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wundayatta's avatar

What kinds of things do you beat yourself up for?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) November 29th, 2012

Last night, in my group, someone mentioned a book (forget the title) about dealing with your inner critic. For most people, the inner critic is bad, but for people who are mentally ill, he (or she) can be so bad, he is judge, jury, and executioner (not a metaphor).

One of the techniques this person told us is mentioned in the book is talking back to your critic and denying his judgments. But sometimes this can be very difficult, and the inner critic is so strong, you just have no choice but to label yourself as bad, or a failure, or undeserving, or incompetent (my “favorite”) or whatever.

When your inner critic is at its worst, what is it beating you up for?

Are you able to talk back to it at all?

How do you accept yourself for the things the critic wants to hurt you for?

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37 Answers

Coloma's avatar

I am the complete opposite. I rarely self criticize. I accept that we ( I ) all of us, are works in progress and as long as I am not mistreating others, the rest is all small stuff.
My worst “flaw,” given my particular personality, is that I tend to procrastinate at times based on the fact that I rely on my innovative nature to tackle a problem at the last minute.
I also, on occasion, can put my foot in my mouth being a verbose and comedic type.

I don’t always take into account that others may not get my sense of humor.
I think I freaked out the plumber that came to my house last night to snake out my clogged plumbing. Really nice and attractive black man and being the humorous and touchy feeley type, I gave him a slap on the shoulder and joked about ” does a blonde shit in the woods”
I LIVE in the woods and then, cracked jokes about finding out my secret, of dissolving my ex husband in an acid bath and hence, my clogged plumbing. lol

My neighbor was down helping and he loves my sense of humor, so he was the buffer and after a bit the guy loosened up and was laughing along with us.
I am a very open and demonstrative type and sometimes, after the fact, I realize that I can overwhelm more demure types of personalities.

The world is not always open to a female George Carlin type. lol

DigitalBlue's avatar

You’re so fat. You’re so ugly. No, not just ugly, repulsive. Disgusting. You’re so disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself, making people look at you. Have a little decency, stay out of the way. Can’t you do anything right? Such a failure. You will never pull it together, you will never be presentable, you will never be acceptable. You are worthless, and you disgust me.

It was weird to say that anywhere but my own head. I haven’t figured out a way around that inner critic, yet. Right now, that runs my life.

KNOWITALL's avatar

You aren’t trying hard enough. You aren’t fixing things quick enough. You aren’t skinny enough. The house isn’t clean enough. Bills are piling up.

I tell my inner critic to shut it, I’m doing my best I can and better than a lot of people.

My inner critic doesn’t dare talk back to me, I’m a beeyotch when crossed – lol.

bookish1's avatar

Dude, everything, all the time. GQ @wundayatta. I’m my own worst critic and I prepare for the worst. I’m literally and figuratively going through a second adolescence at an age when people take it for granted how to behave as their gender in their society. I’m in grad school and constantly giving and receiving feedback from people above and below me in the hierarchy. I’ve got a demanding chronic disease that affects my cognition, emotions, and immune system in the short term, and my systemic health in the long term, and I can never manage it well enough and get done everything I need to do. Aside from all these areas, I also beat myself up all the time over whether I’m being kind and doing right by people.

I am well aware of my inner critic (although I don’t think of it in such terms) and I do try to talk back to myself. Maybe I should try for more specific things, but I usually just say things like “It’s going to be OK” or “It won’t be that bad.” This has given me something to think about, and perhaps to talk about with my therapist.

Strangely enough, one of the only times he’s not on is when I’m writing for work. It’s one of the few skills I have, and I am quite confident in it (and also, I know that my writing will always receive plenty of external criticism, haha.)

Coloma's avatar

Well…regardless of our inner critics, I can say, with absolute sincerity, that the fluther crowd contains some of the brightest, expressive, well written, creative and humorous peeps on the planet.
Fluther is the haystack that contains multiple sharp needles that are easy to find. ;-)

.

Shippy's avatar

Sigh… you are fat, you’re ugly, you’re old, you’re dumb, you have no friends, you’re boring.

You’re tired, you’re sick, you’re worthless, you have some terrible disease, you are self centered, you’re a failure, you’re a bipolar ass.

You’re a terrible mother, person, friend, daughter.

