Learning how to overcome self-criticism is imperative to help you believe in yourself – the belief that you can overcome negative thoughts and stop holding yourself to impossible standards.
Being mindful about overcoming self-criticism will enable you to live a life that is free from negative inner dialogue that holds you back.
Where Does Self-Criticism Come From?
As mentioned in Psychology Today,
Self-criticism likely originates from our early relationships with caregivers and peers. For example, children whose parents are more controlling and less affectionate grow up to be more self-critical adults. Also, people who have been abused tend to be much more self-critical than those who have not.
You can imagine that being self-critical can have huge negative impacts to your overall happiness and wellbeing.
Therefore today we’re going to discuss:
- Small steps you can take to identify when you’re being overly critical of yourself
- Things you can do to reduce (and ultimately stop) your toxic self-criticism
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10 Ways To Overcome Self Criticism
As you read the below ideas on how to stop being self-critical, ask yourself what strategy you’d like to try first – and if you feel comfortable share in the comments below so I can support you.
1. Try to Avoid Negative Self Talk
A great way to avoid negative self-talk is to catch yourself when that negative inner voice starts up. Once you notice your negative voice rearing its ugly head you can ask yourself…
What triggers this critical inner voice?
- Did you have a bad experience?
- Are you frustrated by something?
- Are you stressed?
- Did you miss a deadline?
- Did a memory of something from your past come up?
Once you’ve identified what triggered your self-criticism grab your journal and write it down.
Then when this happens again, do the same.
By taking note of your negative self-talk you’ll be able to:
- Identify regular thought patterns that are contributing to your negative feelings and thoughts
- Understand where the negative self-talk is coming from
- Create an action plan to put into place so you can literally walk aware in the moment
2. Create a Ta-Da List!
Who needs to create stress with a to-do list? Instead, create a ta-da list!
Write down your accomplishments on a piece of paper or notebook, no matter the size.
You can do this daily, weekly, monthly – whatever reminds you that you’re doing your best – you’re making traction.
Your tada list can celebrate so many things – even these smaller items…
- Walking around the block to get some fresh air
- Getting out of bed on time
- Having dinner on the table at night
- Finding time for 5 minutes of morning self-care
- Having coffee with a good friend
- Telling your harsh inner critic that it’s time to be quiet! (Okay – this is a big one)
You get my point thought – celebrating what you accomplish will make you question your negative little voice next time it tries to take over.
3. Have a Reality Check
You know those things you are constantly criticizing yourself about?
I want you to write them all down.
Now, ask yourself — are the items on this list really true?
If you answer yes, I want you to think about how these items are not true.
To best describe this I’ll give you some examples:
I don’t like how I look in a bathing suit – but I do love my long legs and freckles.
I didn’t complete my project on time – but I did come up with an insanely creative concept that needs just a little more time.
I forgot the main ingredient at the grocery store and I’m frustrated I always forget things – but this does not define me it’s okay that I’m human after all (I don’t need to be perfect).
Instead of focusing on what you don’t like or what might not have gone well, find something you do like or are proud of instead.
Of course, we can’t miss deadlines at work, but if you find yourself in a situation like the above you can always talk to your boss about the amazing new concept that needs a little more time to flesh out. Communication is the key here.
4. Stop Creating Unrealistic Expectations
I’m definitely guilty of this.
I make a to-do list that is miles long. Work really hard to try and complete everything, but when I can not I feel guilty and criticize myself for not being productive enough.
However, when this happens, many times I look back on this massive list and realize that it’s actually impossible to complete everything in the time I’ve given myself.
I’m sure you’ve done the same.
A few more examples:
- You might want to lose weight and the number you’ve set for yourself isn’t achievable.
- You create a savings goal, but the goal number doesn’t actually align with what you can realistically save in a given month.
- You plan on cleaning the entire house in one day but are completely exhausted and are still not happy with the final result.
The key to stop creating unrealistic expectations first starts with being kind to yourself.
Do your best to create a goal or a plan that is actually achievable.
So, with the example of cleaning the entire house in one day, instead plan to deep clean the kitchen and bathroom.
Fear of failure is a very real emotion, so do your best to create more realistic goals so you can celebrate your wins and feel good about what you’ve achieved.
To learn more about goal setting, check out my post on personal goals and specifically how to make goals SMART so they are more realistic.
5. Find Ways to Be Self Compassionate
Before we get into this let’s define self-compassion – and who better to define this for us than the worlds leading researcher of self-compassion and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind To Yourself, Kristin Neff.
In this video, Kristin explains the three components of self-compassion.
The three areas she talks about are having…
- Self-kindness vs. self-judgement (treating yourself with care and looking after yourself)
- Common humanity vs. isolation (understanding you aren’t alone and connecting with others who are going through similar situations can be healing)
- Mindfulness vs. over-identification (be aware of suffering so you can show yourself compassion)
She goes on to explain that, When things don’t seem to go well for you, just remember that this is the normal human experience.
Nothing has specifically has gone wrong for you.
How Can You Find Ways to Be Self-Compassionate?
Kristin Neff’s definition actually lays this out for you.
