Exposing our Inner Critic
Written by Allegra Frunz, Provisional Psychologist
It’s likely that every day you hear someone else calling themselves “stupid” or “idiot” when they make a small mistake. Conversely, if they did something well, they might use self-deprecating humour to deny themselves credit or praise. Self criticism to varying degrees has become commonplace in our society and it exists on a spectrum. Typically the content of our own self critical thoughts is cruel and the tone very cold, harsh and attacking.
I’m an idiot…what a moron…I’m so useless and pathetic…
I never get it right… I may as well give up now…what’s the point, why bother…
For some people these words are like a song on repeat, impossible to get out of their head.
You might believe that self-criticism has positive effects:
● Fostering personal growth
● Acknowledging your mistakes and failures to learn from them
● Cultivating humility
● Overcoming or changing our unwanted habits or weaknesses
On the contrary, it is far more likely that there will be negative consequences:
● It prevents us from taking positive risks
● We are less likely to be vocal about our opinions
● Reduced capacity to believe in ourselves
● More likely to blame ourselves for negative situations outside of our control
● Dissatisfaction with our accomplishments
● Create unrealistic, high standards
● More likely to compare our negative perception of ourselves to our view of others
● It has a negative impact on mental health, whereby self criticism usually leads to sadness, depression, guilt, shame and anger and is common among anxiety, eating disorders, body image issues, low self-esteem and depression.
Self criticism might begin as a solution, to deal with the uncomfortable feelings that arise when we are faced with a problem. However, this ultimately prolongs our emotional suffering and keeps us stuck in the problem. For some people this experience of self-loathing, self-hatred and self-disgust may be the norm, as they don’t believe they deserve to treat themselves any better.
If this dialogue is familiar to you and you suffer from strong self criticism it may be beneficial to seek out a health professional who can help you address the underlying tendencies behind these thought patterns.