Do I fight back? Never, she’s scary.

bookish1's avatar

@Shippy: Well, maybe it’s time to… ‘She’ is not someone else… ‘she’ is a pattern of thoughts that can be changed. I know this question got me thinking how to do that!

Unbroken's avatar

GQ @wundayatta and too funny @Coloma. @Knowitall and @bookish1 good points.

@Shippy and @Wundayatta I was also there I can empathize. I talk to my friends and they say OMG I thought I was an overthinker and self critical, now I realize I don’t have half the problems you do. They seem much more sturdy and practical about their own issues now. My counselor of the past would point out how inconsistent I was. She said for all the anger and self judgement you put on yourself you don’t hold anyone else to those standards. Does it accomplish anything for you? Does it make you a happier person?
I started thinking about that and how negative I sounded about myself. Positive people get farther in life. Unless you use the self criticism productively.
So now when I start down the road I think what am I doing to change this behavoir? Would I allow it from someone else? What can I do to remedy this situation that I currently am verbally flaying myself for?

Here is what I scribbled to myself:
I found that most of my anger was directed at me. Not only was it self perpetuating it was a waste of energy and kept me locked in a dark hole. Self flaggellation. Whether mental or physical only serves the purpose of keeping me down. It is the PERFECT waste of energy no matter if it is true or not.

People like children or animals respond to positive enforcement, instead of using darkness to fight dark.

The weight of self judgement is like a compactor pushing me down, until it is almost impossible to breathe. Sure in the past I always get up to face my personal attacker. But only with the expectation of getting pushed down again. With little or no progress but becoming increasingly weary mentally and physically. I am my own worst enemy.

If I want to change, I must be change. Not do the same shtick that has failed everytime.

Yes I will fall down again, but I will have made progress. I must start with reasonable expectations of myself. Improvements starting small are healing and validating and will bounce me forward instead of holding myself bloody and battered by my pride, dragging myself to the next battle unprepared and exhausted.

So I stop myself. For my own good. Replacing those thoughts with solutions for now. Or if it is not worth it solutions for next time. Hey if it’s not worth it what am I walking on coals for anyway. Even if it’s my mind. Also positive music and quotes help but I need them less to save me now and more of just an enhancer.

Good luck. Remember so much is relative.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DigitalBlue and…everyone else who is so hard on themselves…did you grow up with some asshole saying those horrible things to you??????

My innerself isn’t critical…it’s more nagging. “Man, there is a lot to be done!”
I can shut it up for a while by just doing one thing…starting the laundry or picking up one thing and putting it away…and my innerself is right. I feel lots better when I make some progress, no matter how small. Because I trust myself to finish it out, ‘ventually. (I’ve been gone for a month…THERE IS SO MUCH TO BE DONE!! But I can’t do much right now, so I really have no problem chillin’....for now. And my innerself is a little frustrated but understanding…)

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I always beat myself up for spending money. However, I just can’t seem to stop!

Linda_Owl's avatar

I am my own worst critic ( in my mind ) & in a lot of the things that I say. I know that I have redeeming points, but I do not keep these redeeming points in mind when I am thinking about the things that I have screwed up.

Unbroken's avatar

@DigitalBlue I didn’t mean to exclude you. Sorry.
(see I did something about it instead of beating myself up about my mistake. : ))

YARNLADY's avatar

Why do I bring up issues that turn into useless arguments? It just makes things worse.

Followed very closely by: How can I resolve these issues with out it turning into an argument?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DigitalBlue and all…they were WRONG. Period. End of story.

Shippy's avatar

@bookish1 Looks up at Bookish… ahem! Did I mention you are looking rather spiffing this evening!!

DigitalBlue's avatar

@Dutchess_III of course, you’re absolutely right. But that doesn’t shut up my inner voice. She’s a lot louder than reason.

wundayatta's avatar

Speaking for myself, @Dutchess_III, that voice is part of being bipolar and depressed and a number of other mental illnesses. Everyone in my support group has a voice as harsh as the ones you read here. Again, speaking for myself, my parents placed very high expectations on me. I internalized these expectations as nothing less than saving the world would make me into an acceptable human being.

Of course, being a major fuck up, and not having much ability or desire to carry out a major, world-changing plan, and generally being of dubious morals and a disappointment to everyone I know, I don’t have much chance.

