No one likes criticism. It incites feelings of guilt and defensive reactions. Things get tense and heavy. Think about a time when someone else criticized you and you will probably notice, even if it has been awhile, uncomfortable feelings still come up.
We avoid people that are critical in nature while simultaneously being our own worst critics. Often times, we do not even realize we are doing it. We criticize ourselves for the way we look, speak, dress, and behave. We criticize ourselves for what we have and what we do not have, where we are and where we are not, and we wonder why life can seem heavy and thick. We wonder why others see greatness in us and we see many flaws.
Criticizing is judging. Judgment is opinion. When we are being critical, we are injecting our opinion, something unsubstantiated by fact. I think of negative opinions as criticizing and positive opinions as complimenting. Two sides of the same coin.
Many people try to overcome their negative self-talk by replacing it with positive self-talk. They replace criticizing with complimenting. Then they get discouraged when neither makes them feel any better because both are just opinions. One way to perceive being hard on ourselves is to see it as a glass half-empty perspective.
The next time you notice you have fallen into the habit of being self-critical, stop and look for something to acknowledge yourself for instead. It does not matter what, so long as it is based in fact. Be honest. Do not make something up just for the sake of trying to be positive. Sincerely and wholeheartedly, look until you can see something that is positive. It has to be genuine. It has to be sincere. It has to be something you can truly believe.
It may not be easy at first because changing the way we think and respond takes practice. Creating real change never happens over night because we are undoing something that has been second nature to us for years, or even decades.
Being hard on ourselves is habitual. Acknowledging ourselves will need to become habitual as well. The good news is that its effect on your mood will happen instantaneously. When you are being acknowledged, you will feel the exact opposite of what being hard on yourself feels like. You feel lighter, freer and peaceful on the inside.