Why Are We So Hard On Ourselves?

We all have a inner critic that affects all of us in some way, with some people having a more harsh voice than others. Some are not even aware of it. Where does it come from, and how much it really affects us.

Being self-critical can activate the fight/flight/ freeze/fawn response in our brains because it interprets our sold-criticism as an emotional attack on ourselves.

But who do we raise awareness around our experience with it? What does self-criticism look like. Here are some common traits of self- criticism:

  • We judge ourselves harshly
  • We fear rejection and family
  • We experience low self-worth
  • Our self-talk often included words like “I should, I could, I shouldn’t have done, I will never”
  • We are very task and achievement oriented
  • We often set unrealistic expectations of ourselves
  • We feel underserving of basic respect and understanding from ourselves or others
  • We have a very low (or non-existent) tolerance for making mistakes
  • We may experience perfectionistic or people pleasing tendencies
  • We have a hard time developing close relationships and opening up to people

Can you relate to any of the traits?

You may be wondering where all this self-criticism comes from. It is not always necessary to understand this, but it can be helpful to understand the root cause,

Reasons Behind Self-Criticism

  • Early Trauma or Peer Relationships:

If at an early trauma happened and they were very critical of you or themselves, there’s a chance that self-critical traits and resulting behaviors were projected onto you. This may be a person being highly critical of you or others, whether they were hard to please, controlling, or comparing you to others, or lacking affection. It could have been verbally or emotionally “You sister is smarter than you” or “you will never make it in life why do you even try” or non- verbally with disapproving g looks, the silent treatment, or eye rolls.

There is a way that teasing can be healthy, such as playful teasing between loved ones. However, when peers or family members becomes unhealthy and may turn into bullying, this can lead to a harsh inner voice. Children are very impressionable and are much more likely to internalize negative comments from others begin to form our own beliefs about ourselves , or identities, and our self-esteem. At a young age, it is hard for us to differentiate between comments we should or shouldn’t take to heart, especially when these comments are coming from people who are close to us.

Self-criticism can be viewed as a learned behavior. If someone who cares for you is dealing with their own self-criticism and you may have picked upon that and began to treat yourself in the same way.

  • Cultural Beliefs

Within some cultures, it is believed that self-criticism is an effective motivator. This includes your families culture.

People who were raised with this type of parenting may have parented you in the same way. They were most likely well-meaning and not entirely wrong. Self-criticism does motivate in the short term. But, there are a few problems with this type of motivation. self-criticism motivates from the basis of fear and judgement, which leads to many problems that far outweigh the benefits of using this type of motivation.

  • Abuse

Any kind of abuse – physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or psychological can contribute to self-criticism. Whether is was recurring or happened one time, it can still have an impact on how you view and treat yourself.

When we begin to see the root cause of our self-criticism, then and only then can we begin healing and working on our self-critical views and work on using self-compassion to quiet our inner critic.

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