So small things can be successes, but there’s always the voice in the back of my head saying it doesn’t count because it’s not big enough. Like, I would like to be proud of having a lot of lurve, but everyone here knows lurve doesn’t mean anything, so it’s nothing to be proud of. But I got nothing else to go on, so in secret, I am a teensy bit proud. Just don’t tell anyone. LOL. And you don’t have to tell me how pathetic my life is. I already know.

See, the critic can ruin anything for you. It’s always imagining what other people would say, and the only way to beat it is to out-critic it.

Unless you can figure out how to tell it that it’s opinions don’t matter. If you see it criticizing and you just let those criticisms go. You recognize you are judging yourself and decide that isn’t helpful. Like, perhaps I look ridiculous, but does it matter? Does it help me if I care? Probably not. So why not let those unhelpful thoughts float away, like an oak leaf on a stream?

Unbroken's avatar

deleted

Unbroken's avatar

Thanks at @Shippy. Now hopfully @DigitalBlue understands.

Um @Dutchess_III It wasn’t always directed at me. It was patterned all around me. How do children learn if there is no good example, except I reject your thoughts as valid but with the lack of other examples, lack of another method to fill the void it sneaks in anyway.

Bookish is looking dandy today.
@Wundayatta most people don’t achieve greatness regardless, and there are always some issue regarding morals and ways to improve. Hello if we are perfect that would be boring.

Your responses on personal matters are well thought out and enlightening you have probably helped many people. Are you also not helping yourself? Shine that warm light on you every now and again.

Not everyone will like you. As people get to know you you lose a perfect shine. But most people will accept you for what you are. If you were perfection nobody would want to be around you anyhow. They wouldn’t measure up.

So your bouts of self praise and self mocking cyncism are very familair to me as I was adept at them myself.

Vicous cycle very time consuming. You know what helped occupy my thoughts I redirected them to fluther. Lol. Yep. Now I redirect that energy to think about questions discover answers. And hey I thought lurve was for real. : P

Shippy's avatar

@rosehips Glad you think so too, I thought I was getting a bookish crush? :/

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

I beat myself up for not knowing the answers to various issues of a complex nature or at least a difficult nature. I can’t say for instance, that having a girlfriend who is not only from a completely different cultural background but is also bipolar is not enjoyable, in fact, it’s the best relationship I’ve ever been in, the amount of arguing we do? Blissfully minimal. (Hey if you think that’s boring, I was in a relationship for three years where at least half of that consisted of daily arguing. Not. Healthy. (I would go so far as to say that this relationship? It’s like a holiday, or a spa for my brain lol) but I do sometimes find myself in situations where I think to myself that maybe I should have said something or done something to maybe improve things for her – when she’s really not having a good day at least. It’s her fight which is something I recognize, but that doesn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t care about someone else’s issues – or someone with that kind of thing going on for ‘em. I know that distance does play a part in not being able to do much, but I don’t let it overwhelm me, otherwise I’d end up being as negative in mind about pretty much everything eventually, just like she is of herself. So beating myself up over stuff isn’t really an option, because I have to be positive not just for me but for her, which is kind of a welcome challenge to be honest. There’s greater harm to be found in being too tough on yourself.

Only time I’ve really criticized myself has been with art. Every artist is a massive critic about their own work (and I did it just for a hobby!), and many a time I’ve stayed up all night working on a picture and correcting mistakes, mixing the right level and shade of colors, blah blah until I thought what I had painted was really finished to a point of my idea of perfection.

Some things in life, whether personal or otherwise, can’t be helped more than others and when that happens it’s best to leave well enough alone instead of beating yourself up over it. It’s counterproductive. The same can be said for many a situation and many a thing that you could have said or didn’t say – same applies to doing. Learning from you might consider to be mistakes I think is much easier when you’re pro-active about it instead of really bogging yourself down with negative stuff over it.

Unbroken's avatar

@Shippy I wouldn’t rule it out. I have always been a sucker for literature.

Too bad he’s not available. ; )

@lightsourcetrickster Glad you have a supportive attitude of your girlfriend. Wish you the best. It is very important to have outside validation especially when your teetering on the inside.

bookish1's avatar

@Dutchess_III : Fortunately I didn’t grow up with someone saying extremely negative things to me, but I grew up with Great Expectations (and not in the Dickensian sense). Very sparing praise, because I was just expected to be excellent at everything. (B’s are not excellent.)

