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Why Am I So Hard on Myself? – This Is How You Can Stop It

Hannah Cericola

Why is it that when our friends need words of encouragement, we jump at the opportunity to ease their discomfort, but when it comes to our internal dialogue, we say things like: 

“I’ll never be able to reach my goals” 

“ I am never going to make it” 

“I am so bad at everything I do” 

Many of my patients have come to me saying, “I feel like I am my own worst enemy”, and it’s true. At times it may feel like we are our own “worst enemy” as we engage in negative self-talk and hold ourselves to unrealistic standards that we would not expect anyone to accomplish. It is normal and natural to experience phases of self-doubt. Obtaining goals and motivating ourselves can be helpful yet challenging. However, we often see that when trying to obtain these goals we can be faced with challenges leading to self-criticism. This cruel self-criticism can be harmful to our self-esteem, increase our anxiety, and prolong the process of reaching our desired goals.

So, Why Am I So Hard on Myself? Where Does This Begin?

We were not born with this need to be hard on ourselves. It was embedded in us from our upbringing, either demanding parents or a demanding culture, the unrealistic standards portrayed in the media, low self-esteem, trauma and our experiences, and/or mental health conditions. Whatever the reason for being so self-critical, there is hope for us in combating our negative internal dialogue.

How Can I Stop Being So Hard on Myself? 

The goal of overcoming self-criticism and working on not being hard on ourselves is to reach a point of self-acceptance and self-kindness. It is important to acknowledge that to see meaningful results, we need to practice patience, engage in persistent effort, and self-compassion. We are often familiar with our thought patterns, and it is essential that we challenge these thoughts. One way to combat the negative thoughts is to engage in strategies like:

Making A SStrengths List

It is salient that we recognize the qualities that we love and value in ourselves. We often “hate ourselves”, regularly spending our time working on the qualities we wish we possessed rather than cherishing what we already have. Take some time to write out a list of qualities that you acquire and that you find are a great asset to the person you are.

Practicing Positive Self-Talk 

Practicing self-talk can impact our ability to regulate our emotions. When we participate in negative self-talk it can negatively impact our resilience as we may dwell on problems, feel victimized, and take part in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Practicing positive, compassionate self-talk helps us strengthen our resilience.

Welcoming Mistakes

Making mistakes can be tough on us. When we have trouble coping with these mistakes, that leads us to become hard on ourselves. Although mistakes can be frustrating, they are, in fact,  a vital key to learning and growing. Mistakes are bound to happen in life. When a mistake occurs on our journey we should welcome it by saying: “ This is just a part of the process.”

Setting Time Limits

Being hard on ourselves takes some time. Set a timer and allow yourself to experience and process the emotions you are feeling. Once the timer goes off, make a conscious decision on how you will advance. Start by defining how you want to feel and what actions to be taken to reach your goal.

 How can therapy be helpful?

Becoming aware of the self-perpetuating cycle of negative self-talk, which reinforces the tendency to be hard on ourselves, is challenging. If you find yourself struggling with identifying the negative thoughts, combating them, and saying nice things to yourself, consider individual counseling. Mental health professionals are trained to help you  learn to recognize unhealthy thought patterns and alter them in a practical direction. They can offer you strategies for improving self-talk, building self-esteem, and self-compassion.




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