Why Am I So Hard On Myself: Learning To Love Who You Are
By: Robert Porter
Updated February 26, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley
Have you been really down on yourself lately? Sometimes it really does feel like we can be our own worst enemies, and some people are harder on themselves than others. You might feel like you're doubting your own abilities and wondering whether or not you're capable of realizing your dreams. Some people have negative thoughts about their own appearance and that can lead to issues with self-confidence. Understand that it's normal to go through struggles like this and that you can learn to love who you are over time by accepting yourself.
Are These Feelings Really Normal?
Experiencing self-doubt is natural and will happen to everyone at one time or another. In our society, it is natural to want to be a bit thinner, a bit smarter, or a bit more outspoken. These feelings can even be good for you at times as they can motivate increases in health and self-growth. However, the extent to which some people are experiencing negative feelings about themselves today is less than healthy. The pressure to compete has been taken to an extreme in recent years, with people striving to reach ideals that are physically impossible, leading to self-deprecating thoughts, emotions, and the question "Why am I so hard on myself?" If you get thoughts and feelings that you will just never measure up, it is time to ask yourself: "Who am I measuring myself against?"
It is important to learn to work around these feelings and to love and accept who you are. You have to accept some of the mistakes and faults that go along with being uniquely you. After all, if you do not believe in yourself or love who you are, how can you live life to the fullest and be truly happy? You aren't alone in having these feelings, but you can learn to love yourself while breaking this cycle of negativity that you feel trapped in. Therapy is always an option when you need to overcome self-confidence issues, but other methods can help you as well.
Learning to Love Who You Are
Spoiler alert: you cannot rely only on others to provide you with positive feelings about yourself. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to get started on your journey to self-love!
Tip 1: Make a list.
Writing down a list of all the things you love about yourself - from your long eyelashes to your ability to read complex books - is a great way to start yourself on the path of self-love. Think about positive things that others have told you about yourself. Don't discount these compliments and acknowledgments. Do not leave anything out. Then every night before you go to bed and every morning when you wake up, read the list to remind yourself of what you have going for you.
Tip 2: Practice positive self-talk.
It is a proven fact that engaging in positive self-talk (i.e., telling one's self - either aloud or mentally - about one's positive attributes and abilities) will actually put you in a better mood overall and boost your confidence levels. This practice allows you to see more clearly, and believe more easily, all the positive things that make up who you are. Simultaneously, you should avoid negative self-talk and doubt as much as you can. In fact, when you feel yourself begin to think negatively, stop the train of thought in its tracks and try some positive self-talk instead. You do not have to train your brain to stop thinking negatively about yourself: you just have to train your brain to let go of those thoughts. Turn down the volume of those thoughts. Drown out the haters. Simply label them as unhelpful and turn your attention back to boosting yourself up. Spending extra time in thoughts that tear yourself down is not a place to spend your energy.
Tip 3: Engage in things you enjoy.
When you focus your attention on activities you enjoy (such as painting, riding your bike, etc.), you give yourself a sense of self-worth that cannot be taken away when, say, someone says something that rubs you the wrong way. The feeling that you have a lot going for you, in turn, increases your sense of confidence and leads you to more easily bounce back from self-deprecating thoughts. Take some time out of your day, every day, even just ten minutes, to care for yourself. Get some fresh air, have that second cup of coffee, listen to that new song you really like. Many people have an easier time taking care of others than they do themselves because they have gotten the idea that doing something for themselves is selfish. It is not selfish: it is taking a few moments each day to say, "Hey, you matter too!" to yourself without having to rely on anyone else to do that.
Tip 4: Discuss the question "Why am I so hard on myself?" with a trained professional
It can also be a good idea to discuss with a therapist why you are so hard on yourself, particularly if the above tips do not seem to be working to help you accept who you are. Your issues may run deeper than simple self-doubt, and a counselor will be able to help walk you through your feelings and give you more personalized exercises to increase your self-confidence and feelings of worth.
Self-acceptance and love are harder to grasp if you have received messages starting from a young age that there was something about you that was wrong or not acceptable. Hope lies in the fact that we can learn to let go of these unhelpful messages and begin to develop more self-supportive ones. There are therapy options out there, as well, that can help, and you can speak with your doctor about your options today.
