Criticizing yourself is bad for your health. Your body reacts just as it would if someone else were criticizing you. Stress hormones — chemicals that make you want to fight or flee — shoot into your bloodstream. That’s a lot of stress and wear-and-tear on your body and nervous system.
To add insult to injury, criticizing yourself doesn’t make you more productive. Just the opposite. Research shows that people who are kind to themselves get more done than those who act like they are their own mean bosses.
“Accept that all humans make mistakes, and that since you are a human, you will make mistakes too.”
The good news is that there are easy ways to turn off your inner critic:
Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
Pay attention to your inner monologue. Do you ever scold yourself, thinking thoughts like, “Wow, I can’t believe I said such a stupid thing!” Now think — would you say that to a good friend? Would you call your friend “stupid”?
If you wouldn’t do it to someone else you care about, don’t do it to yourself.
Ask yourself if your standards are reasonable.
No one is perfect. If you criticize yourself every time you fall below some unattainable standard of perfection, you will be criticizing yourself a lot. Accept that all humans make mistakes, and that since you are a human, you will make mistakes too. Stop thinking of mistakes as opportunities to criticize yourself. Instead think of them as helpful signs in how you can realistically improve.
Get grounded in the moment
Once you start criticizing yourself, it can be hard to stop. You can get caught up in a painful spiral of ever-increasing critical thoughts. One self-attacking thought leads to another, with each thought more negative than the one before. You lose touch with the present moment, as you beat yourself up for things that you’ve done in the past or worry about things that may never happen in the future.
It’s important to stop the spiral of negativity before it gets totally out of control. The trick is to get out of your head. Focus on a simple physical sensation. Place your hand on an object, such as a table. Focus on how the object feels under your hand. Or give your attention to a smell or a sound in your environment. By giving your full attention to something physical that is happening in the moment, you will remove your attention from critical thoughts and bring yourself back to a more centered and healthy way of being.