Sometimes, we tend to be overly self-critical; trying to live up to some model of perfection we have created in our own minds, or that the media has created for us. We may yearn for the perfect home, the perfect body, or the perfect family. We may, in fact, even overlook or ignore our own strengths and accomplishments in favor of focusing on small faults or flaws.
We might see in ourselves a body that is lumpy in spots or eyes that have crows feet. We may find imperfections that others don't generally notice. Constantly picking at our own selves will not bring us happiness. In fact, it will only serve to stunt our emotional development. Worse still, others may begin to see us as we see ourselves.
Failing can be a healthy way to learn
Perhaps we grew up believing that even small mistakes and imperfections were to be avoided at all costs. We may not have realized that trying out something new, failing, and then trying again is a healthy way to learn and grow.
Just ask Dr. Grace Murray Hooper. According to the website women-inventors.com, Hopper headed the team that invented COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), the first user-friendly business computer software program.
According to this same website, "Inventor Grace Murray Hopper was a curious child. At the age of seven, she dismantled her alarm clock to figure out how it worked, but was unable to reassemble it. By the time her mother figured out what she had been up to, the young Grace Hopper had gone through seven clocks in the house. This intellectual curiosity would later play an integral part in earning Hopper a place among the ranks of the most famous women inventors."
The difference between Correction and Criticism
So it turns out that we, as well as our children, often need to fail in order to succeed; to accept ourselves as imperfect beings in order to grow and become whole. Easier said than done, you may say. And how does the need for helpful self-correction differ from the harmful effects of self-criticism?
In the October 9, 2013, issue of the Huffington Post, Dr. Robert Leahy describes the difference this way:
"You may think that you are being realistic or that criticizing yourself will help you correct your mistakes and motivate you to do better. But it doesn't make you better; it just makes you want to give up. Replace self-criticism with self-correction. If you think you could do better, don't put yourself down. Look for a solution. Change your behavior. Rather than hit yourself over the head with the tennis racquet, correct your swing and hit the ball over the net."
None of us is immune from faults and flaws. No matter how perfect someone else's life may look, it simply is not. When you make a mistake, correct it and move on. And allow others to do the same. Keep in mind that people who are self-critical tend to be critical of others, as well.
2. Focus on your positive traits
Just as we have faults and flaws, each of us has several positive traits, too. Focus on what is positive both about yourself and others. It is so much easier to strengthen a positive trait than it is to eliminate a negative one. Remind yourself on a daily basis what is good about you.
3. Silence that critical inner voice
If you hear that voice inside your head telling you that you are a failure or that you can't do anything right, say the word, "STOP!" to yourself. Then move on with what you're doing. Above all, don't become that critical inner voice in your own children's heads. It won't help them, either.
4. Do and be your best
If you're still having trouble being self-critical, and you're a person of faith, try seeing yourself through the eyes of a kind and loving God; a supportive being who loves and accepts you, who wishes to build you up and help you be all that you can be. That negative inner self-critic does not emanate from him.
Try to do and be your best every day. And when you fail, as we all do from time to time, get up, dust yourself off and begin again knowing more this time than you did the last.
Remember that people who are appropriately self-confident are more likely to be happier and even more successful than those who are generally self-critical. It's all in which view of yourself you decide to accept.