As a wellness researcher and writer, I’ve benefited from a lot of self-examination. Yet even though I have grown and become more self-compassionate, I can still fall victim to excessive self criticism. Why? Because knowing how to not be so hard on yourself takes practice. Mistakes can be so discouraging. They can set your self-esteem back for days, possibly longer. But you can give yourself the credit you deserve. That power starts right here.
Accepting Yourself is Not Settling
When I was in high school and college (okay and well into adulthood too), I remember often feeling inadequate. The practice of self-compassion and the simple knowing how to not be so hard on yourself was not really a thing back then. I knew what I called “my limits”, but tried my best to push through insecurities too. At the same time I was also driven to continually improve myself in a variety of ways. I exercised regularly to stay in shape, was relatively food conscious, didn’t smoke and only drank alcohol socially. I spent the required time studying and preparing for what I hoped would be a successful future. That’s what I considered self-empowerment back then….I was generally keeping up.
Whatever I perceived as a desirable look and status during those times, was what I tried to adapt for myself. Little did I realize that the motivating factor behind my desire to belong and be seen as successful or accomplished, was low self-esteem. Sadly I was not really aware that the self-satisfaction I was seeking was from external validation. If and when that feeling of approval would finally come, it would also go. Then I had to settle with the only thing left, myself. It took a really long time for me recognize this negative mindset of unworthiness. It’s taken me even longer to work on nurturing that mindset to a place of continual growth.
I’ve come to understand that you will always only be left with yourself. The so-called red carpet ends, applause ceases, and skin wrinkles. But as long as the person you are left sitting with is someone you like a whole hell of lot, you are not really settling at all.
How to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself
Since we all have different circumstances or goals, below is a full list of detailed tips to overcome the tendency to beat yourself up. This list of advice covers as many highly effective techniques as possible! So use these proven strategies as guideposts towards self-reflection and positive solutions to overcome being your own worst enemy. Then be sure to take our brief quiz at the end of this article for helpful insight in breaking the habit of self-deprecation.
- Self Assessment – Ask yourself why am I being so hard on myself and answer with honesty. Is the universe really conspiring against you or did you fall short some how through laziness, not preparing or some other reason? Is your situation your own doing or does it just mean you need to try harder, take more time, or invest in whatever skills you need to achieve your goal?
- Self Acceptance – Don’t confuse self-acceptance with self-esteem. Self-acceptance is an unapologetic and unconditional recognition of the good, the bad and the gritty. Now take what you have without judgement, yet with a willingness and determination to improve and move forward (using the rest of these empowering tips!).
- Self Compassion – Give yourself the gift of knowing that you’re human. Self-care is not selfish, as we all know you cannot serve water from an empty well.
- Self Forgiveness – Like self compassion, forgiving yourself releases you from whatever emotions are holding you back from being the best version of yourself. The belief that you don’t deserve happiness is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. You can be accountable and learn from your mistakes without holding on to the negative energy associated with past indiscretions.
- Practice Resiliency – Limitations and failures may be discouraging but they are not a life sentence. So if you stay tethered to past failures or negativity, it will forever restrict you from moving in the right and positive direction.
- Set Realistic Expectations – There’s a saying that goes, “Every expert was once a beginner.” So comparing yourself with others will get you nowhere fast. One study that shows that 85% of what we worry about never happens. So recognize and avoid excessive worrying.
- Know the Vibe of Your Tribe – Be around people who you trust with your failures as well as your successes. A toxic friend or partner tends to find fault and secretly wants you to fail. Remember those reactions are not about you, but about them. Limit your time and interaction with those people as much as you can. Find people who want to see you succeed and will lift you up when you don’t.
- Lose Your Ego – Self-criticism and low self esteem take hold when we cannot accept our shortcomings or mistakes…when believe we are incapable or undeserving of happiness. Take good care of your emotional well-being by first reconciling your ego. Your authentic self is perfectly imperfect and anytime you’re dishonest with yourself, you lose that authenticity. (More interesting insight on Ego in the section below.)
- Stay Present – With all of the tips above, none of these techniques will have as much power if you do not live in the present moment. Recalculating your choices, second guessing decisions, suffering because of the past and worrying about the future doesn’t bring you one step closer to happiness and inner peace. Life is only lived in the now – so try not to drift off anywhere else.
- Work on Self-Confidence – Everyone experiences feelings of low self-esteem and insecurity from time to time. Not having confidence is a tremendous factor in being too hard on yourself. As with any goal, you must put in the time and work. So the same is true for confidence. Take control of your confidence with a positive, growth mindset and you will overcome any insecurities that get in the way of being the best version of yourself.
I’m not saying that everyone who is goal-minded, driven and continually works to improve their well-being has low self-esteem or low confidence. The point is that many of us are doing all of these things simply for misguided or the wrong reasons. We are so hard on ourselves when we don’t live up to certain expectations. Expectation is the root of disappointment; and our perception often determines those expectations. Whether they are unrealistic or not, when we rely too much on expectations, disappointment ensues.
