Are you too hard on yourself, constantly criticizing yourself, saying things you would never say to anyone else? Do you have a “mean voice” inside your head, telling you things like “You’re not worthy” or “You will never make it” or perhaps even “You’re so dumb.” Self-criticism can be a deadly trap that will stop you from making the changes you want to make in your life.
Perhaps you had parents or a teacher that criticized you harshly with the well-intentioned but misguided idea that if they were hard on you, you would achieve the goal they had set for you. So maybe you have the idea that, if you criticize yourself hard enough, you will become the person you were meant to be.
The problem is – self-criticism doesn’t work.
A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that self-criticism is actually more destructive than it is helpful. The researchers of the study, “Self-Criticism, Goal Motivation and Goal Progress”, found that the more people criticized themselves, the slower they were to progress toward their goals over time, and the less likely they were to achieve their goals.
As a matter of fact, research findings suggest that self-criticism actually shifts the brain into a negative state that causes us to dis-engage from our motivation and goals, making it extremely difficult to move forward.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we can push past our negative self-talk and succeed at the task at hand. But the problem is that the harsh criticism is distracting, slows us down and wears us out. We need a gentler and more effective way to achieve the things that are meaningful to us.
What is self-compassion?
Being kind to yourself is the first step to self-compassion whether it’s your inner voice encouraging you to succeed or just giving yourself a little pat on the shoulder for doing the things you’re already doing. Allowing yourself to tap into that kindness is a great first step in letting go of self-criticism. Oftentimes, we are much harder on ourselves than we would be to someone else. However, this mindset can be detrimental for many reasons.
What are some ways you can practice self-compassion?
- Start a journal.
Starting a journal is a great way to tap into your own self-compassion and furthermore, it’s nice to have something to refer back to in any moments of weakness and self-criticism. As an example, you could write down anything negative in your life and try to practice some self-compassion for each one. If you’re feeling low about your weight, your job, whatever it may be, this is a great opportunity to tap into the inner kindness and show yourself a more compassionate way to deal with problems that arise.
- Create a mantra.
Something as simple as “you ARE good enough” is a sufficient mantra to help remind yourself to practice self-compassion. You can create any kind of kindness mantra for yourself, but make sure it appeals to the things that you’re struggling with personally. A small reminder throughout the day can be just enough to stave off the self-doubt and self-criticism long enough to remind you that self-compassion above all is so important.
- Make it part of your routine.
Many of us have grown up prioritizing self-criticism for far too long. It can be a hard habit to break when you’re used to being down on yourself and beating yourself up mentally. Prioritize self-compassion by making it a part of your routine. Whether you repeat your mantra out loud every morning, start your journal entry with some kindness, or just hang a quote that reminds you to be kind to yourself that you look at every morning, incorporating a little self-compassion into your daily routine can be a great help in forming a habit. The more you practice self-compassion, the easier it will become.
Replacing self-criticism with self-compassion is sometimes easier said than done, but these tips are sure to help you be kinder to yourself.
What ways have worked for you to practice self-compassion and get rid of self-criticism? Please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!