Do you criticize yourself too much? A negative internal monologue can worsen your existing situation and leave you devastated. Here are questions to ask yourself to know if you are too hard on yourself and steps to solve this problem.
Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “The Most Powerful You”
Several weeks ago, a member of my career growth course shared a question that, in six years of delivering this training, I’ve never heard quite in the same way. She asked, “Kathy, how do I know if or when I’m being too hard on myself.” In working with this individual over a 14-week period, we’ve explored how she is engaged in what I call “perfectionistic overfunctioning”—doing more than is healthy, appropriate and necessary, trying to get an A+ in all of it, and exhausting ourselves to the bone in the process.
This perfectionistic over-functioning is something I’ve seen over and over in hundreds of smart, high-achieving women, and there are 9 clear signs of it.
9 Questions to know if you’re being too hard on yourself
To find out if you’re chronically too hard on yourself and doing too much, continually moving the goalpost so you can never feel that you’re achieving what you “should,” ask yourself:
- Are you driven every week (and exhausted, depleted, and anxious) trying to keep up with what you think you “should” be doing in your life and work?
- Do you feel lousy (and “less than”) when you compare yourself to other people, including other parents, professionals, and business owners?
- Do you act in your life (and habitually feel) as if everything is a top, urgent priority, whereas actually, only a few things truly are?
- Do you feel like no matter what you do, it’s never good or impressive enough?
- Are people in your life used to your doing too much, and you now feel it’s too hard to break that cycle, and you feel afraid to try for fear of being judged?
- Do you feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness and imperfection, and you’d rather struggle alone and try to do it all yourself?
- Do you feel empty, sad, and unfulfilled a lot of the time?
- When you stop and take the time to really think about it, are you living someone else’s definition of happiness, success, and well-being, or your own?
- Finally, do you even know what joyful and easy success looks or feels like?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, it’s safe to say you are being too hard on yourself, and it’s not serving you. In fact, this is driven behavior—behavior that is generated from a deep-seated fear rather than from conscious choice—and it’s holding you back from a more rewarding and happy career and personal life.
This type of driven behavior and lack of self-acceptance and self-love often stems from messages and fears we developed in childhood from our parents, teachers and authority figures, messages that we’re simply not good enough, lovable or acceptable if we’re not “perfect” in every way.
One common phenomenon I’ve seen is when an individual grows up in a family where one of the siblings is deeply challenging or troubled in some key way. The other sibling often goes out of their way to be the “golden” child to try to make their parents happy and create more stability and “success” in the family unit. Sadly, that often doesn’t work. In the end, there’s one key truth that’s important to understand—you are what your childhood taught you to be, unless you’ve unlearned it and healed from it.
How can you stop being so hard on yourself, and start thriving as a person and professional?
These key steps will help:
1. Get to the root of the fear
To revise a behavior we want to change, it helps to recognize just how old that pattern is and when/how we learned to behave in this way.
Just like pulling up a weed from the root allows us to clear our garden of unwanted growth, we can do the same with our thoughts by unearthing the root of the unwanted thought, fear or behaviour and learning how it was formed as a coping mechanism in the past.
We can then heal and “release” it more effectively because we recognize we’re not that same young, vulnerable person any longer who needs this coping behaviour to survive or be accepted.