One thing that many people do when suffering from low self-esteem is to be mean to themselves. This is the opposite of self-compassion which is something absolutely crucial for building self-esteem. On this page, we are going to look at why people are so mean to themselves sometimes and what steps you can take right now to stop this.
There are several reasons why people are mean to themselves. One of the biggest reasons is low self-esteem which can lead to self-criticism. Another reason is the guilt that we feel after blaming ourselves for something. Self-judgment can cause feelings of failure and that we don’t deserve better.
As we can see there are many complicated reasons why someone might be mean to themselves. It is often said that we are our own worst enemy or judge and I agree that this is true, I know I have certainly experienced this. So let’s take a closer look at why we are mean to ourselves and what steps we can take to improve.
Being mean to yourself is so common and normally is based around an inner voice that can be extremely critical and negative. This inner voice is often referred to as the “inner critic”. Everyone has it and in some, it is known as our conscience. In others, though, this inner critic can be very harsh and unforgiving. If you suffer from this kind of inner criticism, then life becomes much more difficult.
We have mentioned low self-esteem which eats away at your confidence. If you suffer from a lack of confidence or a poor self-image then your inner voice is probably making things a million times worse for you. There is nothing meaner than words and when they come from within we can be trapped into believing what they say.
Here are a few reasons why you may be mean to yourself:
- lack of confidence causes you to be critical of your abilities and so you tell yourself things that are likely to stop you from trying so you avoid failure
- your feelings of low self-esteem can be justified by your own inner voice so that what you believe is confirmed
- those who are perfectionists may hold themselves to a high standard and when they fail to reach that their inner critic rebukes them for being less than perfect
- it may be the case that we have been told certain things so often by others in our life that we begin to believe what they have said to the extent that we join in and tell ourselves the same negative things
These are just a few reasons why we can be mean to ourselves, there may be many more, and as everyone is different your problems with this may be quite different from others.
Now that we have briefly looked at why you are so mean to yourself, let’s think about what steps you can take to help yourself overcome the difficulties that this is creating in your life.
One thing I found very useful when I was suffering from low self-esteem was to listen out for my negative inner voice and question it. So many people just accept the harsh criticism and extreme negativity of this inner critic when in reality its judgments are unfair or even downright untrue.
For example, the next time you hear it say something like “you always fail whatever you try!” question the voice by recalling the times you didn’t fail. This way you will begin to stop the unconditional belief in this negative voice and start to question the truth of this voice. This is an important step as questioning will reveal the extremely negative perspective and unrealistic claims this critic makes. Having the courage to stand up to this inner bully will be one step toward building your courage to move forward in the real world. If you can do this, your lack of self-confidence will soon become transformed into powerful confident thoughts.
Another step that will take you along the road toward destroying the power of your inner voice to convince you that you are a failure is to make a note of all your achievements and the times you have succeeded. This is a step that will begin the process of chipping away at that wall of negativity in your mind that holds you back.
Remember to spend time on this recalling and listing even the smallest positive achievements you have made. As this list grows ever longer, your confidence will grow and you will start to be less affected by your inner critic. No longer will you believe what it says without question!
Also, on a very positive note, understanding that you have succeeded before will increase your belief that you can succeed again. This is a monumental step forward towards not only ending your inner meanness but may take you towards a day when you will replace your inner critic with a much kinder and more encouraging voice. Oh, that will be a great day and one to remember for sure!
One great way to become more forgiving towards yourself is to change the way you view mistakes. Acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and that this is how we learn, can help develop a new attitude where mistakes are not seen as a failure. Rather, mistakes are only temporary setbacks or opportunities to improve.
There are so many examples of how mistakes should be viewed and so many quotations that can help here including this one by Thomas Edison:
“I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
His assistant had said:
“All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing.”
Again, we all have strengths and weaknesses. When we listen to the inner critic it reminds us of our weaknesses and criticizes us for them. In truth, we should accept our weaknesses but be determined to work on those we can improve. Our weaknesses are the areas we have for improvement and since no one is perfect, we all have weaknesses. The trick is to see them as challenges to improve rather than areas that stop us in life. So next time you are being mean to yourself by telling yourself how bad you are at something, reply with “I will work on that and improve.”
There are two sides to this step. If someone is a negative influence in your life, don’t accept this. Talk to them first and explain how their behavior or words hurt you and if they continue then either remove them from your life or spend less time around them.
The other side to this step is to not only remove those who are toxic, but you should actively seek to spend time with positive people. Making new friends who can support you and help you move towards a life where you are no longer mean to yourself is vital.
Final thoughts paragraph
By following the five steps above you will feel much better about yourself and even if the voice in your head never goes away, you will not be as affected by it as you were. In an ideal world, this voice would be silent but in reality, it may always be there and this is OK. What is not OK is to blindly accept the inner abuse that your critic gives you as this will greatly reduce your potential for success and happiness. So, there you have it…five steps to help you stop being mean to yourself. I hope they prove invaluable!