Boost Your Career by Being Your Own Best Critic

Do you second-guess and seek perfection in everything you do? Do you self-criticize to the point that even you end up admitting that you’re being too hard on yourself? You can probably imagine how such a trait can be debilitating, but when done right, self-criticism can actually be a source of great motivation and self-improvement.

You don’t have to fall victim to your harsh inner critic. Tame that nagging voice to your advantage with the following tips from Resumeble career experts.

Acknowledge your inner critic

True, listening to your nagging inner critic can do more harm than good, but to ignore that voice inside you could be even more destructive. More often than not, dismissing a problem only makes it worse. Instead of resisting that inner voice, acknowledge it, and realize that it comes from a caring, protective place from within you. Ask yourself: what is your inner critic trying to protect you from? Are your fears justified? Will following your inner voice help improve you or pull you down? Acknowledging your inner critic can help turn negative into positive.

Separate the action from the person

Remember that when you self-criticize, you are supposed to be evaluating what you do, not who you are as a person. Be critical about your actions and behaviors, but don’t reduce yourself to them. The mark of a mature mind is the ability to distinguish behavior from identity. Thus, telling yourself, “I’m just not that smart,” or “I’m in way over my head” only serves to focus on the problem, and you end up dragging yourself down. Instead of ruminating, be a problem-solver and think of solutions to your predicament. Express your concern or disapproval of the mistake, and commit to doing better in the future.

Think of the actual consequences

Sometimes, you can’t help but replay a mistake over and over in your head in an endless loop. When you struggle to move past an error, you could fall victim to the ‘spotlight effect,’ the phenomenon wherein you believe everyone’s scrutinizing you and that your problems are bigger than they are. The best way to move past this is to think about the actual consequences of your mistake. When you take a step back, you may start to see that your slip-up is actually very minor and not at all worth fussing about. Unless you’ve done something genuinely career-shattering, everyone else will likely move on from your blunder, and you should too.

Motivate, not humiliate

It’s important to see self-criticism in a way that’s motivational. When you criticize yourself, instead of driving your ego down with shame, pump yourself up. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, you could end up destroying your self-esteem instead of enhancing your productivity. Direct your self-criticism toward personal growth—do things because you want to learn, grow, and develop new skills, not to impress others or validate yourself. Once negativity starts creeping in, pause for a moment, realize what’s happening, and choose a more encouraging response instead of beating yourself up.

Identify your failure triggers

Everyone has some kind of trigger or ‘hot button’ that, when pushed, sends one down a path of self-hatred and regret. Identifying your failure triggers is critical because it can cause extreme emotional responses, which can sabotage your relationships not only at work but also in your life in general. Certain failures can cause these triggers, but if you’re vigilant, you can nip them in the bud. Pay attention to your bodily reactions—increased heart rate, tensed muscles, accelerated breathing, nausea, etc. Notice the thoughts that go through your head when you feel these physical reactions. What do you say to yourself when these reactions happen? How did it affect your behavior? Did you do anything self-destructive? Being attentive to situations that set you off will help you keep your emotions in check, so they don’t worsen later.

Think of your self-criticism as giving advice to a friend

It’s easy to be hard on yourself—it’s harder to be that way with other people. While you may call yourself a fool for making a bumbling error, you won’t likely do that to someone you care about. So when you’re experiencing some rough patches at work and doubting your ability to overcome them, ask yourself, what would you say to a friend in a similar situation? By taking this frame of mind, you stop letting your thoughts control you, and you can think objectively, while also seeing your situation more clearly.

Give credit where it’s due

Self-doubt feeds on one’s inability to give one’s self credit even when it’s due. When you can’t see value in the work you do, you start feeling like a fake—like you don’t deserve to be at your position. No failure is a complete failure. Thus, when you start seeing the ugly side of a situation, it’s important to see the good, too. No one does everything right all the time, but there are many things that you do right most of the time. For those occasions that you delivered a job well done, give yourself credit. Recognize your own contributions, and accept that you are very much deserving of your accomplishments.

The important thing to remember is that your inner critic can turn out to be your best friend or your own worst enemy—it all depends on you. When you give it too much authority, you can lose sight of its good intentions for you. On the other hand, if you can learn how to filter out the useless and harness the useful, then you can develop a sharp and reliable inner critic. All of this is possible with practice. In time, you’ll be able to trust your inner critic more, and you can put yourself in a greater position to achieve those things you really want out of your career.

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