3 Ways to Conquer Self-Criticism
There are three destructive habits in life.
C) Forgetting to buy chocolate.
Today, we will dig into self-criticism, as Dr. Kristen Neff beautifully explains,
“Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?”
In her TEDx talk, she acknowledges the cultural necessity for Americans to feel special and above-average to boost their self-esteem. She then launches the question, well what happens when we all need to feel above average?
We play little games.
When a culture praises above-average individuality, we “puff ourselves up and put others down so we can feel better about ourselves in comparison… some actually take this to an extreme.”
Dr. Kristen Neff guides us through the three methods to conquer self-criticism:
Method #1: Remember, imperfections connect us to people
Perfection and humanity can be antonyms. Sometimes, it’s better to acknowledge your mistake and express gratitude when someone avoids making you feel inferior despite your imperfections. For instance, at my work, I realized I accidentally wrote the wrong name in the subject line of my first follow-up and decided the best course of action was to admit my mistake and express gratitude. I wrote,
“Thank you for kindly avoiding that correction during my first follow-up. Names are so important, I promise I won’t make that mistake again!”
He humorously responded,
“Here’s an old saying I’ve heard all of my life: “I don’t care what you call me as long as you call me for dinner”! I do appreciate your presence of mind in pointing that out though, very professional of you in my humble opinion.”
Rather than let self-criticism worry me sick, I let a mistake/imperfection connect me further to this individual.
There’s so much peace to be gained when we are aware of our shared humanity.
We decide how we define professionalism, and it does not have to be synonymous with unrealistic expectations of perfection.
Method #2: Ask yourself, “Is this self-criticism worth tapping into my bodies’ threat-defense system?”
My therapist reminds me we often associate jobs with our livelihood, but they are rarely mortally threatening to our livelihood.
She recognizes as Dr. Kristen Neff explains, self-criticism triggers our bodies’ modern threat-defense system. However, instead of literal blood-hungry lions or wolves, nowadays they are merely threats to our self-concept.
When practicing self-criticism, we release a ton of cortisol, as we are now the attacker and the attacked, and in some extremes, our bodies shut down to cope with the high levels of stress hormones.
Manage your stress by considering therapy, exercise, consistent gratitude, and getting a little sunshine. All provide feel-good dopamine and serotonin.
Method #3: Be hyper-aware of your self-criticism and don’t think anyone (including yourself) is evil or good
In Dr.Neff’s book, she incorporates the story of the magnificent wolf and the evil wolf. The young boy has two inner voices or wolves.
The evil wolf disempowers and brings the young boy down, while the magnificent wolf proves to be kind and accepting. He asks his grandfather which wolf will win, the evil wolf or the magnificent one and he responds,
“The one you feed.”
Feed peace, kindness, and truth, and that will win.
Feed resentment, ego, and feelings of inferiority, and that will win.