The ability to see one’s own flaws and work at improving them is a quality shared by the most successful people. A healthy dose of self-criticism keeps your feet grounded and gives you the power to make positive changes through honest observation of your own performance. Too much self-criticism, on the other hand, can be damaging to self-esteem and cause anxiety and depression.
Some people are their own worst critic, picking apart their own ideas and relentlessly putting themselves down. This can actually keep you from making progress and improving, because nothing will ever be good enough.
The right balance keeps you happy and mentally healthy while keeping in mind that the purpose of self-criticism is to strategically work toward your goals through improvement. Being your own best critic can help you identify weaknesses in a constructive way and work at them, rather than putting yourself down and admitting self-defeat.
It’s About What You Do, Not What You Are
Be critical about your actions and behaviors rather than cutting down yourself as a person. Statements like, “I’m just not that smart,” or “I can’t be successful at this” are easy to make, and do the most damage. Enough of this sort of negative self-talk can have devastating effects on your self-image and lead to depression. Instead, give constructive feedback about specific things that you did or are doing that can be improved. For example, if a presentation you gave wasn’t well attended, saying “No one wants to come to my webinars” isn’t going to solve that problem (and it’s likely not true unless you’re purposefully chasing them away). A more effective strategy is to look at the marketing that you did or didn’t do and see what marketing strategies might work better for gaining an audience the next time.
Be Aware of Your Failure Triggers
Who hasn’t cheated on a diet? Or slept in when there were chores to do? Some “failures” such as these aren’t a big deal, although they can be if the thing that caused them to happen starts to happen repeatedly. Certain behavior patterns or situations can trigger these failures, but if you pay attention they can be nipped in the bud. Perhaps Shelly, who is on a diet, is more tempted to get dessert when she eats out with friends because that’s what they do. Because she’s been eating out twice a week, she gets dessert then and since activating her sweet tooth, she has fallen into a pattern of eating ice cream at home. Taking notice of her behaviors, Shelly decides to and let herself eat out just once a week, and instead of getting dessert there, have one piece of dark chocolate when she gets home. By recognizing what caused her to “fail” at her diet in the first place, she was able to tweak her behaviors to avoid the trigger.
Dole Out Criticism With a Dose of Compassion
Criticism can hurt, especially when it’s coming from your own #1. But there’s a difference between criticism and judgment. While judgments come in the form of all-or-nothing, often damning statements and are based on opinion, criticisms are based on observations leave room for change. Taking a non-judgmental stance is the most effective way to practice self-criticism. Nothing is “good” or “bad,” but rather more effective or less effective for a given situation. Looking at each situation individually and determining what went wrong and where, rather than saying, “What I did was not good,” can help you pinpoint the areas where you were missing results. And remember that you’re not a good or bad person for making mistakes – you’re just human.
Give Yourself Credit Where It’s Due
Whenever you start to take a look at the ugly and the bad, be sure to acknowledge the good, too. While you may not get everything right – no one does – there are several things that you do right. By acknowledging those things that go well because of your own actions, you’re more likely to continue to do them in the future. You’ll also feel more assured that you can do better next time. No failure is a complete failure: you do some things well, and the things that need improving, you learn from.