“We’re all our own worst critics.” Ever heard that one before?
Yes, it’s an obnoxious cliché, but it’s not just self-help fluff. Evolutionary psychologists have studied our natural “negativity bias,” which is that instinct in us all that makes negative experiences seem more significant than they really are. In other words: We’ve evolved to give more weight to our flaws, mistakes and shortcomings than our successes.
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
“Our brains equip us with a mechanism to monitor our mind and our behavior,” Dr. Davidson said, so that when we make errors, we are able to notice the mistake. “In order to recover, we first must notice that a mistake has occurred,” he said.
Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin said: “Research shows that the No. 1 barrier to self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge,” “And all the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite,” meaning that self-compassion can lead to greater achievement than self-criticism ever could.
3 steps to self- compassion
First: Make the choice that you’ll at least try a new approach to thinking about yourself. Commit to treating yourself more kindly — call it letting go of self-judgment, going easier on yourself, practicing self-compassion or whatever resonates most.
The second step to self-compassion is to meet your criticism with kindness. If your inner critic says, “You’re lazy and worthless,” respond with a reminder: “You’re doing your best” or “We all make mistakes.”
But it’s step three, according to Dr. Brewer, that is most important if you want to make the shift sustainable in the long term: Make a deliberate, conscious effort to recognize the difference between how you feel when caught up in self-criticism, and how you feel when you can let go of it.