8 Steps to Leverage a Positive Mindset to Avoid Being Overly Self-Critical
by Sara J. Baker, Ed.D.
Do you find yourself being way too self-critical? Do you beat yourself up over every little mistake or mishap? If so, you’re definitely not alone. A lot of us are way too hard on ourselves, constantly striving for perfection that’s simply unattainable.
What’s so interesting, is that we can unlearn the negative patterns that lead to us being overly self-critical and replace them with constructive self-criticism and a positive mindset instead. Whatever the reason for your overly negative self-criticism, it’s important to learn how to let go of it.
So why are we so tough on ourselves? Well, often it’s because we’re trying to avoid criticism from others. We don’t want to give anyone the chance to point out our flaws or criticize us, so we’re extra hard on ourselves in an attempt to avoid that. But of course, that just ends up making us feel even worse.
Another reason we might be self-critical is because we’re perfectionists. We have this unrealistic idea in our heads of what we should be and how we should look, and when we don’t meet those standards, we beat ourselves up.
Constantly beating yourself up is no way to live, and it can actually hold you back from achieving your goals. So instead of being so critical of yourself, try to focus on your successes and give yourself a break every once in a while. Learning how to stop being overly critical and instead develop a positive mindset will help you remove negativity from your life.
1. Constructive Criticism versus Negative Self-Criticism
The first step to overcoming negative self-criticism is to understand the difference between constructive criticism and destructive self-criticism. Constructive criticism is positive and helpful, while being overly self-critical is just destructive and negative.
For example, if you mess up at work, constructive criticism would be looking at what you did wrong and coming up with a plan to do better next time. On the other hand, self-criticism would be beating yourself up over the mistake and telling yourself that you’re not good enough.
Constructive criticism is positive and helpful feedback that can be used to improve upon something. On the other hand, self-criticism is when you focus on your faults and shortcomings in a negative way. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
Constructive criticism has a place and can be beneficial, but overly negative self-criticism limits your ability to enjoy life and create a positive mindset.
2. Self-Criticism and Irrational Beliefs
A lot of the time, our self-criticism is based on irrational beliefs. We might believe that we’re not good enough or that we don’t deserve to be happy. These types of beliefs are not only untrue, but they’re also very harmful.
Irrational beliefs are defined as beliefs that are not based on reality. They’re usually negative and can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. Common examples are “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t deserve to be happy,” or “I have to be perfect.”
You may believe that you have to be perfect in everything you do or that you’re not good enough unless you meet certain standards. However, these beliefs are not true. Everyone makes mistakes and has flaws. What’s important is that you learn from your mistakes and strive to improve.
In order to change your behavior, you must first understand why you do it in the first place. So ask yourself, why am I so critical of myself? Is it because I’m trying to avoid criticism from others? Is it because I’m a perfectionist? Once you identify the reason, you can start to work on changing your mindset.
Here are some in-depth questions that can help you get to the root of your self-criticism so you can begin to break down the negative patterns and begin building your positive mindset:
- Do I have unrealistic standards for myself?
- Do I compare myself to others too much?
- Am I afraid of failure?
- Do I feel like I need to be perfect in order to be successful?
If you find yourself being overly critical of yourself, take a step back and examine your thoughts. Are they based on irrational beliefs? If so, it’s time to challenge those beliefs and start thinking more positive thoughts and using positive self-talk to create a positive mindset.
Your self-talk is the little voice in your head that’s always talking. This voice can either be positive or negative. A lot of the time, our self-talk is negative. We might say things like “I’m such a screw up” or “I’ll never be good enough.”
This kind of negative self-talk can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. It can also hold you back from reaching your goals.
3. Replace Your Irrational Beliefs
Once you know the reason behind your self-criticism, you can start to work on reframing your thoughts, or your self-talk, to develop a more positive mindset.
If you find that your self-criticism is based on irrational beliefs, it’s time to start challenging those beliefs. For each negative thought, try to come up with a more positive and rational thought. Positive affirmations are a great way to do this.
