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Instead of Criticizing Yourself Cultivate Curiosity

west coast of florida, taken by mama, june 2014

Instead of getting frustrated with our bodies, our reactions or our feelings, we can get curious. Instead of berating ourselves, we can dig deeper. We can explore why we’re having certain emotions and reactions. We can scour our mistakes for lessons. We can examine what triggers our emotional overeating and what we really need instead.

I love the concept of curiosity because it’s a powerful way to engage with ourselves and our environment. When we’re curious, we’re more present. We’re more open to learning. We get to know our needs. We get to know ourselves. We can use the information we learn to truly nourish ourselves.

The great thing is that we know how to be curious. We perfected it as kids. All of us. As kids, we rarely judged things. We rarely deemed them good or bad (except maybe every green vegetable). Instead, we spent our days getting curious. About everything. We asked lots of questions. We tried to get to the bottom of mystifying things. We persisted until we knew the facts, until we understood.

And, today, we can sharpen our sense of curiosity. We can cultivate a thirst for new knowledge and insight.

Here’s a list of questions to help you get curious (instead of getting mad at yourself and unleashing a litany of insults):

  • Why do I feel this way?
  • What might’ve caused this feeling?
  • What might sitting with my feelings look like?
  • How can I feel better?
  • What have I learned from the times I haven’t treated myself well?
  • What tends to precipitate my emotional overeating?
  • What do I need right now?
  • Why am I more tired today?
  • What usually helps to boost my energy?
  • How can I move my body in ways that actually feel fun (instead of tedious or punishing)?
  • What do I want my physical activities to feel like: calming, energizing, challenging, playful (or all of the above)?
  • What about this situation makes me feel so nervous (or angry or sad or disappointed)?
  • What are my favorite foods and flavors?
  • How do I feel after eating this specific food?
  • Who can I turn to for support about this?
  • Why do I tend to feel especially bad about myself while hanging out with this person?
  • What is stressing me out about this particular situation?
  • What does my inner critic usually say when I try something new?
  • What makes me feel truly relaxed after I come home from work?
  • What about this habit has become a struggle for me?
  • When is my self-criticism at its peak?

What are you criticizing yourself for today that you can get curious about instead? Make a list. Then make another list of questions. Instead of being quick to judge yourself or a situation, take the inquisitive route. Use a lens of self-compassion. Think of yourself as a researcher trying to better understand what’s going on.

Ask yourself, “Why?” “What?” and “How?” Say, “I wonder…” “This is interesting…” “Let me explore this a bit…” “Let me play with a different perspective…” “Let me get to know this problem better..” “Let’s consider different options…”

Getting curious helps us become more flexible. It helps us release our tight grip on rigidity, on shoulds. I should look this way. I should eat this way. I should be this way.

Getting curious gives us valuable information, which is way more interesting, useful and powerful than criticizing ourselves. Which only creates a growing hole in our hearts.

Instead of Criticizing Yourself Cultivate Curiosity

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Instead of Criticizing Yourself Cultivate Curiosity. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 May 2015
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