7 Proven Ways To Handle Self-Criticism

How many times have you criticised yourself? How many times has it been groundless? If you want to limit self-criticism, follow the instructions given in this post.

What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Before you start to work with your self-criticism, let’s learn what cognitive behavioural therapy is. Basically, it is the method used in psychology which teaches you to observe the way your behaviour and thoughts can affect your mood. Next, you work to build new habits that help you to feel better.

How does CBT work?

CBT is a talking therapy based on scientific methods. Apart from medication cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective treatment for reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression plus other mental illnesses. However, it can also be used to treat self-criticism.

CBT can help you to stop negative cycles of thoughts, behaviour and emotions. It works by helping you to notice what is making you feel anxious, unhappy or self-critical and helping you to manage these factors. You also learn what to change to improve your mood,

How To Deal With Self-Criticism Using CBT

Now the time has come to deal with your inner critic, the chatterbox of the Lower Self. By doing so, you are improving self-confidence and self-esteem. However, people sometimes have difficulty following the rules of the cognitive method or become discouraged doing the behavioural experiments, and they then discount the whole approach. Instead of giving up altogether, I suggest you adapt your chosen strategy by using compassionate self-awareness.

You will be working with your thoughts and beleifs. Read a series of articles about working with beliefs before continuing:

Before You Begin Working With Self-Criticism,…

Buy yourself a thick notebook or diary where you will log your observation. The process will not last a day, but even then you will learn something about yourself. I recommend a thirty-day practice, where apart from writing your observations, you will also take action, do a small deed which can help you to eliminate self-criticism.

1. Choose the Situation

Your self-criticism emerges in certain situations. Recall a moment when you became angry with yourself and your critical thoughts popped up like a hailstorm. Focus on pure facts without analysing and be brutally frank with yourself. Each day you can choose a different situation, although in the case of very self-critical thoughts these situations may repeat. Take a diary or a notebook and describe this situation:

Situation ……………………………………………………………………………………..

For example: “I have met an attractive member of the opposite sex and walked away instead of saying hello.”

2. List Your Thoughts Causing Self-Criticism

Let’s start from your thoughts as they have the biggest impact on your life and create most of self-criticism. Write them down without analysing thinking too much about your words. List at least ten thoughts, starting from these stems:

  • I don’t like ………….. in myself (a couple of examples)
  • I am stupid because I am not good at ….. (a couple of examples.
  • I’m such a jerk because ……
  • I am useless because of ….. (a couple of examples)
  • I should/should not have ….. (a couple of examples)
  • I never do things right.

3. Assess the Intensity Of Your Thoughts

Now check how strong your thoughts are. Use the scale from one to ten where ten means “extremely strong” while one “not strong at all.”

4. Question Your Thoughts

Now notice that your automatic thoughts are not necessarily true. In many cases, they have the so-called “distortions”. Some examples comprise:

  • the “all-or-nothing”, black or white thinking,
  • magnifying or minimising the problem,
  • labels (e.g. idiot, jerk, stupid),
  • blaming (it’s my fault that …),
  • mental filter – seeing only the negative side of a given situation,
  • “should!” statements.

Take each thought and define which distortion it may have.

Distortions of negative thoughts.

5. Find Alternative Thoughts Against Self-Criticism

If your thoughts of self-criticism are distorted, the time has come to create something more positive. Obviously, you probably have at least one positive thing, something you can do well. Also, your mistakes do not happen in 100% of situations in your life, i.e every second. If they happen only sometimes, rarely, but even often, it means that there are the times when you are smart, competent, professional, excellent and so on. Now pick up each thought and write down an alternative statement. Here are some examples:

Negative ThoughtAlternative Thought
I am stupid because I cannot come to the meeting on time.Although it happens sometimes, I am very diligent and conscientious during every meeting.
I am an idiot because I make mistakes with figures at work.I do not need to be perfect and there are times I am brilliant at figures. Instead, I am smart at writing.
I should not have said it, I’m a jerk.We are all humans and make mistakes. I can always apologise and redeem the wrong and behave in a better way the next time.
Negative thoughts and their alternatives

6. Disarm Your Self-Critical Thoughts

If you still disbelieve in the alternative statements written above, try this method. For each thought, answer the following questions – in writing in your diary/notebook:

  • When is it not true? 24/7?
  • Who said that and is he/she an expert in this field?
  • Will it matter in 10 years’ time?
  • What would my friend say in this situation?

7. Take Action

Now the time has come to do something to change your thinking. You can try the following things in the case of having said something which you regret later:

  • apologise for your words/deed to the receiver of your message,
  • promise not to do that again,
  • heal your guilt – check this article,
  • find the evidence for the alternative thought – do it in writing
  • try to behave in the opposite way. For example, if you are also critical and pungent to other people, learn how to say something nice about them,
  • work on the areas where you make mistakes or change the method, job, difficulty level,
  • ask someone who is an expert in a given field how to perform a given skill with excellence,
  • set small goals which will enable you to achieve success in the field of the weaker skills.

In a Nutshell

Today you have learnt how to eliminate self-criticism by the cognitive-behavioural therapy, used in psychology. Do it yourself for minimum of 30 days and you will notice the difference. Good luck.

Victoria Herocten

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