I’ve been thinking about the role of self-criticism in our lives. Self-criticism, or the practice of pointing out your perceived flaws, can be a healthy way to increase self-awareness and grow as an individual. However, self-criticism may also become a barrier to the growth of self-esteem, happiness, and peace of mind.
Studies have shown that excessively self-critical thoughts often have their roots in negative experiences during childhood. In particular, studies have shown that a person’s sense of self is most affected by the relationships between them and their parents during the formative years. When parents give a child plenty of freedom to make their own choices, encourage them to do things for themselves, and allow them to make their own mistakes, children are more likely to develop healthy self-confidence and grow up with a sense of security regarding their choices, rather than self-doubt.
On the other hand, more dictatorial parenting styles, such as those which are more controlling and rigid, may have the result of harming the healthy development of a child’s self-confidence, and may also affect their self-worth and foster negative self-perceptions. When children are treated with less warmth by their parents, or are frequently criticized, they may be more likely to grow up being overly critical of both themselves as well as others.
There is definitely an optimal amount of self-criticism. For example, when self criticism impedes one’s ability to thrive and grow as an individual, the benefits of self-criticism, in terms of growing and becoming a better person, may be overwhelmed by the potential harm to mental well-being. Such excessive self-criticism may contribute to depression, social anxiety, body image issues, or a sense of worthlessness.
This has been an issue for me for a long time, but I am working on it with help of an excellent therapist. In order to resolve my issues, I have been exploring the unrealistic expectations that I put on myself, and have found them to be not my own expectations, but rather those of my parents and other people in my life. As I continue to work through my issues, I realize that these expectations have had a powerful effect on my beliefs and behaviors. I am now working to align my life with my internal beliefs and values, and I’m working with my therapist to achieve greater happiness, compassion, and self respect in my life.
Have you had any issues with self-criticism, and, if so, how have you been working to resolve them? Let me know in the comments below!