Are You Hard On Yourself? Learning To Love Who You Are

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you been thinking "Why am I so hard on myself lately"? Sometimes it can feel like we can be our own “worst enemies,” in terms of engaging in negative self-talk and holding ourselves to unrealistic standards. Since these habits can be harmful to one’s self-esteem and can increase anxiety, it can be worthwhile to get to the root of them and try strategies for addressing them. Read on for advice on getting started with both. 

You deserve to be confident and happy

Are there reasons I'm so hard on myself?

Experiencing periods of self-doubt is natural. Setting goals and motivating yourself to achieve your dreams can be helpful. Constantly being so hard on yourself and engaging in harsh self-criticism, however, can be harmful to one’s health. While it may feel like the correct response in the moment, research shows that self-criticism can cause individuals to experience anger, a negative self-perception, and depression. Negative thoughts about oneself can come from a failure to live up to lofty standards. There are many other potential sources for this type of perfectionism, such as:

  • An upbringing with demanding parents
  • An upbringing in a demanding culture
  • Impossible standards communicated by the media
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unrealistic expectations placed on oneself
  • Past trauma, especially in childhood
  • Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Whatever the cause, you aren't alone in experiencing these feelings of being hard on yourself, and it can be possible for you to learn to love yourself by breaking this cycle of negativity. Therapy and other supportive measures can be useful in overcoming such challenges. We’ve summarized some key options to consider below.

How can I learn to be less hard on me personally?

There are many different ways that people who seem to continually ask themselves "why am I so hard on myself?" can practice self-acceptance and self-kindness. To see meaningful results, remember that it usually takes time, consistent effort, patience, and self-compassion. Some strategies you might try include the following:

Make a list of your good qualities

Writing down a list of all the things you love or appreciate about yourself is one method that can help some people be less hard on themselves and create an environment of self-love. You might think about positive things that others have told you about yourself or traits you’ve been able to recognize on your own. You may also choose to engage in self-discovery exercises to learn new things about who you are. From there, you could design a set of positive affirmations that you repeat regularly to acknowledge your inherent value and uniqueness and work toward deeply believing in it.


Avoid negative self-talk

Your inner voice can be as powerful an influence in your life as the voices you hear from others. Research suggests that self-talk can affect our ability to control our emotions. Negative self-talk may decrease resilience in the face of difficult feelings. On the flip side, positive self-talk could help strengthen our resolve and coping abilities. The practice of improving the positivity and constructiveness of our self-talk generally begins with learning to notice the quality of your current self-talk or inner dialogue. Cultivating a mindfulness practice could help with this.

If you recognize that you are frequently hard on yourself, you could begin to catch yourself in this thought loop in the future and begin to shift in a healthier direction. For example, you may start to doubt your overall abilities when you do one thing wrong or when one idea doesn’t pan out. When you notice yourself doing this, try to answer by looking for evidence to the contrary. Finding proof that you are capable and accomplished can help you break this thought pattern and avoid talking to yourself negatively. Cognitive behavioral therapy for perfectionism, as we’ll discuss more below, is another experience that could help you learn to do this.

Engage in things you enjoy 

When you focus your attention on activities you enjoy, you may be able to connect with your own sense of individuality. The very act of figuring out how you like to spend time and what brings you joy can help you get to know yourself in a more authentic way, which could increase self-esteem. It can also help prove to yourself that you’re worth spending time on, getting to know, and taking care of, which may help you treat yourself with more compassion and gentleness.

Aim to embrace past mistakes

When mistakes happen, it is often best to accept them, learn from them, and move on. This can be easier said than done, though, since someone who is so hard on themselves likely avoids mistakes at all costs. However, both anecdotal evidence and scientific research indicate that mistakes can actually be key to learning and growth. Particularly if you adopt the growth mindset—which means believing that abilities aren’t fixed but can be built with time and effort—you may actually be more likely to learn why past mistakes can provide you with valuable insights for future growth. 

We often forget that making mistakes is a normal part of life. Past missteps can become stuck in our head, to the point that we struggle to move on. Dwelling on things that happened in the past can lead to fear and other negative feelings, which may cause you to feel guilty, explain yourself excessively, or otherwise give yourself a hard time. Recognizing that they can help clarify your path forward and offer you valuable lessons can be an important step in learning why it can be harmful to be so hard on yourself for missteps or falling short.

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You deserve to be confident and happy

Building self-esteem 

Being hard on yourself often takes the form of a thought loop that can be difficult to get yourself out of. That’s where therapy can be useful. A therapist trained in CBT in particular can help you learn to recognize unhealthy thought patterns and shift them in a more constructive direction. They may also be able to offer strategies for improving self-talk and building self-esteem, confidence, and self-compassion. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, or another mental health condition, they may be able to help you address these as well.

Some people find it difficult to travel to and from traditional, in-office therapy appointments regularly, which is an instance where online therapy can be useful. With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Recent research indicates that online therapy may be as effective as in-person sessions in many cases, so this option could be a more convenient choice for receiving care and treatment.


Perfectionism and being hard on yourself can feel overwhelming and exhausting. However, it can be possible to learn to love yourself and be more compassionate in regard to mistakes and flaws. Practicing positive self-talk and aiming to embrace mistakes could help. A licensed mental health professional can also help you stop being so hard on yourself. Getting matched with a therapist can be the first step toward a healthy new self-perception.

You are deserving of positive self-esteem
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