Mental Wellbeing

17 Helpful Ways To Stop Beating Yourself Up

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Do you find you are beating yourself up over every mistake you make?

Have you ever noticed how much more critical you are of yourself than of others?

Your inner critic can be vicious and difficult to quiet.  It’s the voice that makes you feel disappointed in yourself, convincing you that you are never going to succeed.

Allow it free rein and it can lead to rumination and overthinking, both of which can become problematic and damaging.

Think about it.  What happens when someone criticises you?  Do you thank them?  Does it change your behaviour?  It’s more likely that you’ll become defensive and may retaliate.

If you were teaching a child to read would you berate them and call them stupid every time they stumbled over a word?

Would this help them to learn?

Of course, it wouldn’t.  They’re more likely to become upset and withdrawn.

Offer them praise and encouragement and it’s a completely different story.

stop beating yourself up

Why Do You Beat Yourself Up?

It comes down to a lack of compassion for ourselves.  This may have arisen due to childhood trauma or the way we were brought up.

We may set impossibly high standards for ourselves in order to avoid criticism from others.  This leads to a level of perfectionism which is impossible to maintain.

The Effects Of Your Inner Critic

Ask yourself whether beating yourself up has this ever led to you being a better version of yourself?  I would suspect that the answer will be no.   Studies have shown there is a negative relationship between self-criticism and goal progress.

Your inner critic can make you feel deficient, lacking in self-esteem and confidence and can even lead to depression.

Constantly beating yourself up can be exhausting, can lead to high levels of stress and can even negatively affect your relationships by making you seem needy and insecure.

How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

This will take time and practice, but it is entirely possible to learn how to recognise and put a halt to habitual negative thoughts and destructive behaviours.

It’s time you were able to smile, breathe, and accept yourself as you are

How do you do this? By taking one step at a time.

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Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

I’ve given you a comprehensive list of ideas to stop beating yourself up.  Don’t try them all at once or you’ll quickly become overwhelmed!

Choose the ideas that speak to you the most at first, then add to your toolbox over time.  You can get a grip on that pesky inner critic and stop beating yourself up.  Here’s how.

1. Realise Everyone Makes Mistakes

Nobody is perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes – even famous, successful people.

Take for example Walt Disney who was fired from a newspaper for ‘not having enough imagination’ or James Dyson who made 5,126 ‘duff’ vacuum cleaners!

Did Walt and James disappear into a pit of self-critical despair?

Well, I suppose we don’t know if they did for a little while, but they certainly didn’t let failure stop them!  They picked themselves up, learned from their mistakes and kept going.

Reflection on mistakes can be useful as long as it’s constructive.  Ask yourself what you’ve learned, how can you improve and what can you do better next time.

[tweetshare tweet=”Instead of beating yourself up over a mistake, determine what you need to do differently. Then try again. – Tim Fargo” username=”alisonw30″]

2.  Become Aware Of Your Thoughts

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

This takes time and practice as we have 1000s of thoughts each day, but becoming more aware of them is helpful.

Meditation and journaling can both help you to untangle your thoughts.    If you are finding this hard, try becoming aware of emotions first of all.  Then see if you can identify the thoughts which led to those emotions.

For example, you may realise you are feeling anxious.  Then when you gently probe yourself and ask why, you realise it’s because you are worrying about something that happened at work.

It’s important not to try to squash the negative thoughts or push them away.  The trick is to simply become aware of them without judgement and without becoming caught up in them.

Imagine your thoughts as images on a screen or clouds in the sky.  Coming into view for a time and then passing on by.

As I’ve said, this takes practice so definitely don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult to begin with!

3.  Replace Your Thoughts

We all fall into common ‘thinking traps’ such as mind-reading (e.g. ‘she must think I’m an idiot’) or over-generalisation (this ALWAYS happens to me).

Once you become aware of your thoughts see if you can identify these thinking traps and replace your thoughts with something more realistic.

For example, you could tell yourself ‘I’m trying hard and doing my best’ instead of ‘I’m failing at everything’.

For more help with this, check out my Thinking Traps Workbook which covers all the common thinking traps.  The workbook also contains two handy worksheets to help you tackle your inner critic.

4.  Write Down Your Achievements

Try writing down at least one thing you’ve achieved each day.  This doesn’t have to be a big thing, even crossing something small off your to-do list counts.

Do this for 30 days and you will have a comprehensive list to look back over when you are feeling low.

Research shows that it requires more effort to disengage from a negative thought than a neutral one.

This simple exercise of repeatedly writing down your achievements, whilst requiring some effort at first, will help you to gain strength to disengage from your negative thoughts and redirect your attention to more positive aspects of yourself.

5.  Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

In this world of social media, the tendency to do this has become an epidemic.

Try to remember that the pictures you see on Instagram and Facebook show an edited version of someone’s life.  You may think they look perfect but they will have their own insecurities and problems just like you.

Instead of comparing yourself to other people, try looking at your own progress.  Consider the person you were a year ago or 5 years ago and look back over the achievements you’ve made in that time.  Then be proud!

6.  Celebrate Differences

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Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Another way to look at the comparison game is to celebrate the differences rather than berating yourself for not being ‘as good as’ someone else.

We all have our own unique strengths and talents.  Celebrate yours and also appreciate the things in others that make them different from you.

7.  Make A List Of What You Appreciate About Yourself

Similar to making a list of your achievements, make a list of the qualities you do like about yourself rather than the ones you don’t.

Then put your list somewhere you can refer to it the next time you are beating yourself up!

8.  Show Yourself Some Compassion

Some people worry that by showing themselves compassion they will somehow become ‘weak’ or lose their focus.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and, in fact, showing yourself some compassion has many benefits including:

  • Improved emotional resilience
  • Helping you to be more realistic
  • Reducing your levels of stress and anxiety
  • Increasing productivity

The next time that critical inner voice starts nagging at you, ask yourself what you would say to a friend who was in the situation you are ruminating about.  I bet you would be far more compassionate with them than you are being to yourself!

