Negative Thought Patterns: Critical-Self
Do you find that you put yourself down? Criticize yourself? Or perhaps you blame yourself for situations or events that aren’t (totally) your fault? If this sounds familiar at all, you may be engaging in “critical-self”, a negative thought pattern or cognitive distortion that often feels like an internal bully. This voice communicates a pattern of destructive thoughts towards ourselves, and is often at the root of our self-destructive or maladaptive behaviour.
What is Critical-Self?
Critical-self is a common negative thought pattern, usually an inner voice that directs our thoughts around things you are worrying about or provides a negative perspective of ourselves. This may be thoughts telling us we failed at something because we’re “too dumb”, or that a negative outcome is all our fault. While we all engage in negative self-talk occasionally, critical-self is a step further than this as the frequency and intensity of these thoughts leads to maladaptive behaviour. This occurs in many different forms, whether it is negatively evaluating yourself compared to others, attributing situations to your perceived “weaknesses” or even judging yourself for craving a chocolate bar.
The Effects of Critical-Self
Those that are likely to engage in critical-self thought patterns are more likely to suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem and depressive symptoms. This cognitive distortion can also lead to other mental health problems and the longer this is not addressed, the more reinforced these thoughts are. Critical-self can also lead to relationship problems due to low self-esteem and the decreased motivation to engage with others. This includes social aggression and social isolation, as this thought pattern can lead to deficits in social skills as they are more likely to avoid social situations. This is particularly evident in children, where those that engage in negative self-talk are more prone to indirect aggression towards others such as bullying and anti-social behaviour.
How do I challenge my Critical-self?
To challenge critical-self thought patterns, it is important to approach the issues with a positive perspective. This is far easier to achieve in a relaxed and low-stress environment, as it is much more difficult to break negative thought patterns when we are stressed or experiencing high emotion. A go-to question could be, “What would I say to someone else if they were in the exact same position?”. This can be a helpful reflection as it provides you with evidence that this is something that you consider differently when it is directly related to yourself. Other reflections include, “Is this totally my fault?”, “What would those that really know me say?”, and “That’s just my internal bully going at it again.”.
The effects of critical-self can be difficult to manage, if this is impacting you, it is important to talk to a mental health professional or Psychologist. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been shown to effectively deal with this, focusing on identifying and challenging the negative thought patterns that impact our emotions and behaviour.
If you think you could use some help dealing with Black and White Thinking, our team of highly skilled and experienced Psychologists at Breakfree Psychology Services are here to help. Contact us today and start improving your self-talk.