How to Deal with Self Criticism

How to deal with self criticismWhat does it feel like to be a good friend?

Think of a time you’ve been a good friend. You stood up for somebody. You were in their corner. You had their back. You offered support when they were discouraged and a hug when you knew words weren’t enough.

You know you’ve done it. You’ve been that friend for someone else.

How did that feel to show up for somebody like that? What does it feel like to have a friend that will reach out to you when you’re overwhelmed?

You deserve a friend like that.

That’s right, you deserve it. You deserve to feel supported. You deserve to feel encouraged and loved.

You deserve it and you are worth it. You probably don’t hear that enough, so let me repeat it: you are worth it.

Even if people tell you this all the time, you still might be having a hard time actually hearing it: you are worth it.

Maybe you were convinced from a young age that you’re not worth a whole lot. Maybe you’ve kicked down when you’ve tried to stand up for yourself. Maybe there are some voices in your head that try to tell you that you’re not worth it.

You deserve to have someone stand up for you.

That someone is you.

It’s sounds simple enough, right? Be your own best friend.

But you probably know that it’s often easier to be your own worst enemy. Negative thoughts creep into your mind. Self-criticism. Self-doubt. Self-blame. The voices in your head can be relentless. These voices compare you to others and highlight your flaws.

Here’s a simple practice for getting out of this pattern of self-criticism. I learned it from Rick Hanson, the neuropsychologist.

Be For Yourself

“Several times a day, ask yourself this question: Am I on my own side here?”

Think about it. Am I on my own side here? Am I being a friend to myself?
This question is important. It can change how you are thinking and it can change how you feel.

This simple question opens up space for contemplating different ways that you can be treating yourself. It opens up the possibility of showing yourself some compassion.

Here are some good times to ask yourself this question:

  • If you’re feeling sad, stressed, anxious, angry, irritated, frustrated, or disappointed.
  • If someone is trying to push you into doing something that you don’t want to do.
  • If you are struggling to do something that would benefit you (like exercising or quitting smoking).

When you ask yourself if you are on your own side, think about times that others have been on your side. Think about how that made you feel to have somebody show up and support you.

You might also find it helpful to think about times that you have been a good friend to others. What did that feel like? Did you feel strong, energized, and empowered when you were able to offer love and support to someone else?

Picture yourself as a childIt can also be effective to picture yourself as a little boy or a little girl. There is still that sweet, innocent, vulnerable child inside of you. How would it feel to have the opportunity to stand up for that child?

How would it feel to stand up for him or her in a way that perhaps nobody ever did? This is your opportunity to show some real love for that little one—some real love for you.

Feel Into It to Create a Shift

There is much more to you than the negative self talk and self doubt. Those voices are simply one part of your experience, but by giving them attention, you strengthen their hold on you.

Rather than feeding those thoughts, shift your focus. Shift your attention toward showing yourself compassion. How would it feel to show some love to your inner child? How would it feel to show up as a friend?

Allow yourself to feel into these feelings. Notice how they make you feel inside of your body.

Being mindful of these feelings, ask yourself, “Being my own best friend, what’s the best thing to do here?”

Then do it. And see how it feels.