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Self-Criticism: Signs, Examples & Ways to Stop Being Too Self-Critical

Habitual self-criticism is immensely self-destructive. It limits the ability for you to think critically, make decisions, or commit to a decision.

Criticism thoroughly undermines your self-confidence. Having deep self-criticism could thoroughly hurt your work life and social skills.

You could become known as the hardest person to be friends with, for you are constantly doubting yourself. An overly self-critical person usually also suffers from mental health disorders more often than average.

However, how you view yourself is mostly in your control. You can prevent the many negative side effects that come along with self-criticism.

This will help you make many positive bonds in life and be more comfortable with risk.

In this article, we will discuss how to stay away from self-critical thoughts and the benefits of doing so.

Self-Criticism Signs, Examples & Ways to Stop Be Self-Critic

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What is Self-Criticism: Definition & Meaning

Self-criticism is the act of being too critical of oneself. It is constantly focusing on your flaws and doubting your abilities.

Those that use chronic self-criticism tactics against themselves also experience a decrease in confidence. This leads to individuals overlooking their potential or skills.

Self-criticism often leads to a distorted self-image and negative self-worth. People who have chronic or excessive self-criticism begin to feel worthless, hopeless, unimportant, or depressed.

Most people will criticize themselves or doubt their abilities at some point. Nonetheless, there are multiple distinctions between intense and typical criticism.

The key difference between persistent self-criticism and typical self-criticism is how long you criticize yourself, how positive your self-image is, and when you critique yourself.

If you constantly critique yourself, regardless of the situation, this is long-term and harmful self-criticism.

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Signs & Examples of Self-criticism

Self-criticism tendencies can show occur in any individual. Even those that appear self-confident have moments of doubt and critique themselves.

When trying to prevent self-criticism from escalating or becoming chronic, noticing the signs early on is important.

List of 10 Signs of Self-criticism

The most common signs of self-criticism are:

  1. Blaming yourself for every negative occurrence in your life.
  2. Never acknowledging your achievements or deriving satisfaction from them.
  3. You compare yourself to others. When you do this, you find they are better than you.
  4. You struggle with body image and self esteem issues.
  5. You are never assertive when it comes to your needs, goals, or desires.
  6. If you make a mistake, you believe it negatively reflects your character.
  7. You do not accept compliments of constructive criticism.
  8. The standards you set for yourself are not achievable.
  9. You often contemplate mistakes you made months or years ago.
  10. You have a hard time forgiving yourself and moving on.
Signs & Examples of Self-criticism

List of 10 Examples of Self-criticism

Once you understand the signs of continued criticism, you should also understand how it is used in practice.

Many individuals develop a habit for criticism, so they never notice this destructive behavior. Look out for the following actions and thoughts that indicate self-criticism:

  1. Believing you are a failure.
  2. Never acknowledging that you have skills or abilities. Saying, “I can’t do anything.”
  3. Believing you are not good enough.
  4. Stating that you can never learn or get better.
  5. Thinking that you cannot be a meaningful member of your company.
  6. Telling yourself that you are ugly or obsessing over your imperfections.
  7. Believing that you will always be alone and never find a spouse.
  8. Always internalizing the idea that you are never qualified for the job you truly want.
  9. Believing that everything you say is nonsensical and that you bring no value to meetings.
  10. Thinking that you do not deserve your partner, job, or friends.

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How Does Self-Criticism Tendency Develop?

Typically, self-criticism tendencies begin to develop in your formative years: childhood and adolescence. Parents who were overly critical often played a role.

If your teachers or parents held you to an extremely high and unachievable standard, this also contributes to self-criticism later in life.

On the other hand, the parents who allow their children to explore their passions, identify their strengths, and do not focus on the child’s flaws are far less likely to be critical.

Certain styles of parenting contribute most to chronic self-criticism when the child gets older.

The authoritarian parenting style, which is the strictest and most controlling, could harm a child’s self-image and idea of worth.

They may have a deficit of love and attention. As they grow up, they may believe they never received this attention because they were unworthy, leading to internalized self-criticism.

The authoritarian parent also holds kids to extremely high standards and rarely recognizes their accomplishments. This could lead to self-doubt and undermine the child’s understanding of their strengths.

