Being too self-critical is rampant in our society. We beat ourselves up over real and imagined imperfections. As children, we became unwitting devotees watching our parents and/or teachers direct their anger towards us with negative judgments and demeaning labels. Being receptive little students, we pledged allegiance to those unkind messages. Today we know the words by heart and speak them inside repeatedly without even thinking.
The more critical the words we heard, the deeper the messages penetrated. The result is many of us rarely feel satisfied with ourselves. We try to measure up against an invisible standard or believe if we had or did something else - got married, earned more money, looked more beautiful, had more time - we'd finally be happy and feel worthy.
But our strategies don't work. With our old beliefs firmly implanted, we have a license to beat ourselves up in any possible situation. Our mistake is that we identify with our actions rather than our true essence.
Whenever we criticize ourselves, we compound the issue. We turn one problem into two -- there's the social blunder, a poor financial decision or disapproving glance in the mirror -- and the demeaning self-loathing that follows.
How To Stop Being Self-Critical
To stop being self-critical and show yourself more love, you must learn that you are whole, complete, and worthy, no matter what. You must realize the essence of your being exists from the first day of your life until the day you die and doesn't change.
Are you tired of your old commentary and more than ready to silence the tyrant? Here are two simple tools to change your deeply rooted destructive thoughts about yourself.
Identify and Relentlessly Replace your Old Self-Critical Messages
It's helpful to write out the negative commentary you tell yourself so you start to recognize it. The most common ones are "I'm so stupid." "I blew it." "I'm such a bad person." "I'm unworthy." "I'm unlovable."
The idea is to replace your old thoughts with the new ones each time they arise. Arm yourself by selecting a positive thought that contradicts each demeaning phrase about you. If you're stuck, just select a couple that resonate from the list below.
* I'm doing the best I can.
* I love myself unconditionally.
* I'm not perfect, but I'm good enough.
* There is nothing wrong with me.
* I am whole and complete.
* Life is for learning. We all make mistakes.
Write your new truths down on a 3x5 card and post them conspicuously where you will see them and repeat them often. Carry them in your pocket, on your smartphone, or put them on the bathroom mirror or dashboard of your car.
Practice saying these truths several times a day for just a minute or two. You can do this in the shower, while driving in your car, exercising, doing chores, or before bed. Repeat them ten, twenty, thirty times! It doesn't matter if you believe it or not. Just focus on the words and say them.
When you're judging yourself poorly or when you're crying and feeling down, interrupt the "yes, buts" and other discounting thoughts that surface and continue repeating your new truths. I tell clients 100,000 repetitions should do the job, considering how many times you've given voice to the opposite. Ignore the discounting thoughts, affirm the reality, and be vigilant in your quest to quiet your old thoughts.
See how wonderful you feel when you keep the focus on the positive and stop reinforcing feelings of unworthiness. Emphasizing the truth about yourself and contradicting your internal critic will give you an unshakable positive view of yourself no matter the circumstance.
Give Yourself Self-Appreciation and Silence the Inner Critic
Showering yourself with kindness in the form of self-appreciations is another excellent way to offset your negative messages. Compliment your own abilities, characteristics, qualities, and efforts. It's not boasting or bragging, it's looking on the bright side. This must be done by simultaneously interrupting all the voices that negate what you are saying, such as "It's not true." "That's bogus." "I don't believe it." Keep repeating your self-appreciation until you can own it, or at least acknowledge the possibility that it could be true.
Name a specific positive trait, talent, or quality and look at yourself from this new perspective. Try writing one, two, or three self-appreciations each day, and at the end of a week, read your list out loud with enthusiasm, conviction, and a smile. In this way you are steadily rebuilding your self-esteem.
If this feels totally weird and you can't come up with a single self-appreciation, start with something small. Try something like:
* I have a good sense of humor and can be funny.
* I'm a dependable friend.
* I take good care of my cat.
* I like to do nice things for others.
The bottom line is, beating yourself up for not living up to impossible standards is a dead-end road that leads to Point Misery.
Emphasizing your positive qualities and contradicting that internal critic will definitely improve your attitude about yourself. See how wonderful you feel when you relentlessly focus on the good.
Starting today, turn your self-criticism into self-love. You'll feel the difference immediately and embrace a new pledge of allegiance to a state of Joy, Love, and Peace!
©2017 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by the Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
With practical tools, real-life examples, and everyday solutions for thirty-three destructive attitudes, Attitude Reconstruction can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with love, peace, and joy.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace