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Some of us judge oursleves more harshly than we judge others. If you beat yourself up for your imaginary shortcomings you’ll know it can make you feel sad, lonely, and even guilty. I’ve developed an exercise to drive out the habits that feed low self-esteem and under-confidence.

Many people worry about low self-esteem, but the more you worry about it the worse you feel. I’ve found that it is more productive to focus on what you want (the solution), than it is to worry about what you have (the problem). After all, the more you worry about a problem the bigger it can appear.

Self-criticism and lack self-compassion are often fuelled by unrealistic and harsh self-judgements. You can do something about it by learning to treat yourself with greater compassion and understanding. Some psychologists talk about forgiveness, but when it comes to ourselves there is nothing to forgive. If you have wronged someone else than you may need to apologise or atone, but that’s another matter.

An exercise for developing self-compassion

Research suggests that people who respond with compassion to their own flaws and setbacks — rather than beating themselves up — are happier and healthier. I have prepared an exercise to help you train yourself towards greater self-compassion.

Paul Gilbert, in his book The Compassionate Mind describes some basic qualities of a compassionate individual: wisdom, warmth and kindness and being non-judgemental.

These are ideals, so don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally lapse into feeling weak or making the odd negative judgement. But bear them in mind as an image to aspire to. Be guided by your idea of what it means to be compassionate towards others, and then bend it towards greater compassion for yourself. Use this exercise to built the healthy thinking styles and banish self-criticism and harsh self-judgements.

Download the exercise

2 Responses to “How to Tame Your Inner Critic”

  1. Faithfully following the exercise here has made my already devastating inner critic even fiercer and more destructive — changes that remained when I stopped following the exercise. Further, my inner critic quickly began (and continues) powerfully blaming me for the failure of the exercise. Now what?

  2. She seems like a very strong character, does she have a name? One of the difficulties when we give unpleasant characters house-room is that it can be hard to get away from them. Have you considered re-homing her?
    I’ve taken your comment seriously, and I’ll think about creating a new exercise to help handle an inner critic. I’ve sent you a longer reply by email.

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