No one in this world is harder on you than you. But how do we stop beating ourselves up when our brains are wired for this negativity? How can we flip the switch and begin living a good life, free from endless negative self-talk, self-criticism and self-blame?
I’m glad you asked.
Because as a self-confessed perfectionist and overachiever, I know all too well what that inner dialogue looks and feels like.
We are our own worst critics. We know that. I know that and you know that.
Whatever the scenario might be you wanted it to go better, you wanted to do better… you wanted to be better.
But, with a level of self-awareness comes the recognition that you’re definitely being too hard on yourself. You’d never speak to a friend this way.
(Not if you wanted to keep them)
Yet, we’re more cruel and demining of ourselves than we would ever care to admit.
Past mistakes haunt us. We ruminate on the bad decisions we made and fixate on all of the elements that went wrong. And you know what, it’s exhausting. When we’re stuck in this mindset it’s hard to find any joy or satisfaction in life because our brain is intent on telling us that whatever we’ve done, we could have done better.
Time for a mindset shift.
How are we supposed to break free of this?
How are we supposed to stop beating ourselves up so that we can actually move forward with our lives?
How are we supposed to cultivate the mental strength to keep going when we’re so busy bashing ourselves over our failures?
Well, the answer lies in forming some new mental habits.
And these new habits are what will set a strong foundation for us to approach things in a positive way, so we can be a better human without having to rip ourselves apart in the process.
Imagine the perfectionist who is constantly battling with a fear of failure (ahem, definitely not me…). But they want to get past this. They want to take those next steps toward their goals. But every little mistake made becomes an opportunity to either comfort themselves or belittle themselves. And an opportunity for that little voice to creep in and make it impossible for them to try again and conquer their fear of failure once and for all.
Successful people understand that beating themselves up over every mistake and every poor decision stops progress in their tracks.
And no doubt, you understand this too.
But understanding it and knowing what to do about it, are very different things. So, let’s break it down into 5 hints and tips for how to stop beating yourself up and silencing that inner critic once and for all…
1. Practice Self-Compassion
It seems like a no brainer, right?
‘Urm hey, Emma. I’ve come here to learn how to stop beating myself up so yeah, I get that I need to… STOP BEATING MYSELF UP’
Listen, our brains are wired for negativity. It’s easier for those pink squidgy sponges to opt for criticism, doubt, negative self-talk. It’s easier for your brain to berate you for your mistakes rather than praise you for your achievements.
It’s just the way it is. But it doesn’t mean you should feel stuck.
It takes real, active effort to practice self-compassion because quite frankly, it doesn’t come all that naturally to us. And self-compassion means talking to yourself with words of encouragement. It means telling yourself, ‘Hey, you know what? You did make a mistake here. Maybe that could have been handled better. But, don’t worry. You’ll recover from this.’
‘You know what, you’re being way too hard on yourself. You’re making this bigger than it needs to be and you don’t deserve to suffer in this way. Whatever happened, you can deal with it.’
Talk to yourself as you would do your best friend. What would you tell them in this scenario?
Chances are, you’d tell them to stop being so hard on themselves and you’d ask them to be kind to themselves. If we don’t practice some self-compassion we feel under just as much pressure and discomfort as we would do if a loved one were talking to us this poorly.
A lack of compassion for yourself is what allows rumination and fixation on the negative to thrive.
By practising self-compassion, you are one step closer to being a better human because you are treating yourself as you would treat someone else.
Much kinder. Far more supportive. And everything to give in the way of support and kind words. And when you do that any kind of healing process is far easier.
2. Self-Reflection not Self-Deprecation
Self-reflection is key to someone’s personal growth and success.
Because hey, it’s great to say, ‘Look forward. Move on. Keep going! Forget about the past!!’ But the reality is that we can’t really move forward with positive intentions – a key phrase to remember – until we are able to reflect back and learn from those mistakes.
However… big problem here.
