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Take a Vacation from Self-Criticism

selfcriticismI know, it’s easier said than done. For some people, self-criticism is a way of life. But taking a break can free up a lot of energy for other things.

Here are some ideas on how to start.

1)  Recognize that the problem isn’t you, it’s your thoughts.

I’m not saying you’re perfect, but you can’t be as bad as you’re making yourself out to be either. You’re stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, and the harder you are on yourself, the less motivated you will be to actually improve. It’s just human nature. Would you respond to a coach who was always yelling at you that you suck, or would you respond to one who showed you the proper stance to hit the ball and said “That’s okay, try again” when you didn’t get it the first time?

The goal of this vacation is for you to become that latter coach, for yourself.

2) Don’t believe everything you tell yourself.

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to believe it, especially if many of your thoughts skew negative.

If you were really so awful, would the people in your life care for you like they do? Which leads us to…

3) Trust other people’s judgment, not just your own.

At least when it comes to self-evaluation. If you’re seeing yourself in a far worse light than everyone around you does, you might try believing them.

Repeat back to yourself the praise and positive feedback you hear from others, and see if you can internalize it.

4) Consider your strengths before your weaknesses.

This can be a novel concept. You might think it’s a way of excusing weaknesses but really, by starting from a place of strength and building on it, you’ll be better able to tackle your weaknesses.

Also, you need to consider whether your weaknesses are ultimately that important once you’re capitalizing on your strengths. Sometimes they shrivel up on their own and become irrelevant once you shift your focus.

5) Get concrete and specific about the things you dislike, and make clear plans for how to change them.

Just saying things like, “I’m a crappy person”, will not get you anywhere. Instead, think what your faults are and how they manifest in daily life in specific ways. Then take manageable steps to begin to change those aspects of yourself.

If you feel they can’t be changed, then it might be time to work on self-acceptance: Love what you can about yourself.

Try this for a week or two, and see if a vacation can become a new way of life.

Vacation suitcase photo available from Shutterstock

Take a Vacation from Self-Criticism

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2015). Take a Vacation from Self-Criticism. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from


Last updated: 31 Mar 2015
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