Self-criticism – Why it Holds you back – How to let it go

Self- criticism.  It can get in the way of your progress and your happiness. If you think you might be overly critical, or you feel stalled in your attempts to start something new, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I constantly pick apart what I’m doing, how I’m acting, or what I wear?
  • Do I find it hard to be happy with my accomplishments, my looks, my behavior?  
  • Do I find it hard to accept compliments for something I’ve accomplished?  
  • Do I ever feel as if what I’m doing isn’t “good enough”?  
  • Am I afraid to take a chance for fear I’ll make a mistake or fail at whatever I want to do?
  • Do I have a hard time giving myself a break?

If any of these sound familiar, or you answered “yes” to any of these, then you’re holding yourself back – not only from moving forward with success, but also of having happiness and contentment in your life.

It’s great to strive for excellence, however, if you aren’t able to let yourself off the hook when you’re anything less than perfect, then you’re being too critical of yourself.  Your own judgment of yourself stands in the way of happiness.  It slows down your ability to make decisions, and it gets in the way of taking action in your life.

While you might know it’s not helpful to be overly critical, maybe you haven’t found a way to rid yourself of these thoughts and feelings.  If you can’t accept yourself for who you are, then maybe it’s time to make a change. Maybe it’s time to give yourself some understanding and compassion.

By understanding and unraveling past events that created this view of who you are, you can let it go and create a happier, more successful life.

Thoughts and beliefs associated with Self-Criticism

Below is a list of thoughts or feelings common to negative thoughts or beliefs: 

  • Not doing a good enough job
  • Falling short of your own expectations
  • Feeling like you’re a failure
  • Doubting your ability to take action or make decisions
  • Feeling like you can’t trust your own judgment when it comes to relationships
  • Not being able to stand up for yourself when you feel you’ve been wronged

If any of these resonate as true for you, maybe it’s time to learn a different way of viewing yourself.

You Weren’t Born Being Critical

It’s important to recognize we weren’t born critical.  It was something we learned from other people.  Whether it was from a well-meaning parent or teacher, it still created a negative self-view.  It’s not how we were meant to think about ourselves.  But through either actions we saw, such as a disapproving look, or comments we heard, we learned that we weren’t enough.  We weren’t good enough, or we just weren’t measuring up.  These were someone else’s judgments as you grew up.  They weren’t something you felt about yourself in the beginning.  And so, being the sponges we are as children, we learned the lesson of judging ourselves harshly.

Sometimes a well-meaning parent might think they’re helping their child to “be a better person“, or “excel at what they do“, when in fact, by constantly focusing on what the child is doing wrong, rather than what they’re doing right, or constantly pushing a child to do better, they undermine the child’s ability to accept themselves.  This behavior also chips away at their self-esteem and self-worth.

Some parents will compare one sibling to another with phrases like, “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?”  It might have been said in a moment of frustration, but it’s still damaging to the receiver of the message.  When it’s repeated enough times, it becomes a person’s “truth” or ‘Identity”. 

These kinds of messages can also undermine a person’s ability to be open and trusting in a romantic relationship.  If you feel like you’re opening yourself up for criticism when you let someone get close to you, you’ll put up all sorts of barriers.  When you raise barriers to protect yourself, you rob yourself of true intimacy.  

If opening up to another person represents criticism or hurt, of course you’ll protect yourself from feeling that pain again.  It’s a natural response. So not only are you robbing yourself of enjoying life, just as you are, but you’re also robbing yourself of intimate relationships.

How to let go of  Self-Criticism

The good news is because it’s a learned behavior, it can be unlearned.  The process is a multilayered one, but one you can start today.  In this article I’ll focus on the beginning steps and in subsequent articles will cover how to unravel and release any emotions or beliefs attached to being critical of yourself.  

Begin by identifying any of the negative thoughts going through your mind.  Also, identify any negative or critical comments  and actions you experienced from other people as you grew up.  Write these down so you have something to work on later.

Once you’ve identified the comments, thoughts, and actions, the first thing to do is congratulate yourself for not only taking this first step, but also for having the willingness to even look at it.  This might not be something you usually do, but as you go through the process of letting go of judgment of yourself, you’ll find yourself more willing to look at what’s underneath the habit of self-judgment.

Change your focus – Focus on what you do right.

Instead of focusing on what you’re doing wrong, begin noticing and focusing on what you do right.  While it’s good to notice what you’d like to do better, being overly critical doesn’t serve you.  It holds you back from taking risks or making decisions.  But, denying how you feel or think doesn’t change it – by stuffing your feelings, they don’t go away.  Instead, acknowledge exactly how you feel and then choose where you’re going to place your focus. 

It takes time to change habits.  But vow to do it anyway.  Practice shifting your focus from the negative to the positive.  Once you do, you’ll be surprised at how you start to notice all sorts of positive things – not only about yourself, but also about your life.  These build up over time and you find it not only lifts your mood, but it’s easier to see the positive – in yourself and in others.  In essence, you’re retraining your brain to look for what’s going right in your life, and what you’re doing right.  Like anything else you practice,  over time, it becomes a habit – the habit of noticing your positive traits and actions.

Making the choice of where you focus is only one step.  It’s a start.  What’s more important, is once you understand what beliefs are underneath the habit of being hard on yourself, is to start collapsing these beliefs and replacing them with positive beliefs. When you deal with the comments and thoughts you came up from your list, and any emotions connected to them, this is where real change occurs.

With clients, one of the techniques I use is EFT .  It’s an effective, and easy to learn way to get to the root causes of being overly critical of themselves.  By identifying and then eliminating these causes, they let go of the weight of being hard on themselves.  It frees them up to be creative and take action with more ease.

In upcoming articles, I’ll give some examples of phrases you can tap on to collapse the feelings and release the beliefs.  You’ll gain a sense of relaxation and be able to let go of the tendency to judge yourself too harshly.  

In the meantime, you can download a free copy of an EFT Chart here which includes how to do the process.  

Like anything else revolving around emotions and the effect they have on us, there are layers to why we’re hard on ourselves.  With EFT you can gently look at them and release them so they no longer have a hold over you. 



Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂


Thank you.

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