I recently asked our mindset community for their opinions and experiences around being “self-critical’.
To be honest, I found some of the responses to be haunting.
Take a look;
Oh my gosh.
As as former competitive athlete myself, I know this game ALL TOO WELL. The endless “I should be better than this.”
It pains me to hear someone have this destructive core belief.
[ASIDE- Dear Athlete, please know it doesn’t have to be this way. Please keep reading]
Again with this next response, we can see that this person fully recognises how negative and unproductive their self-criticism is;
Whilst this might seem like a blow away comment, imagine the self-loathing that this person is likely experiencing at some level?
Because no matter how hard they try, or how well they do, in their eyes it is never enough.
THEY are never enough.
And unfortunately, they aren’t alone.
Take a look at this strikingly similar response from a reader who’s an athlete. They confess that their self-criticism totally robs them of their confidence;
I don’t know about you, but I find responses like these distressing.
There is almost zero benefit gained as a result of such criticism.
It’s more like a slow, self-inflicted suffocation of one’s self-esteem, and I’m pretty sure their goals and dreams are being shut down in the process too.
This is heartbreaking.
I also bet that these people are all really decent, hardworking, and good people!!
They don’t deserve to feel bad about themselves! Yet sadly, they do.
Instead, they deserve to be loving and supportive of themselves, as well as their efforts, their goals, and their dreams.
Yet for some reason, they’ve each developed the practise of putting themselves down– of innately criticising themselves– rather than appreciating, respecting, and lifting themselves up.
IT’S NOT ALL A ONE SIDED AFFAIR THOUGH
Let’s also take a look at some other, very different responses I received.
Take a look how at how this cyclist used being self-critical to their advantage, as they chased down their goal of cycling across the Alps;
OK! So this is looking more positive.
But what do you notice about this cyclist’s “critical view”?
Keep reading about their experience– what can you see?
For this Alps-crossing reader, their critical eye dramatically improved their outcome. In fact, they went so far as to say that without their critical view, their goal to cycle the Alps would have ended in failure!
What’s going on here?
What key differences do you notice between their experience, and the previous examples?
We’ll cover this off in a second, but let’s just take a super quick look at one last experience– a self-confessed perfectionist’s response.
NOTE- What similarities do you notice between this perfectionist, and our reader who cycled the Alps?
LET’S SUMMARISE ALL THIS
Ok, so here’s what I can see from all 5 examples:
In the first 3 examples, the self-criticism is all done to oneself.
It’s like a personal attack on one’s very nature.
The attack always sends the same, deeply destructive message;
“I am not good enough.
No matter what I do or try,
no matter how much progress I make,
even if it’s my best — I am not enough.’
That is brutal!
If you’ve even spoken to yourself like this, you know how much this kind of self-talk shuts you down, and just makes you feel like a total loser. It is so hurtful.
In the first 3 examples, there are no real signs of any boundaries, like the boundaries of the self-respect that we should show ourselves— just like we we would show to other people!.
There is also no flexibility built into the perspective— this is a distinct red flag for limited thinking and having a fixed mindset.
Instead, their point of view is very black and white– all efforts and behaviours lead to the same thing — that no matter what, I am not good enough.
OMG. This is horrible.
Also, this is deeply UNTRUE.
To the readers who think like this, please read my Ultimate Guide to Having a Growth Mindset.
It is a step-by-step guide for how to pivot from crushing fixed mindsets exactly like this!
If you’ve already read my Ultimate Guide, please read it again, but this time please apply it to you.
Please don’t just read it as my story.
Please use it to NOTICE your fixed mindset thinking.
Please ask yourself the 5 questions to UNRAVEL those destructive fixed beliefs.
And please deeply consider making the decision to create new, empowering beliefs that will serve you.
Because honestly, you have suffered ENOUGH.
It’s time to stop crushing your confidence, as well as your goals and dreams.
Right now is a great time to start being more flexible in your approach about your “rules for success” and when you’re allowed to feel “good enough”.
This requires being kinder, more acceptive, and more supportive of yourself.
It’s a great remedy to this “not good enough” type of self-criticism, which is deeply self-sabotaging. It’s judgemental. And it’s just plain mean to yourself.
I KNOW you don’t treat anyone else that way, and you don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of this either.
WHAT ABOUT THE CYCLIST & THE PERFECTIONIST?
For the latter 2 examples– I would say that both the cyclist and the perfectionist aren’t actually being self-critical.
I’d say they’re simply reviewing and questioning their choices, and making better choices that serve them and their goals!
They aren’t condemning and judging themselves.
They aren’t self-flagellating and putting down who they are as a person.
What they call “self-criticism”, I call self-reflection and self-awareness.
And as for the “perfectionist”, well actually, they aren’t one! (ASIDE- they came to the same conclusion after we’d had a number of back and forth exchanges about their experiences and perspectives.)
They aren’t a perfectionist because they fully accept themselves and their efforts even when they fall short of their expectations.
Hardcore perfectionists MUST be perfect, and anything less is deemed a shameful failure.
In this last example though, we can see that when “perfect” isn’t achieved, there is understanding and acceptance. In fact, it’s simply “feedback” for what to do next time.
This approach is both heartwarming and highly effective- because it’s self-serving, it’s growth focused, it’s results focused, AND it’s so REALISTIC.
Zero fluff. 100% action.
I love it!
DEBUNKING THE MYTH THAT SELF-CRITICISM SERVES US
Based on all of your responses, coupled with my own personal experiences, and in conjunction with having met and deeply listened to thousands of people in workshops– my conclusion is that self-criticism almost never fuels anything great in us.
Often cunningly disguised as a “motivator” to be better, self-criticism typically just robs us of our own self-worth and confidence.
Instead, it generates a fear-based approach to our efforts which almost universally limits our results, and extinguishing our self-esteem in the process.
To everyone who is their own worst critic, or if you are highly critical of yourself, please know that you have a CHOICE– and therefore the power– to stop judging and criticising yourself, and instead start being more acceptive, tolerating, and respectful towards yourself.
One minute at a time. One day at a time.
Kindness and self-tolerance is a practise and a habit like any other.
May you choose it for yourself. May you live it for your life.
Thank you so much for reading.
P.S. If you have any feedback or something to add to this post, please share it in the comments below.