Signs You Are Too Self-Critical

This is the second episode in my self-criticism blog series (first post here). This post will cover some tell-tale signs that self-criticism is getting the better of you. Keep scrolling. Remember it’s important to be honest with yourself and also very self-compassionate if you notice some of these tendencies. Let’s get started.

Signs you are too self-critical

Here’s the list first – to save you from scrolling. Feel free to nod along. And then we’ll deep dive a few signs in detail.

People who are super self-critical have these tendencies. Do bear in mind that this list isn’t complete or diagnostic in any way. (Crippling self-criticism is not considered a mental health disorder…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need therapy!) These are observations from my clinical practice.

  • You feel the need to blame yourself (even if it’s not your fault)
  • You’re really hard on yourself
  • You struggle with perfectionism
  • You’re super sensitive to criticism from others & are very critical of yourself
  • You fear failure & loss of control
  • You feel exhausted often, for no reason, are frequently ill or have a chronic illness
  • You often wonder if you have depression or anxiety, maybe even worry about it
  • You have a hard time advocating for your own needs (like rest, or non-productive activities) or expressing your true preferences
  • You have a hard time accepting praise or compliments
  • You have very high expectations of yourself
  • You often feel zoned out or detached or empty
  • You’re hyper focused on your areas of weakness & struggle identifying your strengths
  • You don’t often feel confident or secure in your own skin
  • You struggle with low self-worth and self-esteem
  • You often compare yourself to others & don’t feel that you measure up
  • You choose partners who are critical of you, invalidate or fail to meet your needs, or those who are emotionally detached or unavailable

Now let’s deep dive.

You blame yourself for just about everything that goes wrong

The weather. That outfit. The restaurant you chose. Your directions. How they reacted to your message. You get the idea. The reason you take blame for everything is because you view your choices as an extension of your inner most sense of “worth.” Maybe it’s a little bit of insecurity or desire to be liked or appreciate as well. Deep breath babe. Ask yourself this. How likely it is that you would emerge as super secure & confident adult when you were constantly criticized as a child? Side eye. You literally did everything wrong as a kid, that’s what it felt like right? Your mother is probably hiding with shame now. Or is she?

The issue here is that every little thing has the power to decide whether you are; a) a worthy human being, or b) a total failure. And by ‘failure,’ I mean not reaching the standard of “exceptional, irrefutable perfection to 100%.” Also darling, please note how you currently categorize yourself by these two extremes. If it’s not “exceptional, irrefutable perfection,” then it’s probably sh-t, and therefore you’re sh-t, and that makes you feel utterly unworthy of love or success or happiness, right? That’s a nasty line of thinking that gives you evidence for the belief that you are somehow defective or unworthy. It’s a huge cognitive bias that you’re probably unaware of, that is, until now. Never mind that this chain of awful thoughts isn’t the least bit true. It still hurts, so we avoid it & shove it under the psychological rug. But there’s only so much we can sweep under that rug before these deep relational wounds reappear in adulthood.

You’re especially hard on yourself

This is an extension of #1. The reason you feel bad after making a mistake is because it triggers shame, sadness, or fear associated with a belief that deep down, you are not worthy or good enough as you are. (You must get tips dear reader, click part 3!). First of all, stop believing this malarkey. The more you think like this, the lower your self-esteem & mood will be, the higher your anxiety & future orientated worry will be (and we can’t have that, you’re already in a very fragile state my lovely). Thoughts are not facts. You are not a failure. You’ve got so much to offer the world & the world loves you for who you are. (I also know you’re dismissing this news right now because it is so different to how you view yourself. That’s ok, for now, I stand by my high opinion of you & I see your potential). Remember, you’re not yet good at identifying your strengths & good qualities. You have a HUGE blind spot, but we still love you. And, yes, we will help you remove that blinder because we know you won’t ask for help.

You have a hard time advocating for your needs to be met

I know, I know. The need to sleep, or rest, or have a hobby in something you enjoy but are actually terrible at. Non productivity….me??….insert evil laugh here. But, honey, they are important too. I know you think your needs are so inconvenient and not the priority right now, so you could probably keep stuffing them down for another decade or so. But sis, let me tell you that I do not want to be in ear shot when that dam of unmet needs & resentment finally bursts. You a human. Humans have needs. Humans are happier, more functional, & generally nicer people when their needs are met. Capice?

You fear failure & loss of control

Stepping outside of the comfort zone? Trying new things that you might not be good at? Asking for something special? Asserting myself? Eeekkkk…no. Failing! Absolutely not.