Self-reflection and self-deprecation can be indistinguishable from one another if we’re not careful. We’re not trying to look back so that we can give our inner critic further ammunition to use against us. We’re reflecting (with self-compassion) over the events that have been and gone so that we can move on with greater understanding and perspective.
However, when you’re stuck in the mental habit of beating yourself up, self-reflection becomes shrouded with self-deprecation.
‘Ok, I’m looking back. I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. Oh, there it is. There’s that moment… Did you see it? Did you see what you did there? Okay well, why did you do that then? What kind of stupid decision was that? You haven’t got a clue, have you!’
It’s not easy to step back and consider a broad overview of the situation you’re currently beating yourself up over and to look at it through a logical lens.
Because hey, we’re emotional creatures!
But when it comes to self-reflection you must practice self-compassion so that you can free yourself from deprecation. So instead it sounds something like…
‘Ok, I’m looking back. I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. Oh, there it is. There’s that moment… Did you see? Did you see what you did there? Okay well… (practising self-compassion) this wasn’t ideal but that’s OK. We can learn from this. You have acknowledged the mistake, acknowledged that you could have done things differently. Let’s consider this pivotal moment and think about how we could do things differently next time.’
Self-reflection is not an opportunity for you to beat yourself up, it’s an opportunity for you to congratulate yourself on your heightened sense of awareness and consider how you could do things differently next time.
3. Manage Your Expectations
Give yourself a fighting chance!
It’s great to aim high, it’s great to have standards and it’s necessary to have expectations for yourself but for a lot of us (especially those who are constantly beating themselves up!) the problem is that our expectations before we even begin are FAR TOO HIGH.
It would be like me deciding that I’m going to swim across the Channel. And giving myself only 4 weeks to train, and only once a week on a Sunday, but expecting that A) I’ll make it across in the first place and B) I’ll do it in record time.
But guess what? I’m a terrible swimmer!
Sure I could breast-stroke my way over there at a leisurely pace swimming alongside a lifeguard boat… But these expectations are setting me up to fail! I wouldn’t have given myself a fighting chance in reaching these goals.
So lowering your expectations is a sure way to relieve yourself from the need to beat yourself up because you have a goal in sight that’s actually possible to achieve.
The goal can still be the goal but make it so that it’s actually achievable.
Will you get there if you give yourself more time? Will it be easier to achieve if you have someone to help you? You can keep the same goal but be realistic with your expectations and what it’s going to take to reach them.
If dipping your feet in the hot tub is as close to swimming as it gets then are you going to be able to swim the channel in four weeks time with only 4 days of practice sessions in between?
But could you do it in 6 months or 12 months time? Maybe.
SIDE NOTE: If you’re in self-reflection mode, it’s also OK at this point to practice compassion and tell yourself, ‘On reflection, my expectations were far too high. I wasn’t able to succeed because I didn’t have the tools/skills/time/resources I needed to achieve this goal. Knowing this, I’ll do things differently next time.’
4. What Are You Learning?
So, before you get started with anything you’re going to manage your expectations. Then, once all is said and done, you’re going to do some self-reflection and practice doing so with self-compassion. And once all of this is said and done, you’ve got to ask yourself one critical question…
What did I learn?
Because if you want to stop beating yourself up then the best way is to take action and to do this with a healthy mindset you’ve got to find the lesson in the narrative.
What you can learn from the situation.
Because when you choose to learn, you are choosing to better yourself. When you are choosing to learn, you are choosing self-reflection over self-deprecation. You are choosing growth.
And this growth mindset will allow you to stop beating yourself up. Why? Because we’re looking at what we feel went wrong from a learning perspective.
We’re building mental strength and emotional resilience so that we can move on from this in a positive way. This means the mistake in itself can actually be viewed as a positive thing. It’s not a bad thing that you did or that happened to you, it’s an opportunity to be better.
So, how do you stop beating yourself up?
You reframe mistakes as learning opportunities. Welcome them. Embrace them.