How Does Self-Criticism Tendency Develop

The Effects & Dangers of Self-Criticism on Mental Health

In certain circumstances, self-criticism can be a positive habit. It may encourage you to rethink poor decisions or understand yourself better.

However, when self-criticism becomes constant and obsessive, it begins to hurt a person’s quality of life. Any positive traits associated with the habit are negated, and many negative side effects follow.

While most people experience self-doubt, chronic criticizers often suffer from many mental health conditions.

Self-criticism increases the risk of depression, social anxiety, body image distortions, eating disorders, and general dissatisfaction with one’s life.

When you constantly blame yourself for most occurrences, you may also begin to feel like a failure. Shame and guilt will begin to be associated with every choice a self-criticizer makes.

Criticism is also intertwined with unhealthy perfectionism and self-harm.

If you constantly speak about yourself in a negative light, others may notice this. Some criticizers begin to expect others to believe they are worthless, untalented, and so on.

They begin to set their standards lower, for they expect others to think negatively of them. This can impact your relationships, both at work and personally.

This negative expectation, coupled with low self-image, often leads criticizers to remove themselves from their friend groups. They may also lose touch with family.

If they do remain in their relationship, a self-criticizer may become submissive. They are too afraid to stand up for their beliefs out of fear of rejection.

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How To Overcome Self-Criticism

Self-criticism is often a very habitual act, so it is tough to overcome. However, there are steps that you can take to overcome this mindset. Remember, your thoughts are mostly in your control.

This is where the first step comes in: pay attention to your thoughts. If you begin to think negatively about yourself, reframe your mindset and think positively.

For instance, if you were shaming yourself for eating a donut, try thinking about other healthy and tasty foods your can make tomorrow.

If you ever think of absolutes, try breaking this habit. Understand your strengths so you realize you can achieve your goals.

These two tools combined give you a powerful way to tackle doubt and self-image problems.

When applying to jobs, do not think, “I will never get hired.” Instead, create a list of your strengths (ask for help if necessary) and read over them.

Tell yourself that you can land a worthy job, even if it is not this particular job.

Finally, you need to be accepting of yourself. It is true that everyone has imperfections, but dwelling on them is not productive.

It is better to acknowledge these flaws but focus on growing your strengths. If a certain memory is holding you back from moving on, recall that time period.

How did that time make you feel, and do you want those negative emotions with you for the rest of your life? If not, try to ignore these past moments and focus on your current strengths as well as future growth.

How To Overcome Self-Criticism

Where Does Self-Criticism Come From? (What Part of the Brain is Responsible for Self-Criticism?)

Self-critical thoughts typically arise from two locations in the brain. These regions are called the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex.

These two parts of the brain are both responsible for similar tasks. Their job is to identify problems and correct them.

Those who often engage in self-criticism have an immensely active dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

The act of criticism involves picking apart your flaws and focusing on the wrong decisions you made in the past. So, the regions associated with error processing begin most active is logical.

In addition, criticism triggers other emotions and thoughts as well. Feelings of worthlessness, doubt, and general dissatisfaction are triggered in other parts of the brain.

Sometimes, these thoughts of worthlessness and doubt lead to criticism. However, the opposite occurs as well: self-criticism leads to an individual’s feelings unworthy and like failures.

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Toxic Self-Criticism Vs. Constructive Self-Criticism

In certain circumstances, criticism can positively impact you. Comparative self-criticism could help motivate you, for example.

Acknowledging your flaws could help inspire you to overcome your bad habits. However, there is an immense difference between constructively criticizing yourself and toxic self-criticism.

The main difference between the two is how often you engage in the criticism and what it makes you feel.

If it is negatively impacting your quality of life, causing you to have self-doubt, or making you feel worthless, this is toxic criticism.

On the other hand, if you criticize yourself but do not have these feelings (but rather see it as an opportunity for growth), then this is likely a constructive form of criticism.

If you are constantly engaging in criticism and doubting yourself, this is not healthy behavior.

If constructive criticism makes you rethink your decisions or doubt your knowledge from time to time, that is fine. It could prevent you from making an error.

However, those who use constructive criticism also acknowledge their strengths. When they know about a topic, they have no issues with making decisions.

