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Are You too Self-Critical?

CBT Technique No.4 - Look at Yourself with a Smile

Elsewhere I have looked at three techniques for creating balancing thoughts to help put negative thoughts in perspective which I have labelled 'The three F's' since they stand for the Friend Technique, the Face Your Fears technique and the Find a New Way of Looking at the Situation technique.

The 4th technique begins with a new letter: 'L' for Look at Yourself with a Smile.

This technique is particularly helpful for dealing with self-critical thoughts.

Why You might Want to Be Less Self-Critical

If you continually criticise yourself for not doing things or doing things badly or doing something you regret it can create a number of problems:

  1. You get stressed
  2. Your self-esteem suffers
  3. You find it difficult to focus on day to day activities
  4. Your mood and enjoyment of life suffers.

The Benefits of Being Kinder to Yourself!

If you can deal with your self-critical thoughts sensibly then it can have benefits that are more or less the opposite of the negatives listed above!

  1. You feel more relaxed
  2. Your self-esteem improves
  3. You focus better on day to day activities
  4. Your mood improves and you enjoy life more!

Of course self-criticism is not always bad. If it is accurate and you are able to use it to improve your actions then it can be productive. The problem is when it is exaggerated or too frequent. A lot of people tend to notice their negatives more than their positives. If this aplies to you I suggest you try the Look at Yourself with a Smile Technique. It works like this:

How to Use the Look at Yourself with a Smile Technique

1. Write down a note of your self-critical thought, e.g.

"I shouldn't have criticised Tom."

2. Imagine yourself in a position standing apart from yourself as a detached observer (or even floating high above yourself) and looking at yourself making that self-critical comment. Smile at the image of yourself below, relax and make a kind comment about it - give yourself a break! Write down your kind comment, which is a form of balancing thought putting the self-critical comment in perspective, e.g. you might write:

"Oh well, You're not perfect. You can apologise to Tom".

3. Remind yourself of your balancing thought each time the self-critical thought resurfaces.

Try it Yourself! - when you catch yourself being self-critical: Stop, Relax, Make a note of your self-critical thought, smile at the image of yourself getting tense and self-critical, and then create a kind comment about it. Say it to yourself when appropriate.

Be kinder to yourself if you have a tendency to be self-critical! That's an order!


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