You Don’t Need to Self-Hate to Be Great

Being self-critical can cause more harm than good — here’s what to do instead.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
The inverted-U: Too much of most things = net bad for performance

Types of Self-Criticality

Comparative — comparing ourself to others

This is best manifest today in comparing our lives to the apparent lives of others, based on their best foot forward, perfectly backlit, and carefully chosen photos on Instagram. Comparisons like these lend themselves to feelings of inferiority.

Image for post
Image for post

Internalized — innate sense of inferiority

Internalized self-criticality relates to a predisposition that one might have towards never feeling ‘good enough’. We might answer 95% of questions on a test correctly, but spend our time ruing the 5% we got incorrect. We reframe success as failure. We don’t smell the roses. If it’s not 100% it may as well be 0%, we tell ourselves.

Origins of Self-Criticality

Like many things, self-criticality has its roots in infancy, upbringing and childhood.

Image for post
Image for post

The Pros of Personal Accountability

As elite mental conditioning coach, Trevor Moawad, puts it, “the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging”.

  • We do away with excuses, and instead look for solutions and improvement opportunities — something that generates a massive compound benefit to our lives in the long-run (in fact, a 1% improvement each day amounts to a 37X improvement over the course of an entire year)
  • We mitigate stress because we’re not focused on what’s wrong in our lives, we’re focused on building the solutions.
  • We develop generally positive dispositions, which helps us develop better relationships, and surround ourselves with better people which can have a significant impact on the quality of our lives.
  • We’re constantly improving

The Cons of Self-Criticality

On the flip-side, self-criticality can result in many deleterious consequences:

  • We are more likely to suffer from depression
  • We are more likely to develop anxiety and eating disorders
  • We might also never be satisfied with the people around us — thinking that we deserve a better ‘squad’, partner or colleagues — and this would manifest in our behaviour around people and the quality of our relationships

Hold Yourself Accountable with Compassion

There are a number of things we can do to reap the rewards of personal accountability without suffering the cons of self-criticality.

1. Reframe Your Language

Instead of responding to a purportedly negative outcome with a victimizing “I f*cked up… I’m such a failure!”, use empowering language instead.

2. Highlight What You Did Well — not just what you did poorly

Our brains are evolutionarily programmed to focus on the negatives — that’s what kept us alive on the African savvanah tens of thousands of years ago — but we need to be intentional about focusing on the positives.

3. Disassociate From Results

As legendary NFL coach, Bill Walsh, put it, “It all comes down to intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing. When you do that, the score will take care of itself”.

Image for post
Image for post

4. Focus on What You Can Control

Roman philosopher-king, Marcus Aurelius, once wrote that “you have control over your mind — realise this and you will find strength”.

5. Lead with Compassion

While it is an admirable quality — and one that I personally strive to uphold — to reach for the stars and continually look to better yourself, you are human.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
This is what life looks like when you have big dreams.

6. Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday — not others

When you compare yourself to others, you tend to compare your reality with someone else’s public persona — not a fair contest.

Final Thoughts

By holding ourselves accountable with compassion, and not being excessively self-critical, we can create the space to do things for the right reasons (not to prove things to others), cultivate better relationships, avoid a toxic mindset and maintain a generally cheerful disposition, and reach our goals.

Founder: Collective Campus, Host: Future Squared, Author: Time Rich & Employee to Entrepreneur. Clubhouse: @steveglaveski Visit: #MELB

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store