Self-criticism is a well-practiced habit. We all analyze or criticize ourselves at some point throughout the day. Sometimes we even do it subconsciously, investigating the ups and downs of a situation. It is the evaluation of oneself, ranging from personality, action to even physique. Although self-analysis is a practical approach for success and betterment, self-criticism is usually associated with over-analysis and is psychologically linked to negative traits. Where a healthy amount of one’s analysis can help you improve and achieve better, an excess of this can reverse the impact, leading to poor physical, mental, psychosocial health.
Generally speaking, self-criticism has various limits. We must analyze ourselves and should be aware of the limitations, and not cross the margin. These limits are a healthy way to ensure that you are not going down the path of self-loathing.
Here are listed some habits that cross the margin. Let us go through them, so in case if you are experiencing any one of these, you know you are crossing the dangerous territory of self-criticism and need to step back.
Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes they do cost us heavily. It is good to analyze your mistakes and learn from them but to blame every mistake, every fault to yourself is crossing the line. Not everything is your fault, try to accept your part in the failure, learn from it, and move on. Don’t take all the burden on your shoulders. Don’t play the blame game, learn to accept, and finally let go.
Judging your personality
If you are analyzing your personality and not actions, be careful, you are going down the path of self-destruction. Don’t analyze yourself but analyze your actions. Analyze your lacking, evaluate the gap but don’t criticize your personality. Your actions might be bad, but you are not bad at all.
Learn to rephrase your critics from your personality to your actions. Go from “I was not good enough to do this” to “I did not put enough effort into this”. And add some encouraging words for yourself; a little more effort and hard work, and I’ll achieve it.
Do not compare, and never compete. If you compare your actions with others, then stop. It is not the right way. Comparison leads either to self-loathing thoughts and decreases your confidence level or pulls you into a vicious cycle of competition that can make the barrier separating right and wrong indistinguishable. And no one wants to go down either of those pathways.
Compare yourself not with others, but yourself. Have a healthy competition with your past. Improve yourself day by day and compare it, to reward yourself. Compete with your past, to overcome its flaws, and improve yourself.
Reward and punishment are to be kept in balance. Reward yourself when you achieve something good, punish when you go wrong. But keep them in balance. What we tend to do is forget the reward and punish ourselves at every point. Criticizing ourselves over the limits, and if you are not rewarding yourself and punishing or criticizing yourself over the limits, seek help.
Some people even tend to criticize themselves even on their achievements, pushing themselves without appreciation. For example, when achieving a task instead of complimenting themselves with a well done, they push themselves over by criticizing that this is not enough, they need to achieve more and work harder. Try to balance both situations. Take a break and reward yourself. Encourage yourself but do not do it repeatedly.
The most disturbing of all self-criticism is over physical appearance. Criticism about your look can be divided into two. The modifiable and the non-modifiable. Modifiable are those such as your hygiene and weight. They must be balanced because they are necessary for your health as good personal hygiene defends against infections. Whereas, below and above the normal BMI range predisposes to diseases such as compromised functions of organ system and diabetes, CVD, etc. respectively. So while analyzing over them is positive but if you start analyzing non-modifiable factors such as your skin color, height, diseases, etc. you are negatively criticizing yourself. Stop yourself from going down that path.
Accept yourself as who you are as you are the most beautiful creation of Allah, and He is The Absolute Author.
Too much self-criticism leads to a lack of self-confidence. If you feel fearful when you speak for yourself, discuss your ideas, talk about your needs or desire, you will be opposed, and you will start to back off from your needs and desires, understand that you are crossing the boundaries. The fear of rejection and hurt stops you from expressing yourself as you have accepted it ahead of time. So, stop over analyzing yourself if you start feeling self-asserting.
Need for help
If asking for help is difficult for you, you have crossed the margins. Criticizing yourself so much that you start fearing to ask for help is a dangerous territory. We all need some sort of help and support, sometimes emotionally and sometimes physically. So, if your self-criticism has exceeded the limit to self-loathing thoughts where you don’t find yourself worth helping or are scared of asking due to fear of rejection and hurt OR you fear appearing weak in front of others, realize that this is not good for you. You are being over critical and need help, so you should seek it.
If your answer to an invitation to gatherings, parties, or get-togethers is avoidance, it might point to some troubles. If avoiding social interaction is due to fear of rejection, lack of confidence, or low self-esteem, evaluate the reason behind it. It may be due to you being over critical of yourself. Negative or too much self-criticism makes one avoid social interaction because they fear making themselves an embarrassment.
If you fear this, you are being over critical and have crossed the margins, and you need to analyze your habit of self-criticism.
Analyzing your mistakes is good practice. Learning from them and not repeating them is the reason we inspect them. But if you repeatedly inspect your mistakes, again and again, you are not taking the right approach. You are acting too harsh and self-critical towards yourself.
Learn to analyze your mistake once thoroughly, learn from it, and let go. The repeated analysis is only going to psychologically and socially affect you.
You are entering into the most dangerous of all territories if you seek self-harm to relieve yourself. Being overly critical can take a toll on your mind and health and the added pressure may need an outlet. If that outlet is self-harm, you are way past crossing boundaries and are into dangerous territory. Seek immediate help.
Self-criticism starts with little things, but if those are not taken into account and well-evaluated, they can lead to great problems. Where positive and controlled self-analysis is beneficial for growth, too much or negative leads to a destructive path. It may start initially with a lack of self-confidence, self-doubt and slowly emerge to socio-behavioral aspects, and if not stopped or helped at the right time, it can eventually turn into depressive thoughts, self-harm, and even suicidal tendencies. So learn the limits of self-criticism and seek help before you barrel down that pathway.
Written by: Maryam Fatima
About the author: A medical student following her dreams. Passionate about football who prefers to spend her time in reading and writing.