Stop Criticizing Yourself!
By Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler, Pioneer brain/mind researcher | September 30, 2006
Has someone has ever caused you emotional pain with careless, mean or sarcastic remarks? What follows are some practical ideas to avoid that sort of pain in the future – and to also make sure that "someone" is not your own self.
Of course criticism can be a positive thing at times – and we must be able process this kind of feedback if we want to progress in our lives. Without some form of feedback it would be hard to improve our performance or behaviors.
But criticism can also inflict pain! It can cut very deep – and even stay with us for our lifetime. Depending upon how well you handle it, criticism has the potential to put serious limits on your life – OR to take you forward into higher levels of personal performance.
Sorting it Out
Let's start with a sorting technique to separate the facts from the opinions. A fact is something that is somehow provable and can be shown to be true. An opinion is an idea, or someone's personal interpretation of something. Look at your dog, for example. If you were to say,"That's a beautiful dog," it would be an opinion.
The underlying fact it that it's a dog. Your neighbor might think your dog is ordinary looking, or even ugly. One judgment (It's a dog) is objective, and the other (It's a beautiful dog) is subjective.
Many times people will state their opinions as fact – while what they are expressing is only their opinion.
I saw someone step on a scale on a TV program and weigh in at 450 pounds. I was alarmed, but he beamed with joy. I had automatically judged him to be seriously overweight. But he revealed that he had lost almost 400 pounds. Wow! My opinion was just that – and his judgment was quite different!
If someone calls you a "couch potato" (the term could be a lot more painful), you should decide for yourself if this is a fact or an opinion. Check out how you look. Do you look or act like a "couch potato?" No? Then this is just someone's opinion.
The Burning Question
Here's the really important question! Just whose opinion of you is the most important?
There are periods in life when other peoples' opinions of us are more important than our own opinion. This especially occurs during our sensitive teenage years. Since we are beginning to take our place as a young man or woman, the opinions of our peers often have a huge impact.
Actually that is a natural part of becoming "socialized." But it's one we do want to grow beyond as we become adults. Sooner or later we have to make a serious decision to have OUR OWN opinion of ourselves be the most important opinion.
What's Your Frame of Reference?
The best way to correct any tendency to judge yourself poorly is to learn to choose your 'frame of reference'. A 'frame of reference' is the criteria by which we judge something, or determine if it is valid.
There are two possible frames of reference: internal and external. Here's how to understand the two:
Suppose you have completed a task at work. How do you know you've done it well? Does your direct supervisor tell you "Great job!"– or do you just know without anyone saying so? The first "frame of reference" is external, and the second is internal.
Actually neither frame of reference is better than the other – both can have their own importance.
For example, when learning something new, an external frame of reference is very useful. It's otherwise difficult to learn anything other than what you already know. That's why the learning experience is based on external feedback ... until we have enough experience to decide for ourselves what's working.
An internal frame of reference has YOU deciding what's good, bad, or otherwise.
If you have an internal "feeling" that you're using to judge yourself, this is an internal frame of reference. If you know what you're doing, that's probably appropriate. But if you're doing something totally new, you may still benefit from some external feedback.
Dealing Positively With Opinions
When you are thinking about your self and how you're regarded, it's beneficial to create some solid, positive internal frames of reference.
People with healthy self-esteem operate from a positive internal frame of reference in regard to their personal worth. People with weaker self-esteem operate from an external frame of reference – and are more likely to listen to other people's opinions of their worth. And in some cases – they actually allow others to totally decide their worth. This is does not lead to a positive life experience!
So can you change this? Here are few simple suggestions:
- Start by paying attention to what you say to yourself about your own self. If you hear negative self talk YOU are creating a negative internal frame of reference.
- Begin to correct this by paying more attention to the things you appreciate about yourself.
- Put more focus on what you do well, and realize that none of us are perfect in all aspects of our lives.
- Be a little kinder and forgiving of yourself and others.
- Forget past pain and judgments, and stop re-creating them by bringing them into the present moment.
- Take a course, read a book, or attend a seminar on personal empowerment or self-esteem.
The sooner you tackle the tendency to make negative judgements about yourself – the happier and more satisfying your life will become.