Once you’ve worked out what you would say to your friend, show yourself the same level of compassion.

Read more about self-compassion and how to practice it here.

9.  Beware Of ‘Should’

Also ‘need to’ ‘must’ and ‘ought to’.

Ask yourself if your ‘shoulds’ are constructive.  Do they help you or do they make you feel worse and beat yourself up more when you don’t achieve the thing you think you ‘should’ do?

Try instead to substitute ‘should’ with words such as will, am, are and will be.

10.  Give Up On Perfection

Many of us set ourselves impossibly high standards.  I know from my own experience that I tend to expect an awful lot of myself and yet I’m much more forgiving of others!

It can be difficult if your tendency is towards perfectionism.  Try to be realistic with the goals you set yourself.  Experiment with accepting ‘good enough’.  Witness that the world doesn’t end when you do this!

Remember that no-one is perfect so give yourself a break from trying to be.

11.  Stop Beating Yourself Up and Reward Yourself Instead

Preferably with something healthy (although the odd cake is allowed 😉)

For example, listen to your favourite music, watch a film snuggled up on the sofa or have a soak in a hot bath.

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

If you have a bit of spare cash, maybe book yourself a spa day or concert tickets.  There’s nothing better than having something to look forward to.

12.  Prune Relationships

Are you surrounded by people with a positive outlook on life?  You can’t choose all of the people who surround you of course but you can choose how much time you spend with people who don’t make you feel good.

Here are some tips on how to deal with any toxic people you have in your life right now.

13.  Laugh At Yourself A Bit More

Sometimes we take ourselves so seriously.  It’s OK to use a bit of humour and lighten up a bit!

14.  Talk To Someone

women sitting and talking

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

It can be helpful to talk things through with someone else.  Particularly if you are finding your inner critic difficult to silence.

Talking things through with trusted friends and family can be helpful, but seek the help of a qualified coach or counseller for help which is more impartial.

15.  Look At The Situation As An Observer

This is another technique which can take a little bit of practice but is powerful once you get the hang of it.

Put yourself in the shoes of an impartial observer and ask how they would describe the situation you are in.  What advice would they give to you?

Or, if you are ruminating about a situation involving another person, try to put yourself in their shoes.  How do you think they might describe what is happening?

16.  Do Someone A Good Turn

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Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

Research has shown that ‘random acts of kindness’ can have huge benefits for both the giver and receiver of the kind act.

Again this doesn’t have to be anything huge.  You could hold the door open for someone, smile at someone who is looking a bit down or let someone out in traffic.

Kindness towards others can help you to get out of your own head, shifts your focus and has also been shown to make you happier.  What’s not to love?

17.  Write Down Kind Words

Have you noticed that it’s much easier to recall criticism or unkind words than kind ones or compliments?

Instead of ignoring compliments or brushing them off, write them down.  This is another nice list to build and keep close at hand so you can refer to it whenever needed!

18.  Visualise Your Inner Critic

You could think of your inner critic as an ugly little gremlin sitting on your shoulder.  Then every time it pipes up, poke it in the eye and knock it to the floor!

If you are good at drawing, you could even draw a caricature, perhaps with a silly feature that makes you laugh.

I hope you will find this list of ways to stop beating yourself up and silence your inner critic helpful.  (Did you spot the deliberate mistake by the way?  It’s now 18 tips as I had two number 8s 😆)

Don’t forget to claim your copy of the  Thinking Traps Workbook for more help with tackling your inner critic.

Have you tried any of these techniques or do you have any other ideas which I’ve missed?  Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. Alex Grace

    This is a fantastic post, Alison! One of the best things I ever did was to break-up with my inner-critic. I used a lot of the tactics you’ve mentioned here and they really helped, so I’m sure they’ll also be empowering to everyone else reading your words x

  2. Denise

    Excellent post and full of great advice. Thank you for sharing your tips with us and using it to bring awareness and guidance to others.
    It is hard to change old habits, but you gave people ways to change.

  3. Geraldine Mae Lua

    This is really helpful Alison! I really sometimes beat myself up so much I can’t sleep for weeks over something I feel tremendous remorse over. It’s helpful to replace ‘I’m failing at everything” with “I’m trying my best”. I think that’s really good!! Rewarding yourself even over small things can def help too. Thanks for sharing Alison! xx

    Geraldine | https://geraldinetalks.com

    1. Alison

      I’ve been there too Geraldine, losing sleep for weeks over something. I do it less often nowadays although it still happens sometimes. I’m a work in progress! As we all are. Hope the tips help you 🙂

  4. Stefanie

    Wow-right from the start with your analogy of teaching a child to read – you had me hooked. Great post, helpful for sure. I need to start talking to myself in an encouraging manner rather than demeaning.

    Thank you – pinning for repeat guidance!

  5. Chloe Chats

    Loved this post Alison. I’m definitely too hard on myself, I always love the idea of writing a list of achievements. It’s such a positive thing to do, and definitely makes you realise how well you have done and how proud you should be of yourself. Thank you for sharing this lovely post <3

    Chloe xx

    1. Alison

      I used to a lot too, I still do sometimes but it’s possible to change with practice 🙂

  6. Rinki Tiwari

    My favourite tips are #7,#8 and #10.
    I am a perfectionist and I take myself too seriously. I definitely need to work on these tips.
    Thank you so much for sharing 😊
    Lots of love,

    1. Alison

      I’ve just noticed there are two 8s 🙈 Anyway, glad you have found the post useful, beware of ‘need to’ though as well as should 😉

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