“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
If you’re anything like I used to be, your inner critic packs a powerful punch.
You’ve got a vicious voice bad mouthing you for much of the day. And when it’s in one of those moods, wow, are you going to suffer.
It’s no wonder you feel small, disappointed, and ashamed of who you are.
It’s the reason you lie in bed at night feeling like a failure, convinced you’re a nobody, certain you’re a serial mistake maker.
It was exactly why I used to just lie in the dark, a lot. Most days in fact. Not sleeping, not even thinking, just lying.
I was forever longing for my life to go away. I’d gotten so good at beating myself up that each day seemed to present more opportunities to fail, to feel insignificant and never good enough.
Alone in the dark, I could pretend that all my problems disappeared and that I was free of the stress. I could make-believe that the pressure had evaporated.
You see, I’d taken on one of those jobs, one of those supposed leaps up the career ladder. But hell, being the head of a college department turned out to be a bad life choice … given my oh-so critical inner voice.
Every day added to my imagined portfolio of failures. Every day blew another hole in my smokescreen of having any confidence in my ability. And every day, I became more fearful of being exposed as the ‘fake’ I believed I was.
I felt like I was constantly aching yet feeling numb at the same time, which became too painful to bear. I dragged my shameful self into the college and quit. I left my entire library of books on the table along with my resignation.
Four years on, even though I’d tried to move on, even changing countries, I still felt the same. No more confident and no less self-critical.
That’s when I learned that even if I hadn’t packed any belongings, I still took a devastating amount of baggage with me. Even worse, I’d allowed my inner critic to ride passenger.
That voice—that mean, vicious, ever-present voice—had to go if life was going to be worth living.
Consciously and patiently, I set out to understand why this self-critical person had become such a huge part of me. I learned how to recognize and counter the habitual negative messages and destructive behavior patterns. I learned how to beat my inner critic, for the most part.
And now it’s your turn.
Because it’s time you felt free from the pain of constant self-criticism as well. It’s time you finally stopped beating yourself up over everything you say or do. And it's time you were able to breathe, smile, and be pleased with yourself, just as you are.
How? With one simple, small action at a time.
Some of these ideas will speak to you; some will shout. Others will only mumble. Try a handful that grab your imagination. Add in others from the list over time as you learn to build them into an inner-critic-beating habit.
1. Keep a self-praise journal.
Pocket-size is best. Each time you feel pleased by something you’ve done or said, jot it down. Flip through the pages every time you feel your critical voice starting to pipe up.
2. Write a positive self-message.
Use a permanent marker and inscribe it on the inside of your shoes.
3. Diminish your inner critic’s power.
Repeat a negative thought back in a silly voice.
4. Update your Facebook status:
“Happy to be me. Work in progress.”
5. Send yourself a loving text.
Keep it, and re-read it often. Appreciate yourself.
6. Add a positive self-message to an image.
Put it on your phone and laptop.
7. Draw a caricature.
Give your inner critic a silly feature that makes you laugh. Stick it on your fridge.
8. Make a face or blow a raspberry.
At your inner critic, not yourself!
9. Visualize your inner critic.
Imagine it as an evil gremlin squatting on your shoulder. Each time it speaks up, turn and flick it away.
10. Look in the mirror.
Smile and compliment yourself on one quality or trait you like.
11. Keep a list of self-forgiveness quotes.
12. Write a list of qualities others like about you.
Keep it in your purse or wallet.
13. Write a list of qualities you like about yourself.
Add it to your purse or wallet as well.
14. Remind yourself:
“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” ~Unknown.
15. End each negative thought with a positive.
For example, “But I’m human and I can learn not to make the same mistake,” or, “But I have the power to change this.”
16. Jot down one thing you’d like to be better at.
Then take one tiny step toward that.
17. Remember “not good enough” doesn’t exist.
“I don’t know a perfect person, I only know flawed people who are still worth loving.” ~John Green
18. Ask yourself why you think you should be good at everything.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Concentrate on your strengths.
19. Find one thing each day to reward yourself for.
Make it something you truly look forward to.
20. Apologize to yourself.
Do this every time you recognize self-criticism (tell yourself you’re sorry out loud if you can).
21. Ring someone you haven’t spoken to in ages.
Tell them how much they mean to you. The best way to feel better about yourself is to make someone else feel better.
22. Remember that self-hate is not an option.
You’re the only person you can guarantee you’ll be in a relationship with from birth to death, so learn to love yourself.
23. Remember there’s no shame in messing up.
You’re trying to do something, grow, and contribute.
24. Break the cycle.
Admit you made a mistake and ask, “Now what can I do about it?”
25. Look at a mistake or “failure” in context.
Will it really matter in a week, a year, or ten years from now?
26. Recognize that you make fewer mistakes than you think.
You just criticize yourself repeatedly for the same few.
27. Drown out your inner critic.
Put on your favorite feel-good music.
28. Stop trying to do too much.
Strike one task from your to-do list that won’t stop Earth from revolving if it isn’t done.
29. Reflect on how you’re only on this planet for a short time.
You can either spend it beating yourself up and being miserable or learn to love yourself and be happy.
30. Stop focusing on the one thing you got wrong.
Focus on the many things you got right.
31. Recognize the good you do for others.
The more you beat yourself up, the less good you do.
32. Keep a daily, written tally of positive self-messages.
Increase this by at least one each day.
33. Physically pat yourself on the back.
Do this for everything you’ve done well this week.
34. Look at a satellite image of the earth.
Realize that you are an important part of this amazing creation.
35. Realize that over six billion people in the world don’t care.
Only you care that you made a mistake.
36. Think of a fun, positive adjective.
Adopt this as your middle name so that every time you criticize yourself by name, you’ve described yourself in a positive way.
37. Buy a houseplant.
When you tend it remind yourself you need this much love and attention.
38. Note down kind words from others.
Write them on slips of paper and keep them in a compliment jar. Dip into this whenever you need to counter a negative self-message.
39. Halt a negative self-thought.
Use an act of self-care. For example apply hand cream, or give yourself a neck rub.
40. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Remember Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!”
Stop Beating Yourself Up Once and for All
Beating yourself up leaves you feeling horrible.
All that constant self-criticism is exhausting. It leaves you aching inside.
Small, simple actions can bring great leaps in breaking this negative cycle—for good.
Let these ideas speak to you. Pick the ones that shout loudest.
Defeat self-depreciating thoughts you’ve heard over and over with conscious, positive acts of self-compassion.
Stop letting your inner critic overpower you. Fight back with self-love.
Depressed little girl image via Shutterstock