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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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“One should never criticize oneself . . .

Uploaded: Nov 4, 2022
. . . when there are always so many other people willing to do it for you.”

-Robert Barclay

Well said! If you are in situations in which you’re being criticized regularly, please, take action now!

Dr. John Gottman of the Seattle Lovelab talks about The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. These are the death-knells of a relationship--unless you take action to correct your communication.

First let’s talk about self-critcism. Did one of your parents criticize you regularly? If so, you likely criticize yourself, too. Your parent was likely criticized by his/her parent(s). And back it goes through the generations. Luckily for you, can call ‘bullshit’ and ‘stop’ on the criticism. It’s simple--just not easy to stop. (The goal is not to blame your parent(s), but to understand where this trait comes from.)

The first step is to notice. To witness it. Take a step back when you notice you’re criticizing yourself. Say, “Ahh, look, there I am criticizing myself. Hmm. Interesting.” That’s all you have to do. Don’t criticize yourself for criticizing yourself!

The second step is to, ask yourself, “What am I getting out of self-critcism?” “How is this serving me?” Listen carefully. What’s the first answer that popped into your mind? You’ve kept this secret from yourself for a long time. Be kind to yourself as you seek the reply.

After a while of witnessing (two-three weeks), notice what, if anything, changes.

Now, when you witness your self-criticism, remind yourself this is a behavioral habit that is not serving you anymore. Start asking questions such as:

- Am I hiding my light by self-criticizing?
- Am I afraid of something? If so, what might it be? Guess, if no answers come to you.
- What am I feeling right now?
- Am I trying to get out of doing something?
- Does it feel awkward to not criticize myself?
- If I can’t do ________ perfectly, I won’t try. I don’t want to feel ________.
- If I weren’t criticizing myself, what would I be doing/feeling/seeing/hearing/knowing/noticing?

Let your partner and closest friends know you’re working to change a very old pattern, and you’d like their gentle help. Gentle help is when they notice it, to say, “Hey, sounds like you’re criticizing yourself.” Or “Hey, are you aware you’re criticizing yourself? Please don’t do that to my friend/partner.”

When you stop in the midst of self-critcism, give yourself a positive phrase to replace it (i.e., don’t leave space for the critcism to return). Say several times: “I am enough.” Look in the mirror while you say, “I am enough.”

Let’s now talk about people around you who criticize you. Please know that it’s very likely that they self-criticize, too. Have compassion for them, as well as for yourself. Be transparent (that means say aloud the context of your comment): “I am working hard on not criticizing myself. I need your support in my efforts, and part of that is I’m requesting that you don’t criticize me, either.”

This doesn’t mean no one is going to give you feedback. It’s okay to ask that it be constructive feedback. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

1. You never do what I ask until I hound you about it. (This sentence is full of unfortunate language and communication. Please banish black and white words such as ‘never’ and ‘always’.)

This can be updated: I’m curious how come you avoid what I ask you to do? I end up frustrated, and I feel uncared for. I wish you would respond to me, even if it’s just to acknowledge my request and give a timeframe in which you’ll take care of it.

2. You’re no good at that. You always mess this up.

This can be updated: If you’ve been reading CouplesNet, you know I advocate for “I” statements, not “You” statements. So, “I’m wondering if you have any questions or need help with __________?” or “This can be confusing, so let me know if I can help in any way.”

I realize this is a big shift for the person who is criticizing. If you need help to stop criticizing, please get it. Your own life will work better, as well as the people you criticize.
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