How to stop criticizing yourself

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~Louise L. Hay

I used to give myself quite a hard time. I felt like I wasn’t measuring up or doing enough or achieving as much as my peers.

I decided to make a note of the way I was speaking to myself and treating myself. What I found surprised me.

I noticed that I’d berate myself for days if something didn’t go exactly to plan, convinced that there was something wrong with me and that was why I had messed up.

I’d tell myself that I was stupid, useless, and a thoroughly incompetent, unworthy human being. Pretty mean stuff, really!

I wouldn’t even speak to my worst enemy that way I was speaking to myself. It was time to make a change.

Are you at war with yourself?

It’s been said many times that a lack of self-love is at the root of all of our problems, and I agree.

Our addictive behaviors are so often interlinked with self-esteem issues, not feeling good enough or valuing our own worth. At times, food or drugs may be a way of self-medicating or even self-harming.

If we’re stressed or anxious, we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves, telling ourselves that things should be a certain way—that we need to be different or try harder. We’re not accepting ourselves and the situation as it is right now.

When we take good care of ourselves, nurture ourselves, and accept ourselves completely, stresses seem more manageable, healthy choices are natural, and we feel better within ourselves.

Many of us think we need to be harsh and critical of ourselves in order to progress and move forward. However, evidence suggests that harsh criticism is actually demotivating and stressful, not helpful.

If you’re sick of being at war with yourself and are ready to love yourself more and become calmer, happier, and healthier, try these four steps.

1. Speak to yourself as you’d speak to someone you love and want to encourage.

Would you tell them that they’re no good? Would you give them a hard time? I don’t think so.

Tune into how you’re speaking to yourself throughout the day. Once you become aware of a harsh tone, work on changing this to a tone that is patient, compassionate, and accepting.

Giving yourself a hard time isn’t effective at helping you to do your best. I like to remind myself that I’m doing my best, that every experience is a learning experience, and that I’m already good enough.

2. See yourself as your loved ones see you.

When I first met my boyfriend I didn’t believe him when he told me he loved me. I wasn’t able to see past my own self-criticism to see what he could see.

By imagining how he saw me, I was able to perceive myself in the way that he did—all the good points, the strengths, the sense of humor, the quirks, the vulnerability, and yes, the flaws, but on the whole, I could see a worthwhile and lovable person.

Imagine a person that loves you and picture them sitting in front of you now. Notice the way they look at you in way that lets you know that they love and accept you completely.

Now imagine you can step into their shoes and see yourself through their eyes, with love, care, and kindness. Notice all your amazing qualities and even all of your flaws, and send yourself a lot of acceptance for all of it. Now step back into your own shoes but bring with you this new perspective.

3. Make a daily list of the things you appreciate about yourself.

It could be that you’re a good friend, or maybe you always remain calm in a crisis. So often we’re programmed to notice our deficiencies and the things we lack. Challenge this instinct by noticing the things you appreciate instead.

Recently, I’ve appreciated myself for being a good listener, for making great cakes for my friend’s birthdays, for my willingness to work on myself, and for the fact that I can now do twenty whole pushups!

 4. Remember that you are a human being and are therefore fallible.

You and everyone else on the planet are a work in progress. You don’t need to be perfect; you are always learning, always changing, and getting better every day.

Aim for progress rather than perfection. We are all doing our best with the tools and abilities that we have at our disposal. So give yourself a break and remember that you’re doing just fine.

I’d love to hear about the ways that learning to love yourself has helped you, or could help you. What strategies do you have for loving yourself more?

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