Perception means…You don’t see things as they are; you see things through the lens of what you think and feel and believe. Perception is reality, and I’m here to tell you that your reality is colored much more by your past experiences than by what is actually happening to you. If your past tells you that nothing ever works out, that life is against you, and that you’ll never succeed, then how likely are you to keep fighting for something you want? Or, if you quit accepting no as the end of the conversation whenever you run up against opposition, you can shift your perception and fundamentally reshape your entire life.– Rachel Hollis
Ending Self-Criticism Overload and Toxic Self-Talk
When I look back on my past, my mindset to improve my life worked both for and against me. I pursued goals, but when I did not achieve them, I completely identified myself with the failure as being one in the same. Similarly, even more often than not, feelings of not being enough continually loomed over me. You see, the more negative self-talk you allow, the easier it becomes to believe. It becomes your truth. A mindset of low self worth quickly becomes toxic to healthy, happy living.
This stagnant disposition of being way too hard on yourself is all to common today. It’s an emotional epidemic of sorts. It’s…
- teenagers trying to maintain some sort of social media status, or athletic accolades, or getting in to the so-called best colleges
- our looks, our hair, our brand worshiping, our social-economic appearance
- not making enough money, an inability to maintain healthy relationships or getting the promotion we deserve
- It’s just everywhere.
There’s so much self-induced competition based on perception. We are so hard on ourselves and self-critical because of what we think we should be or whom we should be more like. Simply put, these perceptions cause more stress and anxiety than what’s happening to us in real life.
Should we go easier on ourselves? Won’t share, not fair, don’t care mindset? Sure there are certainly advantages to being easier on yourself as well. But being too comfortable can also lead to complacency. Then you’re back to low self esteem issues, so we have to be careful don’t we?
It comes down to this: self-awareness. The ability to get in touch and stay in touch with yourself is critical to living a full, balanced and abundant life. Since life continually changes, so do our circumstances. I’ve found that there’s a delicate balance between reaching for more and accepting our limitations. It’s easy to address on that notion with responses like, “If you accept status quo, you’ll never achieve true happiness,” or “Failure occurs when you don’t try.” Again, not saying those things.
At the nucleus self-compassion are moderation and mindfulness. These behaviors are the critical factors in any well-being journey.
In other words, yes reach for the sky! But keep one foot on the ground while you do it.
Stay connected to your core being. Don’t change who you fundamentally are to gain some a higher status or elusive image.
When you can achieve a healthy mindset, you will rest in the knowledge that both your arms and your feet can take you wherever you want to go.
In the purest sense of the word, you are empowered with your own truth. So what will it be? This self-awareness, knowing who your are as intimately as possible, is everything. Faults and strengths – again, perfectly imperfect.
It’s my hope that I continue to support a mindset of self-compassion, empowerment and self-trust in which I know my strengths and use them. But also that I know my weaknesses and do my best to cultivate them too.
What is Ego’s Role in Self-Compassion
Ego – really important and under the radar. We’re so used to associating ego with conceit. Oh, he has such a big ego, I wish he’d get over himself. But ego doesn’t only damage with excess self-importance. It diminishes too. Your ego is how you consciously identify your self. Simply put, ego separates you – in either direction – from who you intrinsically are. Ego is often your inner dialogue telling you that you are not enough. As mentioned for others, it tells you that you are all that. So beware and be aware of both!
Your ego will have you believing that if you can just achieve this, make this much or look like that … you will be worthy. That material belongings, earnings, success, or approval from the outside is what makes you whole. When the real truth is that you were born worthy and complete. No, that’s not a cliché. This is how you must stop being so hard on yourself all of the time. Shift your focus to your efforts, your humanness, and away from any negative self talk and perceptions. Practice our 10 tips on how you will stop beating yourself up. The more you practice self-awareness, the further you will separate yourself from ego.
Why Am I Too Hard on Myself – Take the Quiz and Find the Answer
My hope is that the all of the tools and information I share here at Own Your Best resonate with you and most of all help you grow. Ultimately you must answer to yourself. You are the manager of your life. It’s time to take responsibility for your emotional health and well-being – nobody else will. So to help you along the way, we’ve developed this brief quiz to not only determine if you are too hard on yourself, but dig deeper and find out why. Most importantly, various answer combinations will give you different tidbits of motivational advice to help you overcome that tendency to beat yourself up. So feel free to take the quiz a few times, especially when more than one answer may apply.
So how did you do? Leave me a comment below and let me know if the quiz was accurate. Also if there are any beat-yourself-up scenarios missing that you think I should add, please let me know.
All in all, no matter what your results reveal, let me tell you this…The only way you can stop just surviving and start thriving is when you make the choice and conscious effort to practice self awareness as a catalyst for positive change. So continue to be on the lookout for these important signs. Then put down the proverbial emotional bat you’ve been using to beat yourself up. Be patient with the process, tolerant of your shortcomings, celebratory of your strengths – and build upon them all. Allow these qualities to work together. Most of all practice and empower yourself with self-compassion to overcome any obstacles preventing you from living your best life.
Find More Ways to Empower You to Own Your Best