cannot be made to disappear, but we can try to “tame” it so that its effects are not so negative in our lives. If we don’t put it at bay, if we don’t have tools to combat self-criticism, it will continue to sabotage our self-esteem and our self-confidence.

Taming the “Inner Critic”

1. Self-criticism, is That You?

The first thing we must do is find out if self-criticism is responsible for our discomfort and be aware of when it is. To do this, every time we feel bad and we are not very clear about the origin of the feeling, we must do an exercise of reflection and listen to “our mind”.

If you detect that your inner critic is at full capacity criticizing you, it is time to pay attention to it. We are not referring to analyzing what he is saying or assessing whether he is right or wrong. Simply be aware that the source of discomfort at that moment is our inner critic.

Once you locate the cause, there is less chance of taking for granted whatever is “saying inside your head.” Somehow, you gain control of the situation.

2. Heed the Message

Now yes. Once we know what the source of discomfort is, we must pay attention to the message that our inner critic transmits to us. Why?. Because the messages he sends us have often been words that we have internalized in the past, as children or young people, from people who have been harsh with us.

Our parents, teachers, and schoolmates may have told us in the past some phrases that we have internalized without realizing it and now, our inner critic repeats them to us, hurting us. If we can locate the origin of the harmful message, we can separate ourselves from it.

When we know the origin of the message, we can tell ourselves that we are not what our critic tells us, but that those words correspond to another person. In case of not being able to recognize the origin, the task is the same, to be clear that we are not the critic, but that we have internalized that criticism as a result of the words of other people.

3. Accept Criticism

Why accept something that is hurting us? We must differentiate between accepting and agreeing. In this case, we accept criticism in the sense of not fighting against it, not resisting it, and not denying it because in Jung’s words: “What you deny subdues you and what you accept transforms you.”

4. Could You Be a Little Nicer?

At this point, we refer to compassion for ourselves. In the same way that we feel compassion for another person when we think that they are being treated unfairly, in our case it is the same. When our critic appears with a “wish for war”, it is necessary that this feeling of compassion towards ourselves appears.

It’s about being aware of the situation. Our critic is attacking us, he is hurting us, we recognize that damage and ask him to treat us in a more friendly way since we are aware that criticism is disproportionate.

5. I’ve Had Enough

When the three previous points have not been enough to tame our inner critic, it is time to stand up to him. And how are we going to do it? First, we attend to the message, as we did before, and then we are going to dismantle everything that it says about us with evidence. We are going to dedicate ourselves to looking for evidence that shows him that what he is “saying about us” is not true.

6. Forgiveness

Sometimes we will find some reason in the internal critics. None of us are perfect, but self-criticism exaggerates and distorts our small “failures” making them seem huge and finding in them a throwing weapon.

It is then that we must become aware of that part of the truth (only the true part of the criticism), accept that, like everyone else, we have “flaws” and forgive ourselves for it. Forgive ourselves in the sense of not blaming ourselves for not being perfect.

Mistakes are accepted, we learn from them, we try to solve them as much as possible, and we move forward with more experience and more knowledge.

7. Re-educate Your Inner Critic

Teaching him not to be so cruel. We’re going to have to live with the inner critic all our lives so we should start getting along. How do we do it?. Teaching him manners.

When our critic begins to attack us, we will try to rephrase what he says to us, using warmer and more compassionate words, in the same way, that we would criticize a person we love. That is, trying to be constructive and avoiding hurt feelings.

One possibility may be to reformulate positively. If our critic tells us “you did that wrong again”, we can replace that expression with “I’m going to try to find a way to do that right”.