Believing that self-criticism is justified can sometimes lead a person to be too hard on themselves. This can be especially true for those with perfectionistic tendencies. It's not unusual for people to not remember how long ago being so hard on themselves began. It often feels like it's always been there. Over time, this type of thinking becomes so automatic that people become desensitized and unaware of their hypercritical thinking.
Take a look at the list below and see if any of these sound familiar. Becoming consciously aware you are being too hard on yourself is the first step in giving yourself a break.
Have you ever beat yourself up over small mistakes that don't have any significant consequences? Most mistakes we make are going to have little or no consequences when you look at the big picture. Let's say you just got back from the supermarket and realize you forgot milk for your morning coffee and dog food. Everyone makes small mistakes. Everyone. Forgetting a few items does not make you stupid. You are just human. Rather than beating yourself up, try giving yourself a threshold for mistakes. Mistakes that cost $5-10 dollars or 10-20 minutes are mistakes you can let go and cut yourself some slack.
Even after you have corrected a mistake do you still keep criticizing yourself? Have you ever forgotten someone's name or called someone's partner by the wrong name? Although embarrassing, the long-term consequences of doing this are minimal. Guilt can cause us to critically ruminate about a mistake despite making your best effort to correct your error. All you can do is make your best effort to correct your mistake, let it go, and move on.
Do various aspects of your life regularly take priority over self-care? Today it seems like our lives are busier than ever and it is pretty common for folks to put off things like exercising, eating right, sleeping enough, or taking a yoga or tai chi class. Often we tell ourselves that once we get such and such done then we'll start practicing self-care. The next thing you know, 6-12 months have passed by and your self-care needs are still hovering at the bottom of your to do list. Allow yourself the time and space to practice self-care. You deserve it. Sometimes when we least feel like doing something is when we need it the most.
If someone treats you rudely or disrespectfully, do you ever interpret it as being your fault? If someone doesn't do something do you ever feel like it's your fault because you forgot to remind them? Do you ever second guess whether you have the right to be angry when someone treats you poorly? Do you ever remain silent despite wanting to speak up for yourself? Many mistakes that are made are often not 100% due to a single person. If you feel like you are 100% responsible when things go wrong or mistakes are made, try accepting 50% of the responsibility and go from there. Sometimes the middle ground between taking too little or too much personal responsibility can get muddled. One rule of thumb you can use to help recognize what is appropriate, is to ask yourself how much responsibility do I need to take to keep this from happening again.
Are you one of those people who always goes the last inch of the extra mile? Doing this can be absolutely exhausting both physically and mentally. It can sometimes be manifested by being perfect with unimportant things while not attending to important things. In some cases, people feel like they have to be perfectly conscientious about what people can see or that their hidden flaws will be revealed to everyone. Not going the last inch of the extra mile takes practice. Try starting off with something small. Each time you don't go the last inch of the extra mile, and there are no significant consequences, it will become easier and easier to do.
Do you ever feel like a failure even though most aspects of your life are well managed and don't present significant problems? Being too hard on yourself often leads to people focusing and ruminating about all the aspects of their life that are not perfect. Take a step back and think about it. Are you a good worker, parent, friend, partner, or pet owner? Try becoming aware of and giving yourself credit for all the things that you do right. How would other people see your life?
Do you feel that when other people make dumb mistakes it's understandable but if you commit the same error it is unacceptable? Everyone makes mistakes. If you do make a mistake, try not to immediately launch into self-criticism. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. When you consider one of your errors, what would you think about someone who made the same mistake? Try to give yourself the same courtesy and understanding you give to others.
By being less critical of yourself you find yourself wasting less emotional energy, making better decisions, and becoming more productive.