Happiness is not dependent on circumstances being exactly as we want them to be, or on ourselves being exactly as we’d like to be. Rather, happiness stems from loving ourselves and our lives exactly as they are, knowing that joy and pain, strength and weakness, glory and failure are all essential to the full human experience. - Kristin Neff
It’s often true that the harshest criticism comes from ourselves of all the criticism we receive in our lives. No one is immune to self-criticism, and it happens to even the most confident people.
However, self-criticism can become all-consuming and drastically affect our well-being. There’s a difference between constructive and unconstructive criticism, and the kind we tell ourselves is often the latter. We all make mistakes — everyone knows that, so why is it so hard to choose kindness over criticism?
If you are your greatest critic and don’t know how to stop, there are ways you can begin to shift into the realm of kindness.
1. Remember That No One Is Perfect
Perfection is not honestly attainable. Sure, you can describe yourself as a perfectionist — but are you doing it for yourself or others? When you strive for goals, you should do so for personal benefit. All too often, however, we’re trying to prove something to others. The more we work to prove our worth, the more we get lost in this unachievable ideal of perfection.
Remember, no one is perfect, so if you’re working towards a goal of perfectionism, you’ll always come up short. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for greatness — a much more attainable goal (and one that allows for mistakes).
2. Practice Daily Affirmations
Just like we can get down on ourselves with self-criticism, we can do the opposite with affirmations. Start each day by telling yourself that you are smart, useful, and worthy. End each day by forgiving yourself for your mistakes. The more you repeat even the simplest of affirmations, the more you’ll believe them.
Self-criticism can make us think that everything we do is a failure. Remind yourself that this isn’t true, and even if you do fail sometimes, it’s necessary on your journey to success.
3. Talk to Your Friends About Your Mistakes
When you make a mistake, it’s all too easy to begin criticizing yourself. You want to hide your mistake — it’s the last thing you want to bring attention to! However, there’s power in camaraderie.
If you made a silly mistake at work, tell your friends about it. Laugh about it. Then they’ll likely share their experiences, and you’ll realize that your error isn’t such a big deal after all. With reassurance from your friends, you may be able to shift some of that onto yourself.
4. Ask Yourself: Would I Criticize Others the Way I Criticize Myself?
You’ve likely heard the saying, “treat others how you want to be treated.” What if we abided by the opposite as well: “treat yourself how you treat others.” Odds are, you aren’t nearly as critical of other people as you are of yourself.
Would you chastise your mother over a little mistake? Would you make your friend feel bad for one slip-up? The answer is likely no, and in fact, you’d probably do the opposite. You’d forgive your mother quickly, and you’d laugh off your friend’s slip-up.
We tend to be so critical and often cruel with ourselves, but forgiving with others. It would be best to forgive others for their little mistakes — but start practicing this forgiveness on yourself, too.
5. Moving Forward With Kindness
You won’t be able to cure your self-criticism overnight. And, even when you fall into the routine of self-kindness, you may still have moments of criticism pop up. It’s okay to be critical of yourself sometimes — otherwise, you’d never grow as a person.
However, if you’re always feeling down on yourself, you may want to make some changes. Try some of these tips, and if you’re still struggling, see a therapist to work through your issues. Everyone makes mistakes, and you don’t deserve to go through life feeling miserable because of yours. Remember, you deserve kindness and forgiveness — and the work starts from within.
If you’re ready to address perfectionistic patterns in your life, please reach out today.