- If you’re worried about what others will think, remind yourself that you are entitled to your own opinion and that not everyone is going to agree with you all the time.
- If you’re trying to be perfect, remind yourself that mistakes are okay and that they can actually be helpful in learning and growing.
- If you believe that you’re not good enough, replace that thought with something like “I am doing my best and I am worthy of happiness.”
- If you’re thinking “I’ll never be successful,” try replacing that thought with “I will achieve my goals.”
It may take some time to get used to thinking more positive thoughts, but it will be worth it in the end.
So instead of being critical of yourself, try to focus on the positive. When you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, stop and replace it with a positive thought.
By focusing on developing positive self-talk and challenging your negative thoughts with positive ones, you become your own life coach and can start to enjoy the process of becoming your best self.
4. Practice Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is defined as being kind and understanding towards yourself, especially during difficult times. It also involves recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and has flaws.
When you’re too critical of yourself, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. Practicing self-compassion can help you to overcome these negative emotions and develop a positive mindset.
Here are some ways to practice self-compassion:
- Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend.
- Forgive yourself for your mistakes.
- Acknowledge your positive qualities.
- Focus on the present moment.
- Treat yourself with kindness and understanding.
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
One of the main challenges to developing a positive mindset is constantly comparing ourselves to others. We compare our appearance, our accomplishments, and our personalities. And when we do this, we always come up short.
The mirage of social media has exacerbated this problem by hiding the flaws and challenges in the lives of others and only allowing us to see the painted beauty and supposed flawless lives.
When you compare yourself to others, instead of focusing on your growth and your positive qualities, it can lead to feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and low self-esteem. So instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own journey and celebrate your own accomplishments.
Remember that everyone is on their own path in life and that comparisons are meaningless.
In addition to challenging your negative thoughts, it’s also important to practice positive thinking. This means focusing on the good things in your life and being grateful for what you have. When you do this, you’ll start to see the positive aspects of yourself and your life.
6. Practice Positive Thinking to Increase Your Happiness and Well-Being
Positive thinking is a mental and emotional attitude that focuses on the bright side of life and expects positive results. A positive thinker anticipates happiness, health, success, and favorable outcomes.
Developing a positive mindset is not about denying reality or ignoring problems. It’s about seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty. It’s about looking for the positive in every situation and believing that good things will happen.
Some benefits of positive thinking include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Decreased stress levels
- Greater resistance to the common cold
Overall, positive thinking leads to a more positive outlook on life which can lead to improved physical and mental health.
7. Celebrate Your Accomplishments and Positive Qualities
One of the best ways to avoid being too critical of yourself is to focus on your positive qualities and accomplishments. When you take the time to celebrate your successes, it can help you to feel more confident and positive about yourself.
Some ideas for celebrating your positive qualities and accomplishments include:
- Make a list of your positive qualities.
- Write down your accomplishments, big and small.
- Display your positive affirmations where you can see them every day.
- Tell yourself “I am proud of myself” every day.
8. Stay Focused on Goals and Give Yourself Grace
So, if you find yourself being overly critical of yourself, try some of the tips we’ve mentioned to help develop a positive mindset and healthy self-reflection patterns. When you change your thoughts, you can change your life. And with a positive attitude, anything is possible.
Changing to a positive mindset is not an easy task, but it’s definitely possible with intentional change. With time and effort, you can learn to let go of self-criticism and start living a more positive and productive life. Just remember to focus on your goals and give yourself grace along the way.
Positive mindset methods can help you avoid being too self-critical. By focusing on your positive qualities and accomplishments, you can start to see yourself in a more positive light. Additionally, setting realistic goals and taking time for yourself can help reduce stress and pressure. With time and practice, these positive mindset methods will become second nature. So don’t be afraid to give yourself a break and celebrate your successes along the way!
If you’re looking for a way to change your mindset and avoid being overly self-critical, then check out the positive mindset tools in the Toxic Workplace Survival Guide. These tools actually work for any situation where you’re ready to take back your peace.
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About the Author
Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.
Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.
About the Author
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