Learn to catch yourself being self – critical
What alerts you to the fact that you are being self-critical? Thought patterns (Such as making sweeping judgements , comparisons, blaming, ‘Should’)? Mood changes ( a drop of confidence , feeling low)? Body sensations (a sinking feeling , tight shoulders)? Or may be something you do(Breaking eye contact , making yourself small)?
Just because self-criticism is loud and compelling , it does not follow that it tells the truth.
Self-critical NATs are the voice of the Bottom Line speaking in the present moment. For instance, when yourself- critical voice says,’You see? No one likes you! this may be the voice of the Bottome line that developed because your parents were too busy and stressed to pay you attention. Your self-critical NATs may be loud and powerful , but they still represent an old , automatic habit of mind that you no longer need to buy into or take seriously .
We saw how, when you were younger, you may have drawn unhelpful conclusions from things that happened around you because you did not have the ability or knowledge to weigh things up in a more reasoned way. It’s important to remember that these conclusions are not the truth – they were just the best understanding you could reach of things at the time.
It may also seem as if self-criticism is the only thing that motivates you to meet the standards set by your Rules for Living. If so, Letting it go may feel risky . Investigate the real imact of self – criticism on your life. Rather than being motivating, self-criticism actually tends to prevent learning stifle creativity and paralyse efforts to develop problem-solve and grow.
Beware the rumination trap
Notice if your mind slips into rumination , going over and over the same ground : wondering why this always happens, what is wrong with you, will it never end, and so on and so forth. Rumination can feel as if it is helpful-if you think things through just one more time, surely you will find the answer -so people often mistake it for problem – slving. In fact, rumination just leads to more rumination and makes you miserable , especially if you are already feeling low.
Distraction techniques may be helpful here. Even if self-critical thoughts and ruminations still turn up , perhaps you can learn to let them be like a radio in the background . You can still listen if you want to, but most of the time you would rather pay attention to other things.
Pacing: The importance of being realistic
If you have had low self-esteem for a long time and it has had a big impact on your life, self-criticism may be an ingrained habit. Do not be discouraged if it is hard to find kinder , fairer views . Your supporter may be really helpful here. Others who know us well and are on our side often have a clearer and more balanced view of us than we do of ourselves. Be persistant , and recognize that however well – rehearsed you self-critical thinking may be , it will still be open to change if you stick at it.
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