ARE YOU SELF-CRITICAL? Get down on yourself for making mistakes or not meeting your own standards? If so, you’re definitely not alone.
Many of us run a constant inner dialogue that sounds something like this: I can’t do anything right! Who would want to read anything I write? What an idiot! I’ll never be able to do that. I should know better than to open my big mouth.
Rather than help us learn or perform better, these inner criticisms hold us back. These negative statements, which are almost always about who we are rather than specific to behavior, drain our confidence and prevent us from moving forward in our lives.
If you find yourself caught in a cycle of self-defeating self-criticism, take heart. You CAN change how you speak to yourself.
Today’s journaling prompts are all about helping you understand your self-talk patterns, increase your awareness, and substitute positive self-talk for negative.
- When was the last time you criticized yourself (are you doing it now)? Write out the specific words you said to yourself and what triggered the criticism. What was going on and were other people present?
- Write about the effects of the criticism. What happened after you criticized yourself. How did the criticism make you feel? How did it affect your behavior? Did it help or hurt the situation?
- What would an advice columnist say to someone in your situation? Write a letter to yourself from that columnist.
- Draw a line down the length of your journal page to create 2 columns. In the left column, make a list of the criticisms you level at yourself most often. In the right column, for each criticism, write a statement of encouragement — something you might say to someone else in that situation.
For example, if the self-criticism is, “I’m so clumsy,” you could rewrite that to, “I just bumped into the table again. It’s a good reminder to stay present and pay attention.” For a statement such as, “I can’t do anything right!” you could substitute something like, “Well, that wasn’t quite what I wanted, but if I keep practicing I’ll get better at it.”
- Focus on your strengths. Make a list of all your strengths and positive qualities. (If you can’t think of any, ask your friends.)
- Use your imagination. Write a description of yourself as seen through the eyes of someone who loves you and supports you emotionally. How do you feel after writing that description?
From Writing to Action
- To reinforce and help you remember them, read your encouraging statements out loud. And the next time you catch yourself in one of your negative self-criticisms, substitute the encouraging one.
- For one week, read the list of strengths and positive qualities aloud to yourself each morning. Consciously absorb the truth of the statements. Counter any negative self-criticisms with, “Actually, I’m [substitute positive quality].”
You can take control over your inner critic. In order to do so, you must first become conscious of what you are saying to yourself and the negative consequences of those statements. Once you’ve brought these negative thoughts to light by writing them down, you can take control by deciding not to listen to them and by substituting positive and encouraging words instead.
So tell me—what’s one of your most common self-criticisms, and what encouraging or positive statement will you substitute in its place?