Whether your goal is to build yourself up or put yourself down, it’s all about self-judgment. The focus is on, am I good person or a bad person? It’s easy to lose sight of questions that are more likely to get us somewhere, like how did this happen, and how can I avoid letting it happen again? What does it take to get out of the trap of self-judgment?
1. Criticize specific, changable behaviors, not global, unchangable attributes. People who blame negative events on permanent aspects of themselves, such as, “I’m just not an intelligent person” are more likely to become depressed and suffer. Constructive self-criticism involves a more optimistic style, with a focus on specific and modifiable areas in need of improvement. A forward step of assessing accountability without lamenting.
2. Criticize external circumstances, but then try to change them. Even in situations where we are obviously to blame, there may be situational factors that push us in one direction or another
3. Shift your focus from yourself to others. Instead of getting caught up in self-judgment, whether positive or negative, it can be helpful to consider how your actions affect other people. This broader focus can help reorient your attention to what matters most to you—the people you’re trying to help through your work, the relationship you want to nurture—and encourage you to make amends that benefit others.
4. Practice self-compassionate self-criticism. Especially for people who are prone to , self-compassion can be exactly what is needed to make self-criticism bearable. Self-compassion is like a parachute that allows you to glide safely down into the parts of yourself you’re afraid to look at. It won’t let you get off easy, but it also won’t drop you down into the depths of despair. Self-compassion means saying, yes, I messed up, but this doesn’t make me a horrible person. This makes me a person who has strengths and weaknesses and room to improve. In this atmosphere of warmth, taking a closer look at those weaknesses is not as scary.
Adapted from Psychology Today.