Is Your Inner Critic Challenging Your Self-Esteem?

Many professional conferences, lively dinner table discussions, happy hour conversations with the girls have gone round and round about the origin of self-esteem. You may look back and say "I had a great family, my parents always encouraged me, showered me with unconditional love and support, so why am I so challenged with a low self-esteem?". Some of you may have very concrete examples of circumstances in the past that have been less than supportive and kind and you are sure that is the cause of your challenge with how you view yourself. 

No child is born with low self-esteem. Self-esteem is a state of being and at its core, how we ultimately view ourselves, our value, our worth as a human being,  lies ultimately in our thoughts about ourselves.  I hear you saying to yourself, "wait a minute. I had some pretty difficult circumstances happen in my life. My parent was this, I was a victim of that!Of course, circumstances outside of our control can get this critical, harsh and complicated ball rolling. Our mind then takes the ball and runs with it. rather self-critical thought patterns develop over time as a result of external stimuli and input from others.

Yes, of course, circumstances outside of your control can get this critical, harsh and complicated ball rolling. Our mind then takes the ball and runs with it and over time self-critical thought patterns develop that become our go-to way of thinking about ourselves.

Let's explore a few factors that may contribute to how you think about yourself.

Parental Input

The most important influence in a child’s life is their parents. If the parents themselves have a healthy self-esteem they will be able to more easily pass it on to the child. Conversely, children of parents with low self-esteem will, more often than not, adopt this belief about themselves.

To help instill a positive self-esteem in their child, parents should always offer love, patience, and encouragement and avoid criticism, unfair comparisons, and unrealistic expectations.

Negative Self Talk

When children receive too many criticisms, they may develop a negative pattern of thinking. If not adjusted, this pattern can turn into a destructive loop of negative thoughts like:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m not pretty enough.
  • Everyone is laughing at me.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I can’t do it.

These self-critical thoughts eventually become core beliefs, and the person’s behavior then changes to match those beliefs.

These are just a few of the causes of low self-esteem, but they illustrate that esteem is not an inherited trait like eye color or height, but rather a set of acquired beliefs. And, like everything that is acquired, self-esteem can be altered.

No matter what may have caused low self-esteem, there are ways to improve it.

1. Challenge Your Inner Critic

That self-critical voice must be silenced and replaced with a supportive one. How do you do this? First, when a negative thought pops into your head, simply become aware of it. Treat that thought like an object in a store and you’re deciding whether you want to buy it or not.

Next, challenge that thought by asking two questions:

  • Is there any evidence that proves this thought is correct?
  • Would my friends and family agree with this self-critical thought?

Chances are the answers you’ll get most often are “no” and “no.” When this happens enough times, you’ll start to believe that maybe, just maybe, your inner critic is entirely wrong!

2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

With social media comes a potential downside. I like to call it "comparsonitis". Not a real disease but nonetheless a preoccupation with comparing ourselves with every other person's thoughts, feelings, experiences, accomplishments, failures. Whatever you find on social media, chances are directly or indirectly you are asking yourself, "how do I measure up if at all?". So many people spend countless hours measuring their worth and value against others’ instead of embracing what makes them unique. You truly are the only you on the planet. No one else has your DNA or your life experiences, and that is incredibly special. It’s very important you stop spending time comparing yourself to others and start spending time sharing your unique talents and ideas with the world.

3. Stop Striving for Perfection

Only things that are finished can be critiqued and considered perfect or not. A cake is either perfectly moist or dreadfully dry. A building is either perfectly functional or a pointless eyesore.

Human beings are never finished. We are lovely works in progress, ever-changing and growing. And, since we will never stop evolving, we must never be critiqued in the same way as an inanimate object.

So, stop trying to be perfect and just be your awesome progressing self.

If you’ve tried putting some of these tips into action but haven’t noticed a difference in the way you feel about yourself, I would welcome having a conversation with you about working together to gain a set of tools that will allow yourself to be free of your inner critic that is getting in your way. Isn't it time to start practicing self-compassion so you can begin to move forward toward the life you are striving for?

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    • Help you get started on tackling a challenge you are dealing with;
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    • You will walk away with at least 1 coaching tool and strategy that you can immediately put into action!

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