Leaving the place where we feel most secure triggers anxiety for most of us. But especially for the highly self-critical folks because it provides infinite, unforeseen opportunities for you (or others) to question your decisions and ultimately forces you to question your own worth. Being rejected never feels good, but it stings self-critical folks especially hard because it means our deepest fears (such as, I’m not good enough) might actually be true. You avoid it because you don’t want to invite the possibility that they are thinking about you in the same way that you’re thinking about you. And by avoiding it you’re reducing the likelihood that your deepest, darkest fears, might be exposed. Because if they were exposed, then your deepest, darkest fears would be truth with a capital T, out in the open, headlining the Daily Mail. Can’t have that now can we?

You compare yourself to others & often come up short

When it comes to skills, you view yourself as a work in progress. You mainly see your flaws but you overcome any perceived flaw with your grit. You tell yourself that you’ve gotten lucky. You feel like you need to work extra hard to be operating at their level. You tend to assume that others are more naturally talented, luckier, prettier, richer, and smarter. The thing is that you’re seeing their achievements at the end of all the work & often judging other people from where they are instead of where they started. Comparison is a killjoy, but it’s the only way you know how to keep score. It’s the bar for “better than” or “more than,” which is a different way of gathering evidence that you are in fact “good enough.”

Please know that people are very bad at seeing themselves in an accurate light. We tend to fixate on our weaknesses and magnify them in our minds. Self-critical people do a great job of finding evidence that they are “less than” and then spend a lot of time overcompensating, overworking, overachieving, people pleasing, etc.

The truth is, we underestimate how much other people feel like this in real life too. We are all struggling together, so let’s stop assuming that other people are just better because it triggers a feared belief that “you are actually sh-t and everyone will find out eventually if you stop trying so hard.” Impostor syndrome has its roots here too. Body image issues have roots here. Confidence (lack thereof, anyway) has roots here as well.

You have super high standards for yourself (hint: they may be totally unrealistic!)

It’s a great strategy in theory. First, you set the most impossibly high standards for yourself, so high that nobody else can reach them. Second, you push yourself to reach those standards even though deep down, you know they are lofty. But you’ve got that golden grit & know how to dig deep. You’ll show them and then you’ll know for sure that you are good enough because nobody else can get there. Then, on arrival, you will finally feel happy, totally worthy, & loved by all. They will wrap you with love & approval, you’ve told yourself, and that’s all you’ve ever really wanted. (Note. the opposite also shows up, where we are so sick of trying and being wrong that we stop trying altogether).

I mean, it’s almost like you’ll never run out of your own mortal energy because you’re so motivated to permanently stop feeling like sh-t about yourself. So motivated not to feel one iota of inferiority ever again. I jest, but this is actually a very painful truth that nobody can ever escape because it’s always in the back of your mind. Guess what gorgeous. That fear will be tattooed on the inside of your frontal lobe until you do the work to remove it. Oh, and hello burnout, we were just talking about you.

You find it hard to ask for help or admit that you’re struggling

Obviously you’d first HAVE to ADMIT it to YOURSELF that you’re not coping or need help, or can’t do it alone, or won’t make that deadline before you admit it to other people. And that triggers this belief that you aren’t good enough and never will be good enough and now everybody will shortly discover this tragic news. Better zip the lip & burn the midnight oil. Oh, hello burnout again, I see you’ve brought impostor syndrome with you. How are you guys?

You feel deeply insecure in your own skin

What does a worthy person look like? What does a successful woman look like? I’ll excuse you while you page through Vogue and look at “board room supermodels” laying spread eagle on a white marble table underneath a neon title “women of power.” When you think about a successful person that you consider to be “worthy” or “good enough” you might have a very distorted image about what it is, and you’ve convinced yourself that you are not it. Because people who are “it” don’t feel like you do. Maybe you’ve not gone up for promotion because you believe you’re not good enough. Maybe you didn’t ask that person out because you feared rejection for not being good enough. The list goes on, driven by your of less-than-isms.

You discount your progress & achievements

You’ve got your eye on something big, but en route, you’re discounting those important steps and little things that did go right. Because you’ve haven’t achieved the big thing yet, or reached perfection at every stage, you’ve convinced yourself that until you achieve that big thing, nothing will change. And if nothing changes, then things are the same, and those things are saying that you’re not a success and you’re not yet “enough.” Remember, that focusing on the flaws instead of things that went right feeds your “less than” belief.

You often avoid expressing your real opinion or preferences because you don’t want to risk receiving more criticism from other people!

I’ll just leave that one here. I know this has been a lot to process.

Next blog in this series will give you some much needed strategies to combat this nasty habit. Stay tuned 😊

Also do reach out via DM on socials or email if you’d like to get on the waiting list for a new mini workshop on how to stop crippling self-criticism.

Lots of love,

Dr M         

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