The Self-Criticism Balancing Act

The Self-Criticism Balancing Act

Unrelenting self-criticism often goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety, and it may even predict depression. It is also a factor in eating disorders, self-mutilation and body dysmorphic disorder.

On the other hand, administered in moderation, self-criticism is the key to bettering yourself – whether in your personal or work life. It’s hard to improve without taking a clear-eyed look at faults. So how do you strike that balance between beating yourself up and being productively honest about your shortcomings?

The most important aspect of self-criticism is focusing your inner critic on behaviours, not attributes.

What’s the key difference between the two? Behaviours you can change, attributes you can’t.

Research shows that “people who blame negative events on all-encompassing, permanent aspects of themselves (e.g., ‘I’m just not an intelligent person‘) are more likely to become depressed and suffer from health problems.”

Constructive self-criticism, by contrast, involves a more optimistic explanatory style, with a focus on specific and modifiable areas in need of improvement (e.g., ‘I stayed up too late watching TV when I could have been working or studying; next time I could set a TV limit for myself’).”