Are you emotionally or mentally abusing yourself? You are not alone. Mental or emotional abuse is one of the common — and most toxic — thought-patterns people have. There is no better time than today to learn how to get rid of self-criticism. And yes, you can overcome it as I did.
Here’s my story and some tips you could follow to manage self-criticism.
I had one day to organize and develop a presentation to 500 audience members. After mentally cursing my boss for forgetting to tell me until just one day prior, the defeating thoughts started to wrap their ugly tentacles around my brain.
How in the world could I get all the information I needed for an acceptable presentation? I will be paralyzed with stage fright. The presentation will bomb, and I will look like a complete fool in front of 500 people. My boss will fire me because I failed. These destructive thoughts continued to loop over and over in my head.
The Inward Battle
Does the above scenario sound familiar? For many of us, it is way too familiar and often ends in self-sabotage.
Self-criticism is a human tendency that can hurt more than it can help. We call ourselves names such as “I’m such a bad speaker,” “I’m so lazy,” “I’m a loser.” We don’t only beat ourselves up with these words. We also minimize our achievements by saying things like, “I was just lucky that time,” or “It was so easy, anyone could have done it.”
The Long-Term Effects of Self-Criticism
If you’re a perfectionist like me, self-criticism is a constant struggle. It’s easy to believe that people will only love the “perfect” you and not “real” you.
Your thoughts are enough to pull you down into a black hole of depression and anxiety. If you let these inner voices take over, that’s exactly what they will do.
Words Have Power
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that words are more powerful than most people realize.
Whether you say them out loud or think them in your head, if you say them often enough, they will become a reality sooner or later. As the saying goes, “What you think about, you bring about.” Your negativity will show up in your demeanor and body language. People will see your lack of confidence, and you won’t be taken seriously.
How to Overcome Your Inner Critic
If you have struggled with negative thinking patterns for years, forging a new mental pathway can be challenging – but not impossible.
The steps you begin to take now will chip away at the well-worn neural paths in your brain and create more positive, constructive ways of thinking, leading to a happier and more productive you.
If the idea of several steps and exercises overwhelms you, simply take one step at a time until it becomes a healthy habit.
Observe Your Thoughts
We become so accustomed to the constant stream of thoughts running through our minds that we don’t even realize the mental self-abuse that tears us down.
This is why it is so crucial that we pay close attention to our thoughts and make a conscious decision to choose the ones we should dwell on.
Remember, our thoughts can either build us up or destroy us.
What Advice Would You Give to a Friend or Loved One?
For some, their inner critic is often so vicious and toxic that the words you choose to tell yourself are ones you wouldn’t even think about saying to someone else.
Ask yourself if a close friend or family member was facing the same issues, would you say the same words to them? Most likely, you would not. So, why would you say them to yourself?
Can You Back It Up?
What actual evidence do you have that what you are telling yourself is true?
Most of the time, negative thoughts stem from a distorted view of the situation. You can realistically determine this by listing evidence that an idea is true versus proof that it is not.
When looking at the list, you will have a more rational and logical view of the situation. You could also find encouragement and peace of mind that you truly don’t have anything to worry about.
Accept Yourself While Improving Yourself
It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? All the same, it is entirely possible to do both at the same time. Understand that we are all imperfect, and there is always room for improvement.
Do you feel nervous or lack self-confidence? Acknowledge those feelings while taking the opportunity to improve yourself in this situation. Appreciate yourself for who you are while continually working to create a better version of you.
What If It Is True?
If you’re like me, you don’t even want to think about that possibility. However, there’s always that tiny chance that there’s some truth to your thoughts.
We have knee-jerk reactions and imagine the most catastrophic results possible. What if you do get rejected for that job or promotion? What if your presentation isn’t that great?
BUT, what if it things go well?
The key is to be prepared for anything that could happen. It’s crucial to keep an open mind and heart to accept whatever outcome you will get. And then move forward from there.
Be Someone Else’s Cheerleader
When you are overwhelmed with negative self-talk, you begin to focus too much on yourself and your inner world. Reach out to others who need your help and encouragement. This will not only take your focus off of your own anxieties. It will also create more positivity in someone else’s life.
You can do this in several ways:
- Volunteer in your community
- Be a mentor
- Give encouragement to family members and friends
- Don’t forget to self-reflect at the end of the day
- Always practice gratitude.
The bonus – this is contagious – in a good way. You will also start to feel more positive about your own life.
How Did It Go?
As for my own presentation, I lived through it. Could it have been better? Absolutely. BUT, I didn’t get fired, as I thought I would be. Instead, I had many more opportunities to improve my public speaking. It got easier and easier with each presentation. And these days, I am one of the few to volunteer for a task that, not too long ago, had me breathing into a paper bag.
As common as it is to view self-criticism as a defense mechanism, it is a false and destructive way to protect yourself.
Henry Ford, the founder of globally renowned Ford Motor Company, gave this indispensable advice – “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”