Self-Criticism isn’t all bad when it propels us into a journey of self-discovery and growth. But there is a major difference between “I need to lose weight” which can jumpstart our motivation to “I am a fat blob.” The way you talk to yourself, and the things you tell yourself can build you up or tear you down.
A harsh and relentless inner critic can be harmful. It limits your ability to live a peaceful and meaningful life. It can judge you, make you feel doubtful of yourself, and tell you that you are not good enough. Constant negative self-criticism will eventually lead to low self-esteem, and if left unchecked can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Allowing the inner critic to hammer away at you will rob you of your self-identity. You will constantly find yourself lost with no road map to your destination.
Notice The Critic
Gain awareness of your inner critic by practicing mindfulness of your inner dialogue. Much of your thinking happens rapidly as you go from one thought to another in seconds. It is estimated that you have around 60,000 thoughts per day. Learning to recognize your thought patterns is key to understanding how your thinking affects your life. Making a conscious effort to slow down and pay attention will help to increase awareness of this life-sucking habit.
Spin Things Differently
A simple twist can create some distance from your inner critic. Instead of telling yourself “I am a loser I will never get a job,” train yourself to say, “I am having a thought that I am not going to get a job.” It may sound ridiculous but this small change of wording can give you distance and remind you that you’re having a moment, just that a low self-esteem moment. The next time, you make a mistake say “Boy did I feel stupid; rather than I am stupid” the statements may appear the same, but the former describes how you feel not who you are.
Find the Evidence
Thoughts are not always true. They are often irrationally negative, so examine the evidence before you believe your thoughts. If you think, “I am going to say something dumb and everyone will laugh at me,” step back and examine what evidence you have that supports your thoughts. This exercise can help you look at your situation more rationally and less emotionally.
Change the Channel
Get unstuck from the channel you’re on. Problem-solving is helpful, but rumination is destructive. When you keep replaying the mistake repeatedly in your head or get stuck thinking about something bad that happened, your mood will take a dive. The best way to change the channel is to get active. Find an activity that will refocus you and temporarily alleviate you from the negative replay in your head. Take a walk, hang out with friends, or get busy on a project.