How do you speak to yourself? Much of the time, we’re not even aware of how we speak to ourselves or the tone and content of what we say. We are simply caught up in the stream of thoughts and internal dialogue, taking every thought that pops up as ‘fact’ and responding emotionally to it.
For many people, self criticism is the default setting; we are never good enough, mistakes are focused on and blown into epic proportions and we can ruminate all day over the terrible things other people must think of us.
To be clear we can differentiate between constructive self-criticism and non-constructive self-criticism. Constructive self-criticism focuses on establishing mistakes that can be improved upon for next time, while non-constructive self-criticism is judgmental, it is personal and is often unbalanced (or lacking in perspective). Work on becoming more mindful of whether your self-criticism is truly helpful or not. Often it can help to write down example of the sorts of thoughts you have to gain an understanding of this.
Studies into self criticism actually show that it holds us back from achieving our goals; however at the root of self criticism is always a desire to do better, to improve, to help ourselves. However it often backfires and leaves us paralysed with self-doubt and anxiety. Remember when the self criticism get’s too much, shout ‘Stop!’ and remember that the only real use for the critical voice is to help you to spot mistakes so you can learn from them. Try to remind yourself, that there is no such thing as failure; it’s all just a learning experience.
The psychology researcher Dr. Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis did a study into the language we use when we criticise ourselves and found that the pronoun we use makes a significant difference. Rather than saying “What am I worrying about?’ say ‘What are YOU worrying about?’ to gain more of an outside perspective. When we speak to ourselves as a separate person, we are more able to give ourselves objective advice. Other examples could be ‘What could YOU learn from this experience to make it better the next time?’ and ‘Why are YOU nervous about this?’.
Another approach to gaining a clearer perspective is to take a step back; in a year from now, will this even matter? Chances are it won’t. Learn from your mistake, build a bridge and move on. Remind yourself that berating yourself doesn’t improve your chances of success. I often ask clients to think back to school. Was there a teacher who was much too aggressive and critical? Did you have another teacher who was really encouraging, kind and helpful? Which did you learn more from? Be like the kind, encouraging teacher to give yourself the best chance of success.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with self-criticism and any approaches you have to overcoming it. Please comment below!
Self criticism is a common issue at the root of many people that come for help; if you’d like to explore how the Thrive Programme® could help you to be kinder to yourself, more constructive and to gain a clearer perspective on things contact me for a free consultation to find how I can help you.