Is being hard on yourself, too hard on yourself?

There’s that old saying “you are your own worst critic”, usually it’s something we get told when we deny we did a good job. And at that point, do you believe them? Or are you still convinced ‘it’ wasn’t good enough?

We all exist within a little bubble we have created for ourselves, and in this bubble, we measure our self-worth, value, and standards that are often ultimate benchmarks. Yes, we set these expectations ourselves, but they’ve stemmed from somewhere. Society significantly drives our behaviour, the way we think, and who we choose to become. So, it is no doubt culture is to blame for half the amount of pressure we put upon ourselves unknowingly.

It’s good to set high standards for ourselves so we can continue to improve, reach goals and do better. However, too much criticism and you quickly become your own worst enemy. This is where we need to identify these self-imposed high expectations and ask, are we being too hard on ourselves?

Signs you’re being too harsh

You deny your own success

You only identify the things that you could have done better, rather than the stuff you did great. You struggle to celebrate the small wins and tend to pass off your successes as “easy” or “not a big deal”, even when you’ve spent a lot of time on them.

You find it hard to accept praise from others

Maybe because you don’t believe you earned it or want to remain modest. You are unlikely to believe that your accomplishments are anything more than just a chance, when others may admire your successes.

The “all or nothing” attitude

If it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t good and it didn’t count.

You never call in sick

You may think that taking a day off means a lack of dedication. Even when you’re genuinely sick and need to rest.

You’re constantly tired

Yes, there are many reasons why you might be constantly tired. Nevertheless, trying to live up to your perfect expectations can be draining. The stress can consume your energy leaving you feeling exhausted, mentally, and physically.

You enforce negative self-talk

If you fall short of your incredibly high expectations, you can become disappointed and spiral into harsh judgments on yourself.

If you can relate to any of these behaviours, chances are, you’re being too hard on yourself. Personally, I’ve always carried these ‘traits’. But after a conversation with a dear friend of mine where we were talking about self-worth and all that stuff, she went on to make a point that I never see what she sees in me, and in short, she gave me a good telling-off for it! The conversation struck me, and I thought “you’re right”. When will I ever be happy with what I have achieved? Even though being hard on myself encourages me to do better, it also keeps me in the dark of my own light – and that’s not something worth missing out on.

When too much of one thing leads to too much of another

Research shows that when self-criticism is overly used, it is associated with less motivation, worse self-control, and greater procrastination. It triggers the brain into a state of inhibition, which prevents you from taking action towards your goals. So what we may consider as ‘striving hard’, can actually be a set-back.

Mind games – but good ones

Here are some strategies that will help you find a more balanced approach.

Write down your successes

At the end of each day/week/month, write down a list of your accomplishments (small and big). Because if you’ve felt like you haven’t reached your impossibly high expectations, chances are you’ve still had some worthy wins. This will give you a motivational boost and remind you of your strengths for the next time you give yourself a hard time.

Name your inner critic

Sounds stupid but try personifying your inner critic and give it a terrible name. This allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts and observe {insert terrible name here} from the outside. I discovered this technique through reading ‘The Power of Now’ – it’s a slightly different concept but a great tool for this purpose too.


Once you’ve reached a particular goal, don’t brush it off and start thinking about the next thing. Give yourself some proper credit by celebrating your success. Pick a date, grab a cocktail with your best mate or treat yourself to some retail therapy.

Take it as a lesson rather than a failure

Flip it and be grateful that you have already acknowledged you could have done things better or differently. The good thing about being hard yourself is that you can learn something valuable each time and use it to your advantage to accomplish more. If we don’t, we’ll experience the negative effects on repeat.

Your own coach

When you’re having a “critic” moment, you can use it to coach yourself through whatever it is you are experiencing. Turn the disempowering thoughts into empowering and productive thoughts by asking yourself different questions. Pretend that you are somebody else’s coach, what would you say to them?

In closing

We all have days where we could have done things differently or better, and I don’t think we need to lower our standards or expectations of ourselves; we just need to achieve a balance and acknowledge when we are being too hard on ourselves. So when being hard on yourself hasn’t had a positive effect… try commending your efforts and see what happens.

If you don’t know where to begin, want to talk through something, or have a specific question but are not sure who to address it to, fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you within two working days.

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