ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Don't Be Beaten Down by Self-Critical Thoughts

Updated on January 19, 2010
STOP!!
STOP!!

Beyond Self-Condemnation

"How could I be so stupid?" "I screwed up again!" "I just can't get anything right." "I always let everyone down." "What's wrong with me? I'm just hopeless!"

These are the most obvious examples of self-critical thoughts. Some other types are more subtle. They camouflage themselves and pretend to be our own spontaneous thoughts, rather than someone else's evaluations that we have internalized as our own beliefs.

Watch a toddler learning to walk. When she stumbles does she think, "Oh, I'm such a klutz! Other people can learn this walking thing, but not me. I'm just hopeless. I might as well accept that I'll crawl for the rest of my life"?

Of course not!

What would you think of a parent who said to their toddler, "Get up stupid! What's wrong with you? You're hopeless! You'll never learn to walk, like the rest of us."

Would you expect a parent to react like that? Or would you expect the parent to smile encouragingly and say, "Look at you! You took a step! Wow! You can do it!"

Somewhere in our development, however, an older sibling, or a parent, or babysitter, or playmates, or a teacher told us we weren't okay -- that we were fundamentally damaged or wrong.

If we got enough of these messages, we eventually internalized a core belief that we are incompetent, worthless, or no good.

Usually the people who convinced us of this were passing along their own internalized self-condemning messages that had been fed to them when they were growing up. But we have the ability to break this unfortunate chain of negativity.

The First Step

Our initial task is to simply become aware of our self-judgmental thoughts -- not only the most obvious -- but also the more subtle ones, and the automatic way in which these thoughts trigger an emotional response.

Notice, for example, how you ward off compliments, and counter them with self-disparagement. Or how you so often expect disapproval from others.

The process of becoming aware of the internal, critical self-dialogue takes time. Labeling the thoughts, "This is a judgmental thought," begins to interfere with their automatic quality. The mere act of beginning to observe these thoughts more clearly initiates a subtle process of changing our relationship to them.

In the light of awareness, we begin to notice the tiresome, repetitive nature of these thoughts. They give the same message over and over, like an endless loop. There is nothing creative about them. They are merely echoes from the past.

"Futility" could be defined as doing the same things over and over even though they don't work. In that sense, these self-critical judgments are futile. If they were of any benefit in creating change, we would have long ago gotten past the need to constantly flagellate ourselves with them.

Your Inner Caring Relationship

Internal Wounding

Each time we repeat this cycle of judgmental thought, we are replaying very old scenes from the past. Only this time we have internalized both the role of the berating critic and the role of the vulnerable child. It is as if one part of our mind is scolding and insulting the other part of our mind. And, whether we recognize it yet or not, this hurts our heart and wounds our spirit.

Imagine a workplace where the managers are continually berating the employees, the employees are constantly criticizing each other, and the customers are always unhappy and dissatisfied.

Would you want to work in such an environment? Do you think that this business would run effectively?

Obviously such a system does not work. And yet, when a similar dynamic is going on in our own mind, we tend to accept it as how things have to be.

If you have a dog and you are trying to teach him a trick, do you think scolding the dog and beating the dog is going to be effective in teaching the trick? Nor will this kind of tactic work when we do it to ourselves.

The Next Step

When we become aware of the negative thoughts constantly whispering in the back of our minds, and when we realize how repetitive, automatic, and useless these thoughts are, we may have either or both of the following reactions: (1.) becoming angry with the critical voice in our head, (2.) becoming amused by how it continually tries to convince of us its view.

Becoming angry is similar to a protective adult stepping in to prevent the bully from harassing the child. "Leave me alone! Stop bothering me!" we might say to our inner critic, with some irritation.

Later in the process, when the formerly tyranical voice has shriveled in its power, we may laugh when the critical thoughts arise again. "Oh, you again! Trying to fool me." At this point the inner critic is no longer seen as a powerful inner force, but rather is more like a rusty inner mechanism -- a series of silly old tapes that replay themselves automatically.

When we get to that stage, the judgmental voices are no longer able to trigger an automatic emotional melt-down. It is like there is now insulation between the self-critical thought and the emotional triggering.


Disputation, Replacement, and Being Unaffected

Aside from developing awareness of the inner critic, there are three primary tools for deconstructing its mechanism. The first is disputation. We examine our most repetitive negative thoughts and ask ourselves, "Is this true?" We examine the evidence against the thought, and realize that the judgmental thought has no solid basis. This, in itself, doesn't mean we don't continue to hold onto it emotionally, as a core negative belief. But by repeating the process of disputation over and over, we begin to weaken the solidity of the core belief.

Replacement means substituting something else for the harsh self-judgment. This means noticing and acknowledging what is good about us, rather than dwelling always on what falls short. It means affirming ourselves and seeking out people and situations that are affirming. It also means cultivating an element of kindness toward ourselves -- especially toward the vulnerable, childlike part of ourselves -- our tender heart. Instead of focusing on messages of "you're not good enough" we focus on sending ourselves messages of "I love you," "I care for you," "I'm here for you," "I'll protect you."

This is the "adult" part of ourselves communicating with the vulnerable part. We reparent ourselves, treating the vulnerable aspect of ourselves the way a good, wise, and loving parent would. We encourage and nurture our growth. We celebrate our successes. And we realistically appraise ourselves with kindness and without condemnation. We stop looking primarily to external standards to measure ourselves against.

We can do this process alone, but it is better to do it with the help of others -- therapists, counselors, friends, loved ones, like-minded people.

Be Kind to Yourself
Be Kind to Yourself

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      SandCastles 

      6 years ago

      A very good article!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      This is an excellent hub. Many people are self-critical because they have grown up with parents who constantly belittled and criticized them for every mistakes that they made. We must learn to raise children with love and acceptance and to consider so-called failure and mistakes as part of the learning process of life.

    • profile image

      oolia 

      8 years ago

      I'm in the process of recognising my inner critic. I had a blindspot for ages because the negative self talk was so fast that I didn't spot it. It was only when I read somewhere that the self talk can be that fast that I started recognising the bad feelings I was getting were a result of negative self talk. What a relief that was! I'm at the stage of saying "aha! I see what you're doing!" and chuckling at my inner critic. It feels so much lighter!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)