How to Use your Self-Criticism for Personal Growth

I know self-criticism doesn’t sound good like a good thing. Criticism in any form doesn’t sound like it can be good for you but I have found that self-criticism can be used a tool. Depending on the degree to which you are self-critical, it can be one the best tools that you can use to reach your goals or the worst thing to ever happen to you.

When people think self criticism they probably think about someone with really low self-esteem. If you are self-critical most people think it means that you are constantly beating yourself up over everything. With women it is usually about our looks, how we are not thin enough, how we are not pretty enough, how we wish we were like the other beautiful girls around us.

However, you can harness the power of your self-critical mind and use it for good. To do that you have to be in the “prime” level of the self-critical scale.


Self Criticism Scale – The Extremes

I think that there is a scale of self-criticism. Of course being overly self-critical is really bad. It can really ruin your self esteem. There are people who have no self-esteem because they are so critical of themselves to the point of insanity. They pick at their every flaw because they are taught by society that they should.

This guy looks like he’s having a hard time. He is probably beating himself up for not being able to figure out a problem.

When anything goes wrong in peoples lives, self-critical people blame themselves. Overly self-critical people blame themselves too much. They think, how could they let this happen to them and maybe even to their family?  How are they doing to be able to dig themselves out of this hole? How could they be so stupid, blindsided, silly, immature, etc? These people are never able to better themselves or pick themselves back up because they are so caught up in what is wrong with them.

Then there are people on the other side of the spectrum. You know those people who are not critical of themselves at all. People who do not see anything as their fault. They have huge egos that always need stroking. They think so highly of themselves, for no apparent reason, that they border on narcissism. These people walk around believing that they are gods gift to mankind. They are superior to other people. But because they do not look at themselves with a critical eye, they never end up bettering themselves.


Self Criticism Scale – Perfect Balance

The ideal place to be is in the middle or what I like to call the “prime self-critical zone.” This prime self-critical zone is right in the middle, where you have struck a perfect internal balance. In this zone you are realistic about yourself, including your faults, weaknesses, but also your strengths. Because you are in this prime zone you are able to tell yourself with complete honesty and objectivity, what or who to blame for any given situation. 

Where are you on the scale?

Time for a little introspection. Where are you on this scale? I want you to be really honest with yourself. Are you overly self-critical at times? Are you not critical enough? How do you know where you are on this scale? Think about how you would react to this situation below. 

A beautiful woman or a handsome man (whichever you prefer) walks into the room. This person is exactly your type. Through a series of events you end up talking to that very attractive person. You find out his/her name is Alex. The more you talk to Alex, the more you realize that you like him/her. However, you notice that through Alex’s body language, he/she doesn’t seem to feel the same. Alex seems uncomfortable, eyes darting around the room, trying to get out of this conversation that you think is going so well.

After about 15 minutes of what you thought was an amazing conversation, Alex politely leaves. You try to approach Alex again but he/she gives you the cold shoulder. You know for sure that Alex is not interested in you.

How do you react to this situation? What do you tell yourself? Think back to instances where you have been in this situation before.

Reaction 1 – overly self-critical 

Do you walk away thinking that you never had a chance with Alex anyway? Are you also thinking that Alex is somehow too good for you. The overly self-critical person would think they were not attractive, not funny, or not charming enough for Alex to want to give them his/her number. They would also over analyze the conversation and think about “where it went wrong” or what they should have done or said instead. 

Reaction 2 – The borderline NARCISSIST 

The borderline narcissistic person would not let this situation bruise their ego so they would blame Alex. These people usually think that they are too good for Alex anyway. They think that he/she missed out on a chance with the perfect person and that Alex doesn’t know what he/she is missing. The narcissist will inflate their ego, even calling Alex “ugly anyway” and give them some sort of insult to heal their bruised ego. They will tell themselves whatever they need to in order to not take any blame for the situation. 

Reaction C – Prime self critical zone

You are disappointed that Alex obviously wasn’t as interested in you as you were in him/her. And you let your self feel bad about it for a little bit but focus back on why you were out in the first place. You were at this place to meet up with a friend. Instead of getting down on yourself for this you remember that you only spent 15 minutes talking to a nice person. You don’t blame Alex or yourself for not connecting and move on. Remembering there are plenty of people out their that you can talk to. 


the perfect balance + using it for good

Where are you on the scale? Are you leaning more on the narcissistic side or the overly self-critical side? Or are you one of the lucky ones in the prime zone?

thinking about goals

To strike the perfect balance and reach the prime self-critical zone you have to learn to be completely objective. You have to be as objective about yourself, your situation and things you experience, as you can. This objectivity will lead to (because it pretty much is) being honest with yourself. Depending on where you are on the scale this honesty doesn’t just mean knocking yourself down a few pegs, but also lifting yourself up and reminding yourself that you are great. 

When you are honest and objective in the prime self-critical zone, you strike a balance between blaming other people, your situation, or yourself for things that happen. You know the truth behind why something good or bad occurred. Then you can fix it or move on accordingly with out taking a hit to your self esteem because you are also honest about your good characteristics. This will create an innate confidence that you never had before.

To put this into practice, start thinking about a goal that you want to accomplish. If you think about the reasons why you are not achieving your goals, what can you do to improve? What methods can you change to be more effective? What methods effectively use your strengths? Are you just making excuses or are you being lazy and not doing things to reach your goals? Are the things you claim are standing in your way, really there?

If you answer these and other hard questions honestly, it will lead you to the answers that you need in order to grow. This honesty is the “prime zone” and the best tool because you will learn to stop making excuses for yourself. So, be honest! Once you have pinpointed things that you need to change with a self-critical eye, change them.


Things to remember

I know that I may sound easy to be objective with yourself but it is not. It takes time and the right mindset to be objective because emotions can easily cloud your judgement. There are will be instances where you are going through rough times (or rejection like with Alex) so you can not help but be overly self-critical. Then there will be time when your ego is bruised so you have to be a little narcissistic. 

In these times remember to take a step back and look at things objectively. It is even good to be honest about how objective you can be. If you know you can’t be objective right now, wait until you have a clear head and are functioning in the prime zone. Or ask a friend that you trust who is good at being objective.

Lastly, remember your self-criticism isn’t a bad thing. Take these principles and use your self-critical nature to grow.


Thank you for reading! Come back for new posts every Tuesday! 


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