We are our own worst critics, but some of us have a literal scoreboard in our head that’s constantly giving us the “thumbs down.” It’s like living with a movie review team in your head. Except, unlike the famed Siskel and Ebert, the critic in your mind doesn’t have a day off or a moment of rest.
On one hand, being hard on yourself has pluses: people who don’t really care about what they say and do aren’t typically out making the world a better place. Someone who’s hard on themselves is someone who cares about their time on this planet, and that’s a good thing! Where it becomes problematic is the intense self-criticism that sucks the joy out of life and the intense “second-guessing.”
Are you too hard on yourself? Here are a few signs you need to ease up the pressure.
1. Your accomplishments are never enough.
You got published somewhere huge. You landed the big raise. Your master’s thesis was accepted. It’s all just bliss and kittens to everyone … except you. You should have done X. You should have gotten 5K more in that raise. Did they really approve your thesis idea? Sure, but I bet they didn’t love it.
This is the nonsense that goes on in your head. It’s enough for everyone and for you, if only you would appreciate what you accomplished.
2. You second guess yourself.
Was that the right choice? The person who’s hard on themselves isn’t only second-guessing but five, six and seven times guessing every single thing.
3. You devalue your triumphs.
Do you minimize your successes with words like, “Oh it wasn’t that big of a deal,” “Everyone does it,” or, “It’s not as good as X”? If you answered yes, you need to ease up and learn to control your stress.
4. You constantly compare yourself to others.
You did an awesome job but the person next to you did even better. This will rot your insides out like you swallowed battery acid. You won’t let yourself live it down. The problem? There will always be someone prettier, smarter, funnier, more successful, and richer than you. Instead of competing against yourself, you compete with anyone and it’s tiring.
5. You keep yourself awake at night.
When you’re hard on yourself you’ll spend a lot of nights fretting and worrying, which means a lot of late night TV and insomnia. Fun, isn’t it?
6. You never take risks.
Some people who are hard on themselves may forgo taking risks for fear of failure because they have to be perfect. Taking a risk could mean not being perfect and that’s a serious “no-no.”
7. You’re hard on others.
The critical nature of someone hard on themselves can be passed onto how they view others. If he or she wants to be perfect, it’s not unusual to expect a lot from that person’s social network.
If you’re hard on yourself, ask yourself these questions:
• How is this behavior helping me?
• When will I ever reach “good enough” status?
• Why do I feel less-than?
• How do these behaviors impede your life and those in your life?
• What have you missed out on by being hard on yourself?
• Is this something worth stressing over or can it go in the “let it go” pile? (Have two “piles” of thought: the “important” pile and the “let it go” pile. Things that really matter to your life and function should go in the “important” pile, and things that really won’t affect your happiness or others should go in the “let it go” pile.)
Recognizing these things can help you tame the critical toxic monster in your head and give that beast the “move out” letter. You can’t go on beating yourself up and hoping to have a happy life at the same time. The two don’t meet.
Don’t waste your life; let go of your internal critic.