Stress negatively effect our wellbeing. Apart from external stress factors such as a fast-approaching deadline, unexpected work demands or family events etc., another main trigger for stress we may overlook is self-criticism and harsh self-judgment, which lead to extra and unnecessary stress on our already fast-paced and stretched life.
We all self-criticise to different degrees, we may think to criticise ourselves is beneficial for our improvement, but it's important to recognise that most times self-criticism is counterproductive and detrimental to our growth and wellbeing. Without mindful awareness of that critical voice in our head, we run the risk of damaging our self-esteem and confidence, our emotional and physical wellbeing, and diminishing our quality of life.
What are the causes of self-criticism?
Self-criticism and harsh self-judgements are actually patterns of thinking and behaviour can be deeply ingrained and influenced by various factors such as:
- Social Comparison: In our highly connected world, it's easy to compare ourselves to others. Social media platforms often present idealised versions of people's lives, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism when we perceive ourselves as falling short. We tend to focus on our flaws and compare ourselves unfavourably to others, leading to harsh self-judgment. But we often forget most people use social media to share the highlights of their life, and are less likely to share things they won't like to show, plus everyone is on a different timeline in regards to life’s ups and downs, we are all on a different journey, you may comparing someone's "ups" time with your "downs" time.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Society often promotes unrealistic standards of success, achievement, and especially for youth and beauty. Ageing is so natural to life, yet it is perceived as negative. We internalise these expectations and measure ourselves against them. When we don't meet these standards, we may judge ourselves harshly and criticise our perceived shortcomings.
- Perfectionism: Many people struggle with perfectionism. While setting high standards can be motivating, perfectionism often leads to procrastination, and when we fail to achieve what we set out to achieve, it becomes a vicious cycle leading to more self-critics. The fear of failure or making mistakes can intensify self-judgment and hinder our growth.
- Cultural and Upbringing Factors: Cultural and family influences can play a significant role in fostering self-criticism. Messages received during childhood, such as overly critical parents or a culture that emphasises achievement at all costs, can contribute to a negative self-image and harsh self-judgment.
- Internalised Criticism: Sometimes, the self-criticism we engage in stems from internalising negative feedback or criticism from others. These external voices become internalised, leading us to perpetuate the criticism ourselves.
- Fear of Rejection or Judgement: Humans have a natural desire to be accepted and valued by others. The fear of being judged or rejected can drive self-criticism as a way to preemptively protect ourselves from potential criticism or rejection from others.
- Learned Patterns: Over time, self-criticism can become a habituated response to challenges or mistakes. We may have learned from our environment that self-criticism is an effective motivator or that it somehow protects us from failure or disappointment.
Combating Self-Criticism with Self-Compassion
Self-love is a key wellness pillar Peace & Pure advocates for, and self-kindness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion are essential elements of self-love.
Combating self-criticism with self-compassion is a transformative approach to navigating through life's challenges with ease and help us to reduce stress. By cultivating self-love and self-compassion, we shift our inner dialogue from self-criticism to self-nurturing. This shift in mindset promotes emotional well-being, resilience, and a more positive and empowering relationship with ourselves.
Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, just as we would treat a close friend. We wouldn't harshly criticise them every time they failed- imagine saying the harsh words to your friend every time as we say to ourselves - we may end up with no close friends. Self-love and self-compassion provide a broader perspective on our perceived flaws and mistakes. They help us recognise that we are human, and that imperfections are a natural part of being human. This perspective allows us to balance self-criticism with self-acceptance. Instead of overly focusing on our shortcomings, we learn to acknowledge and appreciate our strengths and positive qualities.
To help you further, below are some strategies and steps to help you develop a more compassionate and loving relationship with yourself:
- Practice Mindfulness: Develop awareness of your self-critical thoughts and judgments is primarily important. To correct an error, we first must aware of its existence. When you notice self-criticism arising, pause and observe it without judgment. Remember that thoughts are not facts. Mindfulness allows you to create space between you and your thoughts, create distance from negative self-talk, and respond with self-compassion instead.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: Actively challenge your self-critical thoughts by questioning their validity. Ask yourself if there is evidence supporting these thoughts or if they are simply unhelpful and biased beliefs. Replace negative thoughts with more balanced and compassionate perspectives.
- Cultivate Self-Kindness: Treat yourself with the same kindness and care you would offer a dear friend. Speak to yourself with gentle, encouraging words. Practice self-compassionate affirmations and remind yourself that you are worthy of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
- Embrace Imperfections and Practice Self-Acceptance: Recognise that imperfection is a natural part of being human. Embrace your flaws and mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. Shift your focus from self-judgment to self-acceptance, understanding that you are deserving of love and compassion, regardless of your perceived shortcomings.
- Practice Self-Care Rituals: Prioritise self-care activities, and create rituals that nourish you. For example, create a skincare routine and ritual with our Timeless Elixir Facial Serum, intentionally made to nourish your skin, mind and soul, for your ultimate self-care. Engage in practices that bring you joy, relaxation, and fulfilment. Regularly engage in self-care rituals as a way to honour and prioritise your well-being.
- Surround Yourself with Supportive Relationships: Seek out and nurture relationships with people who support and uplift you. Surrounding yourself with people (and brands like us at Peace & Pure) who demonstrate kindness, acceptance, and compassion will reinforce these qualities within yourself.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Understand that you are human and that perfection is unattainable. Embrace the process of growth and progress rather than fixating on flawless outcomes. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.
- Practice Gratitude: Cultivate gratitude by focusing on the positive aspects of yourself and your life. Regularly reflect on the things you appreciate about yourself and express gratitude for them. Shifting your attention to gratitude helps counteract self-criticism and fosters self-love.
- Seek Professional Help if Needed: If self-criticism and harsh self-judgment persist despite your efforts, consider seeking support from a therapist or counsellor. They can provide guidance and tools specific to your situation and help you navigate your journey towards self-growth.
Embracing self-love and self-compassion allows you to build resilience, enhance well-being, and experience a greater sense of inner peace. But remember, cultivating self-love and self-compassion is a process that takes time and practice. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you unlearn old patterns and embrace new ways of relating to yourself. It is a journey and not a destination, and Peace & Pure is always on this journey together with you.