It's also possible to find online therapy options for improving self-acceptance. In fact, a recent study focused on how effective treatments are for perfectionism. While perfectionism may seem like a condition that would drive someone to become more accomplished, it can actually do the opposite. Instead, perfectionism is rooted in a surplus of negative self-talk. A person’s inner critic becomes too intense because of unrealistic expectations, making it so that the person beats themselves up for tiny mistakes and does everything they can to avoid another instead of learning from the mistake. The study on perfectionism compared face-to-face interactions vs. online interactions. It found that such treatments are generally effective and that online and in-person treatments were comparable.
Tip 5: Do not compare
Do not get me wrong: a little competition in life can be a great motivator. However, if you often compare yourself to others when it comes to what you should be striving for, you may be struggling with issues of self-acceptance. More often than not, when we are trying to "measure up" to something or someone, the measuring stick we are using is just not realistic.
When we compare ourselves against someone else, we often see what we want to see or we see an ideal version of a real person. Take the modeling industry for example. Many people see images on TV, on the internet, or in magazines daily that help shape beliefs about our society's standard of beauty. What we do not see in those images is the unnatural and sometimes unhealthy things that go on behind the scenes of a perfect picture. The truth is that this tends to be true for most of the comparisons that we make between ourselves and other people. So, stop striving to be like anyone else. Just focus on being the best you that you can be. If it becomes really hard to deal with, consider avoiding social media sites as well. Places such as Instagram are filled with people who are edited to look perfect, and while they may be pretty, you should definitely understand that they aren’t real. They are shopped, and you shouldn’t worry as much about what they look like. Instead learn to accept not just your flaws but yourself as a person as well. Remember, what you see in media is not always the truth, and you need to learn to accept what you have and who you are.
Tip 6: Accept yourself
None of us are perfect. We all have things we want to change about ourselves and that is okay! You can have a desire to push yourself to be healthier without letting this desire detract from your overall sense of worth and quality of life. The key is to accept yourself for everything you are while letting go of all the things you are not. In doing this, you will increase your overall level of happiness and even perhaps have an easier time making those changes that are within your control to change. Be proud of who you are and everything that you have gone through to make you that way, warts and all.
Talking with Friends and Family
Sometimes talking about these feelings with friends and family is a good idea. If you have a great relationship with your family, they’ll listen to what’s going on and can oftentimes offer advice to help you grow as a person.
Your friends can help too. If you have a partner, remember the two of you are a team and can help one another work through the issues at hand. Sometimes, those who support you the most, who are part of your team, may not even be blood related. But they share the commonalities of understanding that it’s hard out there and learning to accept yourself is a challenge.
Talking with others about this is good because it helps you discuss the feelings at hand and it also lets you know that you’re not alone. It’s hard to accept yourself, and it can be a challenge for the average person, especially if they’re not learning to love themselves. Sometimes, talking with someone about this can help you learn to harness these feelings and learn to accept yourself in a healthy manner. Friends and family can support you in your journey to love yourself.
Consider Signing Up At BetterHelp
However, not everyone feels comfortable speaking with someone they know about potentially vulnerable issues. This is when speaking to an unbiased, caring professional can be key. With online therapy, you may connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your couch. Learning to love yourself can be easier from a safe space like your home. If you want to overcome your internal doubts, then this is a method that can make a huge difference for you. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues with feelings of self-worth.
"When I first contacted BetterHelp, my brain was like a hamster on a wheel. Ashley Santana helped me identify the problems with control and guilt that really had me stuck. She reassured me that some of my feelings were valid and even normal. I feel lighter, more comfortable, and confident now. I sincerely recommend this counseling to everyone."
"Christina has been so extremely helpful for me. She has guided me to better myself, to build a strong foundation, helped me know my self-worth, and to know that I am an individual and strong by myself. She has helped me process and move past my traumas. Because of her guidance, I am a 10x better version of myself."
You don't have to be so hard on yourself all the time. It's possible to make progress. You will be able to love yourself. Never hesitate to reach out for help. There are dedicated professionals who will be thrilled to help you reach greater heights in life. If you're struggling with loving yourself, take the first step toward growth today.
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