Those who are chronic criticizers will still doubt themselves in such a circumstance.

Toxic Self-Criticism Vs. Constructive Self-Criticism

Self-Criticism – Best Inspiring Quotes

Across the globe, many individuals struggle with chronic criticizing. Some find ways to overcome it. Usually, they begin to have a much higher quality of life after this occurs.

They are able to achieve their goals and live a more fulfilling life. Some choose to share their experience with the public to inspire others.

The following is a short list of quotes that could inspire you to stop criticizing yourself.

List of 7 Quotes

  1. “Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take its place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it. Equally important, don’t allow anyone else to dwell on your mistakes or shortcomings or to expect perfection from you.” – Beverly Enge
  2. “Self-criticism, like self-administered brain surgery, is perhaps not a good idea. Can the ‘self’ see the ‘self’ with any objectivity?” – Joyce Carol Oates
  3. “If babies held the same tendency toward self-criticism as adults, they might never learn to walk or talk. Can you imagine infants stomping, ‘Aargh! Screwed up again!’ Fortunately, babies are free of self-criticism. They just keep practicing.” – Dan Millman
  4. “A final word on self-criticism: Do not beat up on yourself. Even if you think you know your flaws, there is no need to advertise them. Most people won’t have noticed.” – Philip Toshio Sudo
  5. “Start listening to what you say. Are your comments and ideas negative? You aren’t going to become positive if you always say negative things. Do you hear yourself say, “I could never do that,” “I never have any luck,” “I never get things right”? Wow – that’s negative self-talk! Try saying, “I am going to do that,” “I am so lucky,” “I always try to get things right.” Can you hear how much better that sounds?” – James Arthur
  6. “One should never criticize his own work except in a fresh and hopeful mood. The self-criticism of a tired mind is suicide.” – Charles Horton Cooley
  7. “We all have the tendency to believe self-doubt and self-criticism, but listening to this voice never gets us closer to our goals. Instead, try on the point of view of a mentor or good friend who believes in you, wants the best for you, and will encourage you when you feel discouraged.” – Kelly McGonigal

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Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Criticism

What causes self-criticism?

Self-criticism has numerous causes, but its root cause typically stems from childhood. Authoritarian parents, who are immensely strict, could hold their child to impossible high standards.

When the child does not meet them, this could make the child feel untalented and unworthy. The lack of attention from parents and teachers also adds to such feelings of unworthiness.

If a child does not have their strengths recognized, they may never learn about their talents and abilities. This leads to self-doubt over time.

Is self-criticism a good thing?

Yes, self-criticism can be positive in certain circumstances. This type of self-criticism is know as constructive criticism.

If you use self-criticism to address bad habits or overcome your weaknesses, then this is a constructive way to use the behavior.

You can also use self-criticism to cause healthy levels of doubt when you are not experienced in a certain task.

For example, if you are gambling with money, you could criticize yourself for your lack of experience.

Is self-criticism a weakness?

While self-criticism can be helpful at times, it is typically a weakness. This is so because criticism can easily spiral out of control.

When you begin criticizing one element of your life, and not acknowledging your strengths, this could lead to your critiquing your entire life.

Over time, feelings of doubt, failure, and worthlessness will likely develop. This will negatively impact your satisfaction, career, goals, and relationships.

It could also lead to a multitude of negative mental health outcomes, such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, self-harm, being unfulfilled, and withdrawal from social activities.

Is self-criticism a form of anxiety?

Self-criticism in and of itself is not a type of anxiety. However, anxiety often leads to developing critical thoughts and having a distorted self-image.

You are also more likely to become socially anxious if you criticize yourself. This is so because criticism often leads to feelings of unworthiness and a lack of understanding of your strengths.

When you constantly doubt yourself, you may have trouble making social connections, which leads to anxiety. Decision making anxiety is also more likely for those who are criticizers.

How does self-criticism root itself in the body?

Self-criticism has numerous physical impacts. For example, certain areas of the brain will become more active if you engage in criticism.

Namely, they are the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Additionally, areas of the brain most associated with sadness and depression will likely be more triggered.

The other somewhat common result of chronic criticism is eating disorders. These illnesses cause an individual to have a slower heart rate, less body fat, teeth issues, and fertility problems.

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