Does this one ring a bell? You, reader, are your own worst critic. Your penchant for nitpicking every detail and harshly critiquing your accomplishments makes it difficult for you to make progress or sometimes even get simple work done.
If it doesn’t apply to you or someone close to you, then you have a great day. If it does, then read on, Macduff.
What your inner self-critics needs to do is learn is that focusing on your strengths is a better pathway to success than fixating on weaknesses. Take these three steps and you will become your best critic and champion.
1. Realize you are more than enough
Self-criticism is normal and even healthy in small doses. But as the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. When you always approach your work with negativity, it’s paralyzing. It also makes you more susceptible to criticism from others who may not have your best interests at heart.
You need to know that much of the criticism in your head has no resemblance to what you are actually doing in real time. More often than not, you are more than enough to tackle the task at hand.
Realizing you are enough starts by applying Apple Founder Steve Jobs’s famed adage that “you can only connect [the dots] looking backward.” Often, it means looking at your past successes, as well as previous pitfalls, and how they can help you tackle the challenges ahead.
2. Stop with the negative talk
Self-criticism starts with negative words. It’s not just the I-can’ts and the not-good-enoughs. Every time you critique a meaningless detail, or nitpick a perfectly good presentation, you put yourself on the path to lifelong self-sabotage.
Simply ignoring the words of criticism isn’t enough. You must combat them with affirmations of your capacity to succeed. This starts at the end of the day by looking at the big picture of success as well as listing and reciting I cans, I ams, and even I wills — affirming your ability to achieve. By affirming these things before going to bed, you get ready for success the next day.
Another strategy is to embrace the concept of good enough. Along the lines of what Wired revealed about what consumers wanted, your colleagues expect your projects be successful, simple, economical, not perfect. Once you change your expectations of what you should do, you become less self-critical.
Finally, write down your past successes so you can reference them every now and then. Even the simplest signposted achievement can cause you to feel positive about your ability to succeed in the future. Those positive words can crowd out the negative words stuck on repeat in your head.
3. Keep building your strengths
One reason why we are so self-critical is that we become fixated on our shortcomings. It becomes easier to focus on what we lack rather on our considerable skills and successes.
This is a mistake. As entrepreneur Auren Hoffman points out, fixating on weaknesses takes precious time needed from building upon the strengths you already have.
More often than not, your shortcomings are the flip sides of those very strengths you already possess. Lacking a master’s degree, for example, may be the reason why you put so much time mastering your work. Your blunt speaking is the result of your leadership skills. Your stumbles in public speaking are matched by your considerable rhetorical skills as a writer.
Put your energy into building up your strengths. That includes learning more about your strengths as well as the key tools you will need to get better. And learn to tout these strengths instead of talking about your shortcomings.
What you say will affect how you think about yourself. At some point it will probably dawn on you that you were more than enough, after all.