Why self-criticism does more harm than good

The Wellbeing Doctor

I'm an NHS Clinical Psychologist (in training) sharing practical evidence-based ideas for looking after your mental and physical health.

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Many of us have grown up in cultures where self-criticism has been viewed as useful and motivating. We may have learnt that that punishment leads to learning but thinking well of yourself is associated with arrogance. Ideas like this breed a culture of thinking that self-criticism keeps us motivated when, actually, this is far from the case.⁠

Self criticism makes you feel bad! It may sounds obvious but we often don’t realise that if we criticise ourselves all the time, we will feel constantly criticised, which is not a recipe for good mental health! ⁠

Imagine following somebody around pointing out every little thing they’ve done wrong, telling them how they could do things better/faster, ignoring everything good they’ve done and calling them names. ⁠

How would you expect that person to feel at the end of just one day of this? How able would they be to make good decisions? How confident would they feel in their abilities to succeed in life? Would it make life easier for them or harder? The results would be pretty awful, yet many of us are doing this to ourselves all day, every day! ⁠

As well as making us feel terrible, self-criticism block us from having a clear, realistic view of ourselves which makes it difficult to overcome problems or learn from our mistakes. ⁠

Not being self-critical doesn’t mean seeing yourself as perfect – it means being realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, giving yourself credit for the things you do well, as well as acknowledging that we’re all humans who have flaws and make mistakes.⁠

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The Wellbeing Doctor

I'm an NHS Clinical Psychologist (in training) sharing practical evidence-based ideas for looking after your mental and physical health.

Follow On Instagram

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