Recognizing Signs of Too Much Self-Criticism and Ways to Break the Cycle

Self-Criticism and recognizing signs of toxic shame - online therapy can help

Everyone experiences negative thoughts about themselves and self-criticism from time to time. If these feelings and thoughts begin to become more frequent, overwhelming, and impact your overall sense of well-being, it could be a sign that you’re being overly critical of yourself.

This is an important issue to address, as too much self-criticism or shaming yourself can have numerous detrimental effects on your mental health.

Let us explore the signs of excessive self-criticism and discuss ways that you can learn how to break out of the cycle of negativity and be kinder to yourself.

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Self-Criticism and recognizing signs of toxic shame - online therapy can help

Signs of Too Much Self-Criticism

It’s natural for us to be hard on ourselves from time to time. However, if you find yourself constantly berating yourself, it’s a sign that you may be engaging in excessive self-criticism. Some signs that you might be too hard on yourself include:

  1. Taking all the blame for everything that goes wrong or fails even when it isn’t your fault.
  2. Constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling inferior due to these comparisons.
  3. Being unable to take compliments or accept any positive feedback without questioning its validity.
  4. Not being able to forgive yourself for mistakes or failures, no matter how small they may be.
  5. Dwelling on past mistakes and finding yourself ruminating on them today
  6. Having a hard time celebrating your successes because you are focused on what still needs improvement.
  7. Feeling like nothing you do is good enough or ever enough, so there’s no point in trying at all.

These are just a few of the signs that may indicate excessive levels of self-criticism. If you find yourself exhibiting any one (or more) of these behaviors, then it’s likely that your level of self-criticism is unhealthy and negatively impacting your mental health and well-being. Working with a licensed self-criticism therapist around these feelings and thoughts can help you gain insight and be kinder to yourself.

Ways you can address your excessive self-criticism

1. Identify Your Negative Thoughts

The first step in overcoming self-criticism is to identify and observe the thoughts that are causing you pain vs. letting them be on autopilot. We all have self critical thoughts from time to time. It is important to recognize when they become too much. To know if they are too much, you need to start observing them and notice when they come up.

Pay attention to your inner dialogue and take note of any negative thoughts or messages you hear yourself repeating over and over again. Notice how those thoughts make you feel. Once you’ve identified these thoughts, it will be easier to work on changing them and meeting them with self-compassion.

2. Meeting your self-critical voice with self-compassion

Talking to yourself with self-compassion is an important self-care practice that often gets overlooked. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-judgment and self-criticism, especially when things don’t go as we want them to.

We can counter these tendencies by reframing our inner dialogue. Instead of beating yourself up when you make mistakes or comparing your progress with others, focus on self-compassionate statements like ‘I understand I’m doing the best I can’ or ‘It’s ok that I feel overwhelmed’. Initially, it feels a little odd to do this, and can often feel like you don’t believe the self-compassionate statements. However, keep doing them, in time they become more automatic and ingrained in your and you naturally become kinder to yourself. Initially, it takes conscious effort to do so before it becomes automatic.

3. Find Supportive People

Finally, remember that no matter how hard we try, sometimes we need help from others to break out of our negative thinking patterns. Spend time with supportive people who can help lift you up when you feel down about yourself or your accomplishments (or lack thereof). You can also work with a licensed online therapist that has expertise in shame and self-criticism to work through the patterns of this negative self-talk and learn to be kinder to yourself.

Self-criticism is often something that happens automatically or a behavior you learned in your family of origin. You may not notice it because it’s part of how you think. However, paying attention to this internal dialogue and begin noticing how often the automatic self-critical thoughts come into your mind, can help you then make a choice of how to respond to it.

Meeting your self-critical or shaming voice with self-compassion can initially feel a bit odd, but in time, with consistent effort, you can begin seeing a softer internal dialogue and more natural self-compassion. This can impact your overall mental health significantly!

Lindsey Ferris, MS, LMFTA, Washington State

Talk. Heal. Thrive. therapist Lindsey Ferris is based out of Seattle, Washington working with clients via online therapy

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