Are you one of those people who constantly criticize themselves, pointing out their own faults with excessive rigor? Or do you see yourself as a balanced person, capable of self-criticism while also being critical of others? Here are four essential questions you should ask yourself, according to a renowned psychologist.
A distorting mirror: self-criticism as a protective mechanism
Alice Boyes, an internationally renowned psychologist, has pointed out that some people use self-criticism as a form of protection, persuading themselves that only perfection can demonstrate their human worth. Unfortunately, this perspective can lead to a minimization of one's own mistakes and a reluctance to face up to them. What's more, excessive awareness of one's own shortcomings can lead to obsession and a perception of oneself as inferior to others. Excessive self-criticism can therefore be self-destructive.
“Self-criticism often disguises itself as a form of protection, persuading us that perfection is the only way to prove our worth as human beings,” notes the expert.
The past: a key to understanding your level of self-criticism
What is the origin of your tendency to self-criticism? Perhaps it stems from a childhood marked by very self-critical parents. Or perhaps, when you failed an exam at school, you were able to quickly understand the reason for this failure and then correct it. Whatever the case, it's always useful to delve into our past to find answers to the way we act and think in the present.
Models and examples: the search for balance
Boyes suggests that it is essential to identify healthy role models who are not excessively self-critical. She gives the example of a person who manages dieting well. In this respect, some diets can lead to irritability and reduced energy.
“Identify successful people who aren't overly critical of themselves, but who aren't narcissistic either,” concludes the expert.
The role of society: cultural influence and self-criticism
There are social groups that are particularly exposed to criticism and judgment from others, such as women or racialized people. If you belong to one of these groups, recognizing these social biases can fuel excessive self-criticism. Therefore, it's important to be more forgiving of ourselves, as being overly critical doesn't do us any good from a psychological point of view, especially when this criticism is exacerbated for cultural reasons.