The Seduction of Self-Criticism


An internal voice of self-criticism does not seem like something anyone would desire yet it is an almost universal human experience.  For many, the accusatory dialogue of not being enough or not doing enough is a record that plays on repeat.  It spins again and again on that same track, causing us to spend our energy focused on what we did not do or we what “should” have done, leaving us in a state of regret.

Despite making us miserable, many of the maladaptive practices we use are effective and have some short-term gains…that’s why we keep doing them!  There is a lot to be said for the motivation that can come from telling yourself that you/your efforts aren’t “enough.”  We somehow trick ourselves into believing that if we are mentally whipping ourselves then that must mean we really care.  People who have relied heavily upon being discontent to accomplish their goals often fear letting go of that critical voice.  It has been their familiar motor for so many years.

In addition to being addictive, the external results of self-criticism can also be alluring when they are disguised as drive and ambition.  The shiny version of self-criticism often draws the admiration of others as they observe just how hard we are working as we internally sacrifice our self-care and our self-compassion.  While we lose our sleep, our health and our sanity seeking a self-established “enough”, others praise us for the commitment we have to “excellence.”

The reality is that regularly engaging in self-criticism can cause us to work ourselves to death or at least make us miserable along the way.  Making the choice to switch to a practice of self-compassion yields far more growth and motivation over time (and certainly less internal damage!) than criticism on repeat.  We were not designed to be the subject of constant abuse from anyone, especially ourselves.  We were designed for love.

Self-compassion mimics the voice of God.

Self-criticism?  That’s the other guy.

It is with this delineation that I will share one other secret about self-criticism.  While it feels like humility, the constant internal suggestion that you should always be “more” can actually be a sneaky little voice of pride.  True to his nature, it is actually the other guy enticing you to act like a god as you think you should be able to do all things at all times and be all things to all people.  Pretty sure he tried that same seduction on Jesus in the desert and He told that devil where to go.  Maybe we should too.

Practicing self-compassion sounds something like this…

I’ve been forgiven, and I forgive myself.
I’ve been given grace, I will be patient with myself.
Kindness makes me stronger, not weak.
I will grant myself the same compassion I extend to others.

It is my hope today that you can begin to take steps away from the critical voice that may plague parts of your life and begin to practice self-compassion.  When we put God’s voice on repeat in our heads we are much more likely to accept and live in the center of who He says we are and love those around us from that same perspective.  Now that sounds like the record I want to listen to.

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