Paying heed to Matthew 7:1, we should not be judging others. But when is the last time someone informed you about the dangers of judging yourself?
If you are anything like me, you spend far too much time thinking about past mistakes. To some degree, this is certainly healthy. To learn from our past, we must think about our past.
But don’t run off to ruminate just yet.
It turns out how we think and what we think about matters a great deal. When anxious and depressed people think about their past mistakes, they are often very self-critical.
- “I shouldn’t have said that, I always say dumb things.”
- “I am so useless, nothing I try goes well.”
- “That person must think I look so stupid, they will never like me now.”
These self-critical and negatively loaded thoughts can keep you trapped in both anxiety and depression. They break down your confidence, and no confidence means no recovery, it’s that simple.
Think about a time when you messed something up. What are some of the things you told yourself afterwards?
Would you say that you were self-critical?
The opposite of being self-critical is to show self-compassion. When you show self-compassion you try not to judge yourself unnecessarily.
It means you take your self-critical thoughts, and you turn them around. You expose them for what they are.
- unnecessarily negative and self-critical
- a product of your anxiety and depression
If you have read 5 Great CBT Techniques to Eliminate Your Anxiety you are already familiar with the idea of examining and challenging your anxious thoughts and beliefs.
Instead of thinking:
“I shouldn’t have said that, I always say dumb things.”
You can think:
“Sometimes I say dumb things, I will try to not do so in the future.”
And let’s be real, everybody says dumb stuff now and then. It’s normal, and it doesn’t spell the end of the world.
I’ll even confide that most days it’s a miracle if I go 20 minutes without saying or doing something I end up regretting.
This process of catching, examining, and challenging should be applied to everything your anxiety serves you. Anxiety is never a reliable source. The next time you catch yourself being overly self-critical, I want you to remember the importance of showing self-compassion.
Practice this often, and over time your self-critical habit will go away, and you will be left with a self-compassionate habit.
When you show self-compassion, every mistake brings you one step closer to recovery.