Let’s be honest, most of us are self-critical from time to time. But life is already difficult enough, without the extra pressure that we place on ourselves.
It is one thing to set standards for yourself, but when those standards hold you back, it can be really damaging to your mental health.
Your mind is with you for the long run, whether you like it or not. So let us ask you this, what would you prefer it to be, a friend or an enemy?
Therefore, this article will teach you 8 signs that you’re being too hard on yourself and give you 10 tips for beating your self-criticisms.
8 SIGNS THAT YOU’RE BEING TOO HARD ON YOURSELF
- You don’t feel happy unless everything is ‘right’. (e.g. ‘I’m not going to have a good time today because my hair isn’t how I like it’)
- You judge yourself against other people. (e.g. ‘Joe Bloggs is always working, maybe that’s what I should be doing’)
- You give yourself mountains to climb. (e.g. ‘I need to start exercising for an hour per day to get the results I want’)
- You think about past mistakes very frequently. (e.g. ‘I wish I said…’)
- You’re constantly looking for radical change. (e.g. ‘Things might improve if I switched careers or moved house)
- You deny yourself short-term happiness (e.g. ‘I’ll be happy when…’)
- You tie your value to external stuff. (e.g. ‘I will look better if I bought an expensive watch’)
- You beat yourself up when things don’t go right. (e.g. ‘that task was so simple and I messed it up, I’m an idiot)
Being tough with yourself is obviously going to have a negative impact on your mental health. It can drive your self-esteem downwards, lead to feelings of worthlessness and guilt. As well as this, it can rip up any feelings of hope that you may have. Each of which are associated with certain mental health conditions, such as depression.
But anyway, there isn’t much point in us telling you that you’re being hard on yourself without telling you what you can do to help yourself. So here are 10 tips for doing so.
HOW TO STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR LANGUAGE
This may sound minor, but it’s really not. Every time you say ‘I need’ or ‘I should’, you’re acting as if your current state is not good enough. Maybe try and use ‘I could’ instead.
If you’re frequently believing that something has to happen for you to be enough then you’re always going to be chasing that.
Also, adding yet and but to the end of a self-deprecating sentence can help with this.
For example, instead of ‘I’m not good at this’, you can say ‘I’m no good at this yet’. Or instead of ‘I need to be better’, you can say ‘I need to better, but at least I’m trying.’
So, yes, language matters. We’re not saying to remove these from your vocabulary entirely, but just to be careful with them when you’re talking to yourself.
RECOGNISE THAT THOUGHTS ARE NOT FACTS
You don’t have to believe everything your mind says. Just because you’ve thought it, it doesn’t make it true. Knowing this can help you to separate your thoughts and give more attention to the ones that are welcome and less to the ones that aren’t.
STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT, INSTEAD TRY TO BE THE BEST THAT YOU CAN BE
Unfortunately, being perfect is never going to be an option. Again, if you spend your whole life trying to be perfect, where does it end?
Being the best that you can be, despite your circumstances, is a lot more achievable.
Plus, you get to decide what this looks like every single day.
Mantras are essentially little sentences you tell yourself for, in this case, motivation, or to remind yourself of who you really are.
Here’s a useful one:
‘The biggest project I’ll ever work on is myself’ – essentially reminding yourself that you are the most important factor in your life and that you deserve to be the number one priority.
If you catch yourself in a struggle that is forcing you to be self-critical, you can challenge that by taking a metaphorical step back to look at the bigger picture.
Zoom out and celebrate how far you’ve come. You might even realise that you’re right in the middle of what you used to look forward to.
APPLY YOUR WISDOM
Let’s imagine you wanted to boost the confidence of a friend that was criticising themselves or was suffering from low self-esteem.
What type of thing would you say to them?
You can take that and apply it to yourself.
COUNTERACT THE NEGATIVES
Ok, you may judge yourself harshly on some things. But there are definitely some things that you can give yourself credit for.
Even if it is just that you’re trying, that is always good enough.
GO FORWARD ONE STEP AT A TIME
Dopamine is one of the chemicals in the brain that is responsible for pleasure and motivation.
By breaking everything down into manageable steps, you get access to dopamine quicker, rather than having to wait for it as you would for a large task.
So instead of putting pressure on yourself to go on a 10km run, you can tell yourself that you’re going for 5 x 2km runs. Each time you reach the 2km mark, your brain will feel a sense of achievement and is likely to want more of that feeling, thereby providing you with that much-needed motivation.
You will then immediately feel better about yourself, instead of being self-critical for not achieving the mammoth challenge that you’d set.
USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Positive reinforcement works by rewarding a positive behaviour each time it occurs so that it is more likely to happen again in the future. It is often a simple trick that goes a long way.
This could be by doing something you enjoy or an actual physical treat. You could give yourself 20 minutes of guilt-free TikTok scrolling every time you tick something off your to-do list, for example!
CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF
Low self-esteem and being self-critical can often be associated with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Or even early traumatic experiences.
If your self-esteem interferes with your day-to-day life, you may want to seek some support, which you can do by clicking here.
You can also take an NHS Depression and Anxiety quiz by clicking here.