Self-criticism is important because it increases awareness of our mistakes and weaknesses. But criticizing and denigrating us for anything is simply masochistic. If we are not careful about the critic we carry inside, we can end up becoming our worst enemies. It is impossible to feel good about ourselves and motivate ourselves to fight for our dreams if we constantly criticize ourselves.
Excessive self-criticism, one that does not produce improvement but makes us feel bad, is usually a symptom of low self-esteem. In fact, if we pay attention to our inner critic, we will realize that the words we direct are not even ours but a repetition of criticisms that someone has made us in the past, be they parents, teachers, partners or other significant figures during our life.
Symptoms of excessive self-criticism
- You blame yourself for every bad thing that happens
Thomas Harris said, "Blaming the nature of your mistakes does not change the nature of your mistakes." It is good to take responsibility for our mistakes, but from there to feel guilty for everything that happens there is an abyss. There are many external factors beyond our control, so if we want to maintain a good emotional balance, it is essential to be aware that our responsibility for events has a limit. Feeling guilty of everything implies carrying a weight that does not correspond to us.
- You apply general labels
When we make a mistake, we feel frustrated, so it's important to reflect to understand where we went wrong. However, applying general labels such as "I am a total failure" or "I am unable to do anything" does not help us but ends up undermining our confidence. Constructive criticism that really helps us improve involves being specific. Each label becomes a limit, a limit that when fixed in our mind ends up becoming an insurmountable obstacle.
- You are never satisfied with your results
Whatever we do, we always see mistakes. Even if we have accomplished something wonderful, instead of celebrating or feeling satisfied, we focus on the small mistakes, the almost imperceptible flaws or the problems we have encountered along the way. In this way, we harbor a permanent dissatisfaction that prevents us from feeling good about ourselves.
- You set yourself impossible standards
Being self-critical in excess is usually related to perfectionism. In this case, we think that we cannot be happy or satisfied until we reach certain standards that we have set ourselves. The problem is that these standards are difficult to achieve because they are so high that they are practically impossible, consequently we condemn ourselves to a permanent state of dissatisfaction because we pursue unattainable goals.
- Repeatedly analyze your mistakes
We all make mistakes. Sometimes we can fix it, sometimes not. But if we are excessively self-critical we will remain stuck in these errors, we will continually retrace our steps, even if we know that there is nothing to be done. The critic living within us feeds the kind of negative thoughts that generate guilt and keep us from moving forward.
- You never compliment yourself
It is important to be self-critical, but it is also important to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. It is stated that for every criticism we should receive at least 8 compliments. Thus we are able to counteract the negative effect on our self-esteem. But if we do nothing but criticize ourselves without recognizing what we do well, our self-esteem will end up falling apart. It's impossible to feel like a precious person if all we do is criticize ourselves.
- Think black and white
Chronic self-criticism is usually the result of dichotomous thinking. We think things are black and white, regardless of the shades in between. We believe that things have to be done in a certain way and if we don't get the desired results, it will be a failure. Developing more flexible thinking will help us be less ruthless critics. We must always remember that establishing absolute ideals makes us ignore partial successes and demotivates us.
- You constantly compare and always lose
Self-criticism implies confrontation. The problem starts when we confront too often and always lose. This happens because we set a trap: we only look at the characteristics and things of others and which, in our opinion, make them better or superior. Basically, we minimize our qualities and achievements, while maximizing those of others, so we are always at a disadvantage. Consequently, every time we confront ourselves we end up with a bad taste in the mouth.
- The risk scares you
Chronic self-criticism ends up undermining our self-esteem. Since we only focus on the negative and what needs improvement, we end up developing a negative image of ourselves. Therefore, we are afraid of challenges, because we think we will fail or not behave as we should.
- You don't forgive yourself easily
Forgiveness means putting aside criticism. But if we are stuck in self-criticism, it will be harder for us to turn the page. To live fully, it is necessary to know how to forgive and update our "I", so that the past does not determine our future.