What is self-criticism and how does it affect you? Let me start by asking you a questions.
Have you ever been trying to accomplish something big, but fallen short?
Of course, you have, if you haven’t you haven’t really tried to do anything, right?
But have you ever fallen short and then afterwards felt frustrated, defeated, maybe like a failure?
I’m hallucinating that the answer is at least somewhat of a yes and I know exactly how you feel.
Like you, I’ve felt exactly like that, many times before.
As a Mindful Mind Hacking guide, college professor and martial arts instructor, I also have worked with hundreds of people who, as a result of their stumbles, have fallen deeply into the trap of self-doubt, sometimes to the point of depression and despair.
Would you like to know the main source behind this self-doubt?
It’s your self-critic.
Everyone has a self-critic inside of them. A critic pointing out your self-perceived flaws.
Now, sometimes self-criticism can heighten your self-awareness.
For example, if you don’t do well on a test at school or a presentation at work because you didn’t prepare enough, your self-critic can help you learn from that experience and perform better in the future.
You see, its only when you’re willing to honestly examine yourself that you can overcome areas of weakness, or unwanted habits.
This type of self-criticism leads to personal growth.
But self-criticism can often become a barrier, blocking your progress, leaving you feeling frustrated, defeated, kind of like a failure.
After a while, this kind of critic can prevent you from taking risks.
And when you don’t take at least calculated risks, you stagnate.
That reminds me of a client I once worked with. I’m going to call him Steve.
Steve opened a painting business because he like the idea of being his own boss. He worked hard and, over time, his reputation for excellent work got around.
As a result, he started hiring more painters and soon was grossing over a million dollars a year.
When he came to see me, he had just gone through a period where, no matter how hard he tired, he just couldn’t get his business to grow anymore.
In fact, for the past six months his gross had actually went down by a couple of hundred thousand.
Steve felt stuck, defeated. He told me he was thinking about either selling or closing his business.
Have you ever felt like Steve?
Now I don’t necessarily mean you had a million-dollar business that wasn’t performing as well as you wanted, but you felt stuck, like some unseen force was holding you back?
I know I have.
And you know what I’ve found?
A lot of times it has to do with that negative self-critic you have inside you.
Now there are a couple of types of ways you can negatively criticize yourself.
The first type of negative self-criticism is Internalized self-criticism.
This type of self-criticism is the result of a desire to be perfect.
Let me ask you, is anybody perfect?
Of course not!
And since nobody’s perfect, this desire sets you up for failure.
It’s easy to find yourself deficient, in fact it’s so easy, we do it all the time.
As a result, you may feel you are not successful, even when you are.
Kind of like Steve.
The second type of negative self-criticism is comparative criticism.
This is when you are constantly comparing yourself to others and then finding yourself lacking.
You know, somebody gets a promotion at work and you start feeling like the reason they got the promotion is they’re so much better and smarter than you.
Or you see someone on the street with a very attractive mate and you think, “I wish I was better looking, then I could attract the mate like that.”
Or you go over somebody’s house who lives in a very upscale neighborhood and you think, “I wish I could be smart enough to make enough money to live here”.
The problem with constantly comparing yourself with others is that it makes it easy to view others as better than you.
Now, you don’t feel like you measure up. And, after a while it will damage your self-image.
This can result in ruined relationships with your friends, family members, coworkers or employees.
Left unchecked, it will hijack your happiness and success.
This is exactly what was happening with Steve.
Steve had gotten married about a year before he came to do work with me.
Although Steve was a smart guy, he had never thought going to school was all that important.
He had only gone to a couple of years of college.
What happened was during his second summer college break he had been painting houses to make money for school. That’s when he thought “I could do this” and dropped out of college.
Like I told you, Steve did good work and his business grew.
He was successful by almost anyone’s standards, but after he got married he began to doubt his success.
That was because his brother-in-law was an attorney that belonged to a big law firm.
Not only was his brother-in-law more educated than he was, he also made a lot more money.
Now it took a few sessions to uncover that Steve had fallen into the trap of self-doubt because he was unconsciously comparing himself to his brother-in-law.
After a couple of sessions, I gave Steve the Mindful Mind Hacking tool, “What was I just thinking” to take home and practice.
He used it to take control of his self-critical thoughts. Now not only does he feel better about himself, but he gets along with his brother-in-law as well.
This can also work for you. By the way, this Mindful Mind Hack is in my book, Mindful Mastery.