We’re all human. Mistakes will happen and bad choices will be made but choosing to see it as an opportunity to BE BETTER – well, this is entirely incompatible with beating yourself up. You can’t do both! So you must choose GROWTH.
5. Move on With Positive Intention
Yep, the first one is obvious – they don’t beat themselves up. They practice self-compassion, they self-reflect without blame or judgement and they see mistakes as a learning opportunity.
Secondly? They move on with positive intention. And this is crucial. Because what we want is to be able to move on and move forward, right? We don’t want to beat ourselves up. We don’t want to be so harsh on ourselves. We don’t want to feel so bad about ourselves. And we don’t want to carry this weight around with us either.
But, when we are stuck in self-criticism mode it’s really hard to move on with a positive mindset.
Because we haven’t been able to reframe how we think about the situation and ourselves. And so we’re stuck in this fog of speaking to ourselves poorly and not ever finding a solution to the problem.
Here’s the thing…
No matter what the situation. No matter what you did or said or how it made you feel, there is always a way to think about it in a way that is helpful to you.
And this is what we want right?
The way we do this is to implement the four previous points and move forward with a new and fresh perspective that is actually healthy and useful.
You’ve helped yourself out the gate by managing your expectations and after that, you self-reflect and you do this with self-compassion. Once you are able to look back and consider the event without beating yourself up you can ask yourself, what did you learn? And, once you find the lesson, the next step is to take action.
Because, if you want to stop beating yourself up then you have to move forward. Make a change, do something different, learn from the mistake…
Once you do this (all whilst practising self-compassion because if you don’t then everything else is pointless) you can relieve yourself of any guilt or shame you feel surrounding the event. And it’s these negative thoughts and negative feelings that can make us freeze.
But guess what?
MOVING and TAKING ACTION will set something special in motion…
It will free you from rumination. It will free you from your inner critic because look, your inner critic can’t say a damn thing if you stand up and tell it straight, ‘Mistakes are OK, I’m only human. But what I’m going to do now is take this as an opportunity to better myself. You can try all you want to discourage me, to criticise me… but I know what I need to do and you’re not going to stop me.’
Once you take action you change the narrative. You right a wrong. You try again and succeed. You take a different approach and get a different response.
And each time this happens you free yourself from that initial ‘mistake’ that you were so fixated on by proving to yourself that that single moment in time does not define who you are.
This is how to stop beating yourself up – take action.
You Have More Control Than You Think
To get you started, take a look at the Top 10 Best Life-Changing Books that I recommend to all of my readers who are ready to transform their lives!
Self-compassion should be a daily practice.
It makes tough situations easier to handle and it can have a huge positive impact on your belief system. Your self-belief!
In the present moment, your brain is AUTOMATICALLY jumping to ‘beat yourself up’ mode. It jumps to judgement and blame. As soon as we recognise this in ourselves, it’s time to put the above into practice and while all five points are important… practising self-compassion is a MUST.
And you have more control over how you speak to yourself than you think.
If you need to grab a piece of paper and write it down to encourage you to think and speak to yourself in this way, then do it! Try writing out and absorbing the following each and every day…
It’s OK to get things wrong, I’m only human.
Next time I will do things differently.
I am not my thoughts.
I must appreciate what I did well such as…
I must accept what went right which is…
I will use this as an opportunity to learn.
I am courageous for being able to acknowledge my mistakes.
I am strong for being able to take responsibility
I am brave for trying again and moving on with positive intentions
Or, if affirmations and mantras work for you then practice them every day.
Past mistakes make future opportunities.
I am not my past.
I am not my thoughts.
It takes courage to admit to mistakes.
You can only do your best.
I am better today than yesterday
In the present moment, you will feel tempted to beat yourself up but this mental habit can be swapped for healthier and more supportive mental habits and self-talk. But it does take time. For those of you with low self-esteem, who struggle to break free from your inner critic, these five points will steer you in the right direction.
Remember, the first step is knowing that there is a better way.
And the good news is that you are not bound to your critical thoughts. It just takes practice.