Being Too Harsh
Being Too Harsh
Dear Tacit,

I think my partner is extremely hard on himself – but he says he is just pushing himself to grow and be a better person.  How can a person know when they are taking it too far or being too harsh on themselves?

Signed: Being Too Harsh

Dear Being Too Harsh,

Some of us are born with personalities that are prone to higher levels of criticism and self judgement.  Perfectionists, over-achievers, A type’s, even first-born children can more readily develop these negative introspection patterns, and it can be a challenge to ensure those patterns don’t cause damage to a healthy sense of self.  Others can grow into a disapproving self perspective as a result of external influences – parents who had overly high expectations, environments that created low self esteem, competitive pressures that encourage the thought of never being satisfied or good enough with what exists, etc.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to challenge ourselves, or with wanting to grow and achieve more in or with our lives.  But we need to balance that drive with a healthy dose of confidence and pride in what we have accomplished up until now, as well.  When we consider the person we are today, we want to feel like we are worthwhile just as we are.  Finding that balance can be tricky.

Perhaps have your partner ask himself these questions:

Does he make a big deal out of small mistakes? We all need to have a healthy sense of what constitutes the difference between a problem or a glitch.  And the time and effort we spend ruminating about each should accurately reflect the degree of the issue.

Can he let his mistakes go? If we return to the memory of the mistakes we make, over and over again, it becomes a problem.  Our brain feels the impact of the mistake every time we emotionally connect to it – yet the situation has only happened once.  The after effects have to be congruent to the mistake itself.

Does he find a way to blame himself when something goes wrong in his relationships?  Thinking that everything that goes wrong with our personal connections is somehow our fault is a little self absorbed.  If we are going to own everything others do negatively, we will always have to own everything that they do positively too – and that is unrealistic.

Does he live by a double standard?  If he can be kind and gracious and compassionate when others make mistakes, but he cannot be as understanding and empathetic towards himself, then his disapproval is out of balance.

Does he struggle to truly accept/recognize the success he has created in his life?  Whatever we feed, grows.  If all we can focus on is our mistakes, then our feeling of being “less than” will take centre stage.  We need to be able to notice our achievements too.  And we need to feel comfortable sitting in those successful feelings.

There are more questions he can ask himself as he decides whether or not his criticism has healthy boundaries.  But these should help start to clarify things.  If he wants to know more, he can connect to a therapist or find some great self-help books that address the patterns of judgemental criticism that so often becomes a part of how many of us think about ourselves.  It is never too late to start to be more supportive and encouraging – believe it or not, the positiveness will get us much further in life.

Take care!

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