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Are you considering buying pajama jeans because you weigh more than the folks in magazines or on television? Do you park your Camry a block away because all your friends drive BMWs? Got a barrage of brutal self-talk to ready-aim-fire every time you interview for a new job or go on yet another date?
Being too self-critical is rampant in our society. It's almost a national pastime to beat ourselves up over real and imagined imperfections. We became unwitting devotees watching and listening to our parents, teachers, and peers direct their anger towards us with negative judgments and demeaning labels, instead of channeling their own emotions in appropriate ways.
Besides crushing our self-esteem, we now have data that confirms that bullying affects children in later stages of their lives. In a large study of 7771 children who were exposed to bullying at the age of seven to eleven, were then followed up until age 50 in England, Scotland, and Wales. The study found that participants who were bullied were at an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts. As well they were more likely to have poorer physical and psychological health, and cognitive functioning. Read the full article.
Being receptive little students, we pledged allegiance to those unkind messages and internalized commitments to keep them alive. Today we know the words by heart and speak them inside without even thinking.
We rarely feel satisfied with ourselves, trying to measure up against an invisible standard or believing 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.
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.
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 you are perfect just the way you are, from the first day of your life until the day you die.
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Five Effective Ways to Stop Being Self-Critical
According to Attitude Reconstruction the root of being self-deprecating - such as never feeling or being "enough" - is to express the underlying sadness, ongoing anger, and incapacitating fear in a physical and constructive way, and rewire your crummy thinking.
Are you more than ready to silence the tyrant? Then try these strategies to stop being self-critical when you feel like you make a mistake so you can show yourself more love.
- Especially when you're crying, but also when you feel angry or scared, vigilantly interrupt the less than kind things you tell yourself and stick with telling yourself, "It's okay. I'm just feeling my emotions."
- To rewire your trash talk, write down the most common things you say to yourself, such as "I'm so stupid." "I blew it again." "I'm such a bad person." "I'm unlovable."
- Determine what contradicts your old messages and write them down on a card or paper. Change the sentiment to something more positive, such as "I'm doing the best I can. / I did the best I could." I'm fine and I'm doing fine." Or "Life is for learning. We all make mistakes." Or "If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently." Put them on a 3×5 card and carry them in your pocket, daytimer, dashboard of your car, or on your smartphone.
- Relentlessly repeat your new thoughts, especially when you're judging yourself poorly or when you're crying and feeling down. Repeat them ten, twenty, thirty times! It doesn't matter if you believe it or not. Just repeat them. Interrupt all the "yes, buts" and other discounting thoughts that surface and continue to repeat your new truths.
- Shower yourself with kindness in the form of self-appreciations. Compliment your own abilities, characteristics, qualities, and efforts. It's not boasting or bragging. It's looking on the bright side.
To practice, 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 list out loud with enthusiasm, conviction, and a smile.
If this feels totally weird and you can't come up with a single self-appreciation, start with something small. Name a specific positive trait, talent, or quality and look at yourself from this new perspective. Try something like:
* I have a good sense of humor.
* I'm a dependable friend.
* I take good care of my cat.
* I like to do nice things for others.
When we're out of balance and make a mistake, it's easy to start feeling bad about ourselves. Our minds start to continually replay what we did that we regretted and produce an icky, creepy feeling inside. When this happens, there are a couple of things to do:
- Shiver when you think about it, and say "I forgive myself."
- Interrupt sinking in thoughts about what you did. Don't keep ruminating about what happened. Firmly but lovingly interrupt the chatter and forcefully tell yourself (at least eleven times) "I forgive myself." Or remember "We all make mistakes." Or that "This feeling will pass. This situation is temporary." Or "To err is human."
- Express any sadness, anger, or fear physically and constructively when you start to think about the "terrible" thing you did or said. Pound a pillow, stomp around, or have a cry. Shiver some more.
- When you get a bit of distance, look within and determine whether there is anything you need to do or say to rectify the situation or if you need to just let it go. If you need to say or do something, get clear on what it is, and then just do it.
- Sometimes there is nothing. In that case, look for the lesson learned, and know that we all make mistakes and we're still whole and complete. Your mantra: "I forgive myself. We all make mistakes."
The Benefits Doing the "Work"
Beating yourself up for not living up to impossible standards is a dead-end road that leads to no-where land. See how wonderful you feel when you relentlessly focus on the good. Emphasizing your positive qualities and contradicting that internal critic will definitely improve your attitude about yourself.
Starting today, turn your self-criticism into self-appreciation. You'll feel the difference immediately and hear a new pledge of allegiance to the united states of Joy, Love, and Peace!
Check out this video about how Christy overcame self-criticism and perfectionism:
©2020 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this 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.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here.
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