6 Steps to Overcoming Self-Criticism

6 Steps to overcoming self-criticism

6 Steps to overcoming self-criticism

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal 6 ways to overcome self-criticism.

First a quick update:

“Rejection by dads is devastating
From the series “Get Motivated” on the TV show The Daily Buzz, Patrick Wanis PhD reveals how rejection by dad is worse for kids than rejection by mom. Watch the video here and read about the 50 year study and how dads affect kids’ self-esteem.  Also read the article about the significance and impact of dads hugging their sons: here.

Now, let’s talk about 6 ways to overcome self-criticism.

One of the great contributors to daily stress is our constant thinking and worrying. We are bombarded by stimuli and messages all day long; and for those that can’t turn off their phones, the bombardment and constant thinking can be all night long as well.

Additionally, we are also constantly talking to ourselves, and often unconsciously; we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. Those thoughts and messages are labeled as the Inner Chatterbox. This is the voice telling us what we need to be doing and should be doing, what we did wrong, and why we are not good enough or deserving. Read my article “Controlling the Inner Chatterbox”.

The voice that tells us that we might fail and that we are not worthy is the voice of self-doubt. Read my article “Conquering self-doubt”.

The voice that criticizes us after the event can be referred to as the Inner Critic.

This is the voice that attacks us after we have completed an event or task and it identifies what we did wrong and proceeds to criticize or harshly judge us.

All the voices or messages we experience or playback in our mind come from the programming we received in childhood – specific events, parents, teachers, peers, media, advertising, religion and so forth.

The Inner Critic – the voice that judges you also determines the way you judge yourself – the way you perceive yourself. If you experience harsh self-judgment, then most likely you will also judge others just as harshly – even if you do it unconsciously.

The result is that harsh self-criticism damages your self-esteem and self-image, creating deep insecurity, and damaging your relationships because you exude self-loathing and repel people. In other words, if you don’t like yourself and don’t think you are god enough, you will then attract people who will reflect to you what you subconsciously believe about yourself – they will treat you the same way or you will attract someone who will try to rescue you and convince you that you are worthy but you will sabotage them.

Here are 6 steps to overcoming self-criticism.

1. Identify the voice
Listen to the words that you use or hear after you have completed a task or event; whose words are they really? Who first used those words or judged you this way? Most likely it was a parent or authority figure. In other word, it’s not really your voice.

2. Break the voice

The thoughts or voice can be relentless. Simply say aloud “Stop” – as if you were speaking to someone. By saying “stop” you break the cycle of the automated response. Remember, this voice is also a habit – an unconscious response or behavior that was repeated sufficiently until it became a standard automatic response. If you sense that this voice or words originally came from someone specific such as mom or dad, then imagine saying “Stop” to them or telling them only to respond with solution-oriented responses.

3. Observe the thought
After you have practiced saying “Stop”, begin to distance yourself from the thought/voice; observe it as if it does not belong to you. When you separate and distance yourself from it, it loses its power over you. You can also imagine observing from a distance the person who initiated those harsh words (mom, dad, etc) and imagine seeing them further away from you and below you i.e. they are smaller than you. Also, pause and consider that most likely their intention was to help you to realize your potential but they were completely unskilled in how to do that.

4. Identify what you will do differently next time
Note the negative feedback and transform it into a positive behavior or response for next time. Focus on the ways you can correct the behavior in the future – the ways you will act or respond differently next time. For example, you just completed a business meeting and now you hear the attacking voice say “You screwed up because you talk too much and you wouldn’t shut up.” Respond now by saying to yourself, “Next time, I will listen more and talk less.” You can also be specific – “I will ask more questions and give brief answers; I will focus on showing more interest in him/her and his/her achievements and I will talk less about myself.” Thus, the Inner Critic can become beneficial by now serving as feedback rather than harsh emotional judgment.

5. Identify good behaviors
Stop and list a couple of good behaviors. In the example above of a business meeting, identify also what you did right. Write down steps 4 and 5 i.e. write down what you will do differently next time and what you did well this time that you will also repeat.

6. Forgive yourself
Even if your inner critic is extremely ruthless or severe, consider its truth. For example, the voice might tell you that you did something really bad; and maybe your actions did hurt or wrong someone or, they resulted in negative consequences. Again follow Steps 3, 4 and 5, and then, look at the mistake you made. Beware of the pressure of perfectionism which is coming from all around you (advertising, TV, and the internet) as well as from any childhood programming and expectations. Seek to be the best, do your best or to excel at what you do but be wary of perfectionism which creates extreme disappointment, self-loathing, anxiety and depression. Read my article “The poison of perfectionism and self-centeredness”.

Accept that you and everyone are imperfect and will thus make mistakes. Now, review your mistake and seek understanding for the reasons you did what you did, and express compassion to yourself. Only when you express compassion and forgive yourself are you able to learn from the mistake/experience and improve upon it next time.

You will notice from the above 6 steps that the entire approach to the Inner Critic is to focus on the solution. What can we learn from the Inner Critic without allowing it to engage in emotional attacks? We all need feedback and we can understand that all learning requires mistakes and errors. We can correct ourselves without the emotional criticism. Accordingly, remind yourself that the past event which is now over obviously cannot be controlled but the future action can be shaped differently. And if you want different results in your life, then change the voice in your head to support you not tear you down; people will respond to you the way you respond to yourself. The more you love and respect yourself, the more others will love and respect you!

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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