This critical life: how to deal with self-criticism

We’ve all heard it before- “you are your own worst critic”. It’s true. Self-criticism is real, it’s something we all fall into at some point in our lives. Fortunately, it’s not completely a bad thing. It can allow us to be better versions of ourselves. But first we have to acknowledge when this critical voice appears, and how to allow it to push us instead of keep us stuck.

According to Wikipedia, “self-criticism refers to the pointing out of things critical/important to one’s own beliefs, thoughts, actions, behavior [sic] or results…” Like all good journeys mine starts with a hero (me) and a villain (my inner critical voice). Now, that little voice for me was not little at all. It was more like a screaming , angry teacher.

After a lot of meditation, therapy and self-help books I began questioning this mean voice. Why must you always be perfect? Why are you always criticizing me? “Because you’re not perfect”, it screamed. And I began picturing all the 1,000 ways I fell short of perfection. I started to imagine who this perfect person would be, I named her Perfect Zoya. She would never let her room be messy, she would be surrounded by close friends. She would be able to live on her own, have a great job making six figures, have a great boyfriend who loved and cared for her. She would wear all the best clothes, she would have perfect hair and makeup techniques. Perfect Zoya would eat extremely well all the time, and would never fall victim to anything that wasn’t a clean food.

I began to see my life as it is, one long comparison to Perfect Zoya and one long failure to measure up. Was I assuming that maybe with enough self-abuse , I would one day be Perfect Zoya?

Suddenly I realized that Perfect Zoya was not only a fictional character in my mind, but she was also a unicorn of sorts, something magical, living in a fairytale land that would never exist. I also realized that I was doing things to please my inner critical voice so that I could one day become this unicorn instead of doing loving things for myself. I began questioning why I exercised, ate right, studied or worked hard? Was it all a facade to please my inner critic? Or was I doing these things to avoid shame and self-criticism?

I had been spending my entire life motivating myself with negativity. And I was paying the price.

Changing Perspectives

Once I realized how much I compared myself to Perfect Zoya, I tried to stop. It seemed simple. Just stop doing it.

But when I tried too hard, that inner critic would come out and let me know that I wasn’t trying hard enough. It was a double-edged sword. For me to finally learn how to change this, I first had to ask myself…why? Why was I comparing myself to Perfect Zoya? Why did it matter so much to me?

I compare myself to Perfect Zoya because somewhere deep in my mind I believe that Perfect Zoya gets the love, adoration and praise. The Real Zoya doesn’t. So I must constantly push myself to be Perfect Zoya, never allowing myself to accept Real Zoya.

I know how insane that thought process sounds. When you highlight a belief, it oftentimes looks completely ridiculous. I don’t believe that at all. I believe the Zoya that sits around binge watching tv and baking cupcakes deserves love! The Zoya who hates cleaning her room and loves a hot cup of tea, she deserves love too.

How to Transform Self-Criticism

Turns out all I had to do was actually pretty simple- start loving myself more. I know, easier said than done.  Instead of pushing myself with shame, hate, and self-criticism, I am learning to motivate myself with praise, love, and encouragement. Instead of threatening myself, I am pumping myself up!

If you want to shift your own self-criticism and free yourself from the tyranny of your inner critic, start loving yourself.

Below are a few ways to implement this into your life:

  1. The next time you notice the inner critical voice scream negativity by criticising you or comparing yourself to some Perfect version of yourself, stop. Hit the pause button in your head.
  2. Then say to yourself “even though I… I love and accept myself exactly as I am.” So, for me today, “even though I needed to look at other blogs on this topic before writing this post instead of winging it all on my own, I love and accept myself exactly as I am.”
  3. Then, imagine giving yourself a big internal hug. Try to generate a feeling of self-compassion.

The more you begin to do this, the more you will begin noticing what I noticed. Love and self-compassion can shift even the strongest negative thoughts and emotions and allow you to enjoy life more. That’s the real goal here, isn’t it? If we keep driving ourselves using self-criticism, we will never truly be happy, no matter how perfect we are, because we won’t enjoy the process.

Instead, I challenge all of us to start incorporating more self compassion into our lives. Smile at your reflection in the mirror. Let others compliment you. Bask in other people’s approval when it comes your way. Be gentle with yourself over small mistakes. Value who you are and stand up for yourself. Get to know yourself like a best friend. Be easy about your personal quirks (we all have them). Be as natural as possible, not worrying if you are pleasing or displeasing others (separate blog post to come). Speak your truth when you know you should. Don’t brush away compliments. Don’t reject other people’s appreciation.

As Katy Perry sings, “Acceptance is the key to be truly free.” And I couldn’t agree with her more. Let’s all try to begin to accept oursleves where we are. To stop comparing ourselves to a fictional perfect version of oursleves.

Now, I’d love to hear from all of you. Have you found yourself criticising and comparing yourself? Challenge yourself to find self-compassion. Try out my tips and please let me know how it goes for you? Are there other tips you use to combat that inner critic in your head, please share in the comments below. If you know someone who could benefit from reading this post, please share it with them. Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below. I love hearing from all of you! And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to the blog so you can get instant updates of every new post!

P.S. – for my fellow north easterners affected by the storm Jonas, please stay safe and warm!

See you all next week!

Zoya

A 20-somethibg girl on a journey to find herself with hopes of helping others feel their feelings.