- Treat yourself with kindness
- Know that you are not alone – this experience or suffering is not only unique to you
- Be mindful of your suffering or difficult time so you’re able to show yourself love
6. Try Self-Love Journaling
When we talked about self-compassion above, this is a specific example of how you can show yourself kindness.
You can try some journal prompts that are designed to show yourself love and compassion or you can just write what’s on your mind to release your daily stresses.
Some examples of self-love writing prompts:
- Write about a time you were really proud of yourself
- List 5 qualities that make you unique
- Think about a challenge you faced and how you became stronger because of it
If you want to take these journal writing prompts further, check out my Self Love Journal available on Amazon. It includes 30 meaningful writing prompts, plus reflections, self-love affirmations, colouring pages, over 75 unique self-care ideas and more.
7. Remind Yourself that Perfection is Not the Goal
If you haven’t realized it by now, perfection is 100% not possible.
So, why try and hold ourselves to high standards that are not serving us – are not serving our contentment and happiness.
I have a friend who always says 70% is good enough!
This might be hard to wrap your head around, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies, but listen up.
Doing something at 70% actually means you can complete it. Is it perfect? No? Is it good? Absolutely!
This can be the difference between…
- Launching the business you have been dreaming of, or not
- Taking a family vacation, or not
- Have friends over for dinner, or not
Doing things at 70% (or even 80%) means you can feel accomplished and you’re also allowing yourself not to be perfect so your self-criticism doesn’t kick in.
Give it a try and see how it feels.
(Also know this… that remaining 30% you think is really really important… you’re most likely the only person who will notice it).
Example: Tweaking the blue colour of your presentation slides, fluffing your pillows, or planning your entire itinerary for that vacation.
8. Catch Your Negative Thoughts & Take Note
Many times our brains can go into overdrive, thinking of a million and one things at a time.
In many cases, this overthinking is negative and affects your overall happiness.
You may find your mind swirling when you go to bed at night or first thing in the morning. This is something called rumination, which is overthinking and repetitive thoughts about a negative situation.
When you first realize that you have negative thoughts – take note.
It might feel strange (at first), but literally say to yourself, internally or out loud, “I notice this negative thought”.
The next thing I find extremely helpful is to write down this thought – either in your notes on your phone, in a journal or you can try this free mood tracking printable which I love using.
The process of writing down these negative thoughts and feelings allows you to let them go – to release them.
It also means you can take note of when they are happening and what any triggers might be (this is where that mod tracker comes in handy).
You’ll find that once you start doing this, you’ll be able to move on and stop dwelling on these negative self-critical thoughts.
9. Practice Staying in The Moment
When you are present, in the moment you are able to find more pleasure in the simple things in life. Those little things that bring you joy.
When you are focusing on what makes you happy or appreciating that gorgeous hot cup of coffee, you can take a moment to reflect on other things that are going well in your life.
Getting into this habit of positive thinking truly makes a difference in your day-to-day.
In the summer when I walk around my neighbourhood with my dog, I look at the front gardens I pass and mentally take note of all the flowers they have.
I specifically try to name each flower I see. (I love gardening, so this works for me)
See if you can think of something you do regularly and practice mindfulness with that activity.
This brings me to my last tip…
10. Use Gratitude to Avoid Self-Critical Thoughts
Gratitude journals have become pretty popular over the last few years and even more so over the pandemic.
Why? Because they truly work!
I started out with this popular gratitude journal where you write down 3 things every day that you’re grateful for.
It helped me identify the little things I’m thankful for each day – but I did find that I started writing down the same thing over and over.
That’s when I created my own 52-week gratitude journal that includes a unique writing prompt for every week of the year. Click on the image below to check it out!
This journal works great for those who are better at answering questions or using writing prompts to collect their thoughts.
Along with staying in the moment, when you practice gratitude regularly you’ll notice your thoughts on life making a positive shift.
(I literally used gratitude as one of my main tools when dealing with depression. It was also a recommended tool in the depression therapy I was going through at the time.)
In this day and age self-criticism is something we all deal with, but there are active strategies you can use to slowly overcome self-criticism.
Yes, it may feel hard at first; it will take work – but you’re worth the effort.
So, next time you become your own worst critic and negative self-criticism creeps in, the best way to handle it is to try some of these tools to create some positive change.
This is a positive first step in the right direction.
To recap, here are the 10 tips you can use to stop self-criticism in its tracks:
- Avoid negative self-talk
- Create a ‘Ta Da’ list
- Have a reality check
- Stop creating unrealistic expectations
- Find ways to be self-compassionate
- Try self-love journaling
- Remind yourself that perfection is not the goal
- Catch your negative thoughts and take note
- Practice staying in the moment with mindfulness
- Use gratitude to avoid negative, self-critical thoughts
Here’s to looking after our mental health and kicking our critical voice in the backside and creating new ways to change our own thoughts to thoughts of love and kindness.
I’d love to hear from you…
Are there any practices you use to Overcome self-criticism?
Share in the comments below to inspire others!
Related Self Love Resources:
- Daily Self-Love Planner + 30 Day Challenge
- Try these positive self-love affirmations
- How to love yourself and get rid of negative thoughts
For more inspiration and to get the latest post, let’s connect on social media!