It is part of the human experience to interact with criticism, either from those we come into contact with or internal criticism. TS Elliott once stated that criticism is as inevitable as breathing. Many of us have a strong inner critic; in fact, we typically have more than one.
If you have been criticized a lot in life, your inner critic might very well be echoing the comments you received in the past.
This criticism can quickly begin to rule your inner world and cause you to get swept up in a whirlwind of harsh messages and consequent hatred for that part of yourself as you become enmeshed with the bad feelings.
What might be different if you could see yourself through the lens of a compassionate friend? This person understands your history and has endless love for you. This type of lens, the lens of compassion, can decrease the inner critics’ voice.
We have all heard that old biblical expression of loving thy neighbor as thyself, and we forget the “thyself” part as if self-compassion is in opposition to loving thy neighbor.
The introduction of self-compassion can seem so woo-woo, trivial, and even selfish upon implementation. Recognizing that this response is part of the cycle that fuels your inner critic becomes very important. The journey towards self-compassion is a long and windy road for this express reason.
It isn’t simply achieved through a pat on the back or offering yourself a “good job, buddy” because we believe we need the inner critic’s messages to continue to achieve, strive, belong, which actually are an attempt to ensure we don’t activate pain.
The inner critic is attempting to maintain safety and security, which can be very difficult to see.
Understand that the introduction of compassion does not erase criticism; criticism isn’t the ticket; it’s the way we interact with it, use it, and allow it to reinforce beliefs about ourselves.
This is the pattern that we want to begin to address through the use of self-compassion; to create space and realize our agency in deciding how we structure our lives based upon these critiques. Remember, the critic part is not bad; it is not evil. It is simply utilizing distorted means of preventing you from experiencing internal pain.
Being critical of oneself is all too easy in today’s world. Between television, movies, and social media platforms, it is no wonder that self-esteem is taking a direct hit.
It is easy to begin to compare yourself to other people. You are wanting what they have or how they look, driving your confidence down in the process. People who receive constant critical and negative assessments from friends and family see this occur as well.
Self-esteem (also known as self-worth) is an integral part of success and motivation. Having low self-esteem can dramatically affect your relationships, career, education, and even health. On the other hand, having too much can create a sense of an inflated self-importance, which is equally as damaging.
What are the warning signs of having low self-esteem?
- You believe that others are better than you
- You find it difficult to express your needs
- You focus on your weaknesses
- You frequently experience feelings such as shame, depression, or anxiety
- You have a negative outlook on life
- You have an intense fear of failure
- You have trouble accepting positive feedback
- You have difficulty saying “no”
- You put other people’s needs before your own
- You struggle with confidence
If you fit into any of those, you may be dealing with decreased esteem in yourself.
So, what does this mean?
Are you doomed forever to have low self-esteem?
Throughout my time as a therapist, I have observed things that help increase self-esteem levels in individuals who were struggling.
Below are some of my findings:
- Become aware of negative self-talk (put-downs and self-criticism)
- Change the story that you’ve created of yourself- adjust your thoughts and beliefs
- Avoid comparing yourself to others
- Learn to forgive yourself and others
- Remember that you are not your circumstances
- Set appropriate boundaries with others
- Exercise and participate in regular self-care activities
This list is by no means exhaustive. It can be utilized to get the ball rolling in the right direction again. It can be challenging to change the perceptions that you have of yourself. It does not happen overnight, but it is possible.
Therefore, with hard work and self-compassion, self-destructive thoughts and beliefs can be unlearned, and self-esteem increased.
Here are some resources that you can use to go deeper into self-esteem and develop a better narrative of yourself.