@Shippy & @rosehips : Aww, thank you. Must be the spats I’m wearing. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of bookish to go around. And most of my crushes are imaginary, unrequited, and impossible; there’s no shame in it.

Mariah's avatar

I am pretty comfortable with myself these days. When I mess up I feel I have more than enough awesomeness to offset it, and besides, I have no expectations of perfection.

Sometimes it is easy to fall into thinking my medical situation is revolting and no one would like me if they knew the details. My boyfriend is doing a pretty good job proving me wrong on that though.

Shippy's avatar

@bookish1 Spats? is it not a thong perhaps?

bookish1's avatar

@Shippy Auggggggh this is the worst de-rail I have ever been a party to…

But back to the point… Thanks again @wundayatta for asking this question. It really got me thinking and I think it’s a great conversation to have on here.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bookish1 Derails around here lead to excellence! :)

Coloma's avatar

Okay….pissed off at myself this morning for forgetting to take down the beach umbrellas in the goose corral and now, in this crazy storm, with 40 mph winds, they are completely flipped over like inverted mushrooms. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, but you don’t call yourself names, do you @Coloma?

Coloma's avatar

@Dutchess_III Haha…no,no I don’t, I’m just annoyed with myself for forgetting.

ucme's avatar

Nowt, an excercise in futility.

harple's avatar

I find in my teaching (one to one instrument lessons) that many, indeed, most adults run an inner dialogue with themselves about how well they’re playing. Because they are concerned about what I, as teacher, am thinking they tend to verbalise it. It is always negative, focussing on a “wrong” note they’ve just played or on how they’ve used the “wrong” finger or handshape etc. Because it focuses on whatever it is they’ve just done, they are then not thinking about the notes/fingering coming up next, and more “errors” creep in, reinforcing to them that all the negative things they are telling themselves are correct.

It’s both fascinating and heartbreaking to be privy too, and indeed, it is also a privilege that I don’t take for granted. My biggest role in these people’s lives is not to teach them how to successfully play a piece accurately on the instrument, but how to overcome these voices that have become inbuilt from put-downs at childhood through an innate desire to not screw-up in front of others, to a need to not be “wrong” as an adult.

It’s not something I can magically do, nor would I be so cocky as to say it is something that I am good at. But from years of teaching, I do now have experience of ways of helping my adult students work through it as part of the fuller process of learning an instrument with me. There is much self-development in taking on the challenge of learning a new skill, so much more to be potentially gained than the skill itself. And in teaching children, I work hard to make sure that my way of interacting doesn’t start them down the path I witness in so many adults. I can be only one person, but as someone who gives them undivided attention on a particular learning process for a period of time each week, I believe it can have an impact.

Of course, in working with other adults’ inner dialogues, I have had to come to grips with my own, and musically at least, I am a far more relaxed and confident performer thanks to my teaching work.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I beat myself up at not doing more in whatever area but, yes, I do talk back to myself and say that I do far more than necessary already and that I need to chillax.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@Simone, you do so much. Sometimes, I wonder how you have the energy to get it all done.

wundayatta's avatar

@harple It’s an interesting example you use: music. I was trained classically, and in classical music, if you make any mistake at all, you’re wrong. Not good enough. It has to be perfect or you might as well not do it.

I hated that. I hated the pressure.

Nowadays I don’t do classical music. I only do improvisation, which, of course, doesn’t have so much right and wrong. Only you know your intention. Although you are playing to the preferences of your fellow musicians and the audience, and I guess you can be wrong if you displease them.

Still we train very hard to instill this idea that there are no wrong notes. Rather, it is our job as listeners, who play or listen, to appreciate all the notes that are played. As long as you play with all your heart, you are playing right notes. The rest of it is listening and being sensitive to the needs of others; finding ways to support everyone else.

Now the interesting thing is that, until you wrote what you just wrote, I had not really associated my efforts to achieve equanimity in music with efforts to quell the inner critic’s might. In my music groups, we work very hard to quell criticism so that we can be free to play. The worse our critics, the worse we play. When the critic is dead, we play really well. It’s pretty ironic. Fear of being wrong is pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy. It makes us wrong. And perhaps that is true in most other areas of endeavor, as well.

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