Being Too Hard on Yourself Creates a Dangerous Feedback Loop

Self-critique is important for growth as long as you commit to being fair with yourself. Constant negative self-assessments lead to low self-esteem, which in turn lead to acts of self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is a fascinating topic. Philosophically speaking, the impetus for every human action is the pursuit of some form of happiness. Why, then, do so many people purposely handicap themselves when striving for goals? What pushes someone to believe they don't deserve and therefore shouldn't have happiness?


Most research on this subject points to self-esteem. We like to think of ourselves as the heroes of our own story, a perspective influenced and informed by our reliance on narrative to create meaning in our lives. When we observe fault in ourselves, it can lead to a conscious or subconscious belief that we are unworthy heroes. Some people are better at dealing with these feelings than others. Those who aren't tend to overlook the fact that no human is or can be perfect, and that heroes are as much the sum of their faults as they are the breadth of their positive qualities.

There's also the fact that, in any hero's journey, failure is part of growth. Indiana Jones doesn't save the day until after he's captured by the Nazis. Luke Skywalker doesn't defeat the bad guys without first losing a hand. Princess Elsa screws up a whole bunch before she's strong enough to let it go, as it were. 

Over at The Huffington Post, author Margie Warrell promotes her new book Brave with an article on why it's so important not to be so hard on yourself:

"The negative emotions we create by being overly hard on ourselves not only erode our happiness, but change our physiology. Beating up on yourself actually narrows your peripheral vision so that, both metaphorically and literally, you can see less opportunity to address your challenges, fix your mistakes, and create the opportunities you want."

Simply put: Self-critique is important for growth as long as you commit to being fair with yourself. Constant negative self-assessments lead to low self-esteem, which in turn lead to acts of self-sabotage. You begin to feel like you don't deserve happiness; you put less effort into achieving your goals; you fail; you feel bad. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Warrell's advice is to identify ways to be kinder to yourself. Know that your inner critic doesn't have to be a destructive force. Treat yourself like a friend would, she says. And most of all, don't give up on your inner-Indiana Jones just because he got himself stuck in a room full of snakes again. There's plenty of time and opportunity to make it out in one piece.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Below, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach argues that men cheat on their spouses as an act of self-sabotage triggered by low self-esteem:

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