Updated: May 26, 2020
Learning How to Understand and Interpret Self-Criticism
By Mel Sale
For people in all walks of life, self-criticism is one of the biggest and most difficult barriers to healing from past traumas, learning from mistakes, and moving forward in life. But self-criticism, while it can hurt, isn’t necessarily a wholly bad thing. Learning how to understand self-criticism is an important step towards personal growth and recovery.
The Inner Critic
Within each of us there are two “warring” parts: the ideal self is the person who knows that when times are bad, they can get better, and that you’re worth that better life. But there’s also the inner critic, the person who insists that everything that goes wrong is your fault, and that your failures mean that you yourself are a failure. The inner critic is harsh, but often, they have something important to say; it’s just a question of stripping away the unkindness of the message to find out what they inner critic really means.
Often, that inner critic is harsh because there’s a desire to protect the self from further harm. When the inner critic says “you don’t have what it takes to succeed, so why bother trying?” what they’re really saying is, “I’m scared that we might fail, and I want to protect you from the hurt it will cause.”
Essentially, the inner critic is trying to protect us, so when you hear the inner critic, it’s important to listen to what it says, and then try and figure out what they’re trying to protect you from. Once you understand the meaning behind the message, you can identify positive actions that help you protect yourself from pain, and allow you to continue moving forward.
Learn more about interpreting and understanding the inner critic, and working with what they have to say, by reading this article at Recovery.org.