For most people, being compassionate towards themselves does not come naturally. However the opposite, self-criticism, seems to very easily roll off the tongue. Self-criticism is a thinking style that involves our internal self-talk being highly negative. Self-critical comments may include statements such as:

  • I'm a failure
  • I can't do anything right
  • I'm not good enough
  • I'm useless
  • I'm stupid

Often the tone of these thoughts can be critical, harsh and cold. For some people this self criticism can turn into self-loathing and self-hatred which can impact on self-esteem and confidence. The reasons for why people criticise themselves can vary. Some people feel as though it spurs them on to do better, but for some it can be a way to punish themselves. Often self-criticism can have it's roots from experiences in the past. For example the person may have grown up in a household where they were the recipient of self-criticism. The person might not know any other way of being with themselves. For others they may have experienced trauma such as child abuse, bullying or domestic violence.

Signs and symptoms of self-criticism

Symptoms vary between individuals, but they usually include:

  • Mood disturbances
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Feeling frustrated
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling down
  • Negative self-talk
  • Never feeling good enough
  • Feeling inadequate

What type of therapy can help?

Therapy can help by teaching the person skills in how to speak to themselves differently. Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) has been found to be particularly useful for people who have high levels of self-criticism. Compassionate approaches help people to be more mindfully aware of their self-critical voice and change the narrative to one that is more compassionate.

Therapies which have been found to help include:

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