How to be Less Self-critical [HMHE Podcast Show Notes – Ep 35]
This week, I’m exploring how we judge ourselves and I share an exercise and a meditation that you can use to become a less self-critical person.
If you’re reading this then I’m going to assume that you’re into self-development. You’re a big-hearted and pretty self-aware person. Self-awareness is a critical part of our personal growth, but it comes with a flip side. We realize there are parts of ourselves that we don’t like – for example, our internal biases, self-destructive habits, etc.
And know that if you struggle with self-criticism there is nothing wrong with you. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t judge themselves harshly from time to time. Self-criticism has its purpose. It comes from our desire to be good people, to be loved, and to belong. It’s a normal and natural human tendency.
However, sometimes our inner critic can get out of hand. When we’re constantly beating ourselves up life becomes unbearable. And often we subconsciously judge ourselves and self-sabotage without realizing what’s actually going on.
So in this week’s episode of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast, 035: How to be Less Self-critical, I help you identify the ways that you consciously and subconsciously judge yourself. Then I guide you through a process of processing and dealing with your self-criticism so that you can accept yourself more fully.
Below is a brief outline of the episode. Please listen and subscribe to the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast wherever you listen to podcasts to hear the full episode.
Photo by 胡 卓亨 on Unsplash
Ways to Become More Aware of Your Self-criticism
The first step in becoming a less self-critical person is developing awareness of the specific ways that you are judging yourself. Below are some signs and behaviors of self-criticism to look out for in your daily life.
Shoulds: Thoughts such as, “I should do this. I shouldn’t do that.” are sure-fire signs that you’re judging yourself. Look out for “should” statements when you’re talking to friends or colleagues, setting goals, and journaling.
Expectations: What expectations do you have of yourself? What expectations do those around you have of you? How might you be using these expectations to judge yourself?
Comparison: We often compare ourselves to others as a way to judge and criticize ourselves. How do you compare yourself to others? What aspects of your life, personality, career, body, etc. do you often compare?
Soothing behaviors: Becoming aware of a part of ourselves that we don’t like or that we judge is uncomfortable! So, it’s common to want to sooth and distract yourself instead. We all have certain habits of thought, feeling, and behavior that we tend to turn to and indulge in when we feel uncomfortable. Think of these soothing behaviors as arrows. They’re pointing out the aspects of your life and parts of yourself that need more attention. Before you indulge in a soothing behavior ask yourself – What am I trying to distract myself from?
Things you’re trying to hide: We all have certain parts of ourselves and habits that we’re not proud of. What parts of yourself do you try to hide from the world?
Examples of Being Self-critical
Below are some of the ways that self-criticism has shown up for me in the past. I share these in the hope that you will feel less alone in your self-judgment.
As you read through my list take note of any similar ways that you are self-critical.
In the past, I’ve judged the part of myself that…
- Loves eating chocolate, baked goods, and anything else high in sugar
- Likes to zone out and watch silly YouTube videos and Netflix
- Doesn’t dress “nice enough” for a corporate office
- Likes to rest and be lazy
- Works only 30 hours a week in her business instead of burning herself out
- Has had a hard time living in foreign countries where she doesn’t have access to running water or hot water (I talked about this in my episode about volunteering in Guatemala)
- Unconsciously feels special or superior because she is white (AKA the part of me that exhibits characteristics of White Supremacy Culture)
- Likes to shave her armpits and legs (AKA the part of me that feels the need to conform to my culture’s beauty standards)
How do you judge yourself? What parts of yourself do you criticize?
How to Become Less Self-critical
It’s important to note that the goal is not to stop judging yourself altogether. As I mentioned before, self-criticism has its place. Please don’t pile on the judgment and shame by criticizing the part of yourself that is self-critical! With practice, we can accept that part of ourselves too.
That being said, constantly buying into the self-deprecating stories that our inner critic tells us can hold us back in life. This is a very unpleasant way to live!
So, below is a practice that you can use to begin releasing your self-criticism and accepting yourself more fully. Please tune into the podcast for a more in-depth discussion of each of these steps and examples from my own life.
An Exercise to Become Less Self-critical
Step 1: Awareness
Use the self-reflection questions that I mentioned earlier under the heading, “Ways to Become More Aware of Your Self-criticism,” to bring more awareness to the ways that you judge yourself. Our goal here is to get specific and pin down the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we are self-critical of.
When your inner critic starts blabbing away take note! Write down the ways that you currently judge yourself, and the ways that you’ve judged yourself in the past.
Step 2: Investigate
Now it’s time to put on your detective hat and investigate each judgemental thoughts that you’ve identified.
Think back to your early life. When was the first time that you remember criticizing yourself in this way? Was there a specific instance when you decided that this part of yourself was not acceptable? Did someone else tell you that it was not acceptable? Therapy can be a great tool to help you investigate your past.
If you can’t recall a specific memory that relates to the self-judgment you’re investigating that’s okay! Our current life is a product of our current thoughts. Whether or not you can identify the source of the thought you can still transform it. Life coaching and self-coaching can help you to reprogram your thoughts and more fully accept yourself.
So, inquire of yourself: Why am I judging myself for this? Why have I decided that this part of me isn’t okay? Is this something that has been deemed to be unacceptable by my social circle or my culture?
Step 3: Accept and Integrate
Now we get to the hard part. It’s time to invite the part of you that you’ve judged in the past into the present moment. No more hiding it away. Sit with it. Feel it. There is no objective here other than to witness (from a neutral place) the part of yourself that you tend to criticize.
One of my mentors, Dr. Vasant Lad, often says that love is giving space. How can you give the part of yourself that you’ve previously shunned space?
Practically speaking, this might look like allowing yourself to indulge in your desires without judgment. Of course, if indulging means doing harm to yourself or others then seek help instead of indulging. But if allowing this hidden part to express itself is not going to do harm then indulging can be incredibly liberating.
For example, I now eat chocolate almost every day and I do so guilt-free. I fully luxuriate in the smell, the taste, and the texture and then I move on with life. No self-criticism is necessary.
Instead of making yourself wrong for being a certain way, what if you accepted it and leaned in?
A Meditation for Self-Acceptance
You can also use the following meditation practice to release self-judgment. I learned a version of this meditation years ago while attending the Shakti School.
- With your eyes closed or your gaze softened bring to mind someone that you love unconditionally. This could be a family member, friend, or even a beloved pet.
- Let yourself sit in that love for a few minutes. Let it grow as you think about your loved one.
- If it feels good you can visualize the love. Does it have a certain color, light, or texture?
- Now let that person or thing that you love go. Let the thought of them float away.
- Continue to sit in the love.
- Next, in your mind’s eye turn that love inward. Shift it ever so slightly toward yourself.
- If you want to take this a step further, bring to mind that part of yourself that you judge or dislike.
- Can you shift that love again, ever so slightly, toward that shunned part of yourself?
- Lastly, let everything but the love go. Let the love spread and engulf your entire body.
With practice, this process of (1) developing awareness, (2) investigating the ways you judge yourself, and (3) accepting your criticized parts, will help you to become less self-critical so that you can deeply accept yourself.
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