Why Am I So Hard On Myself?

Updated September 30, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH

Some people are naturally hard on themselves. They might have low self-esteem or grow up in an environment where criticism came, and praise was heard rarely. Other times there are psychological issues that lead to a person being hard on themselves or a disorder that makes them have a lack of confidence. Determining why you are hard on yourself can sometimes be found through self-exploration, and other times seeing a therapist find out why may help you to find the root of your lack of self-assurance.

Psychological Reasons For Being Hard On Yourself

Being Hard on Yourself Can Take a Toll
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There are social psychology reasons for why some people may be hard on themselves more than others. Low self-esteem, which a common cause, is not always the reason for being hard on yourself.

People who are hard on themselves have a deep-rooted need for effect, which should not be confused with needing affection. These people find that any emotion, even sadness, can be a pleasing experience. On the flip side, these same people tend to feel anxiety often, even during everyday occurrences.

Disorders That Can Lead To Being Hard On Yourself

Eating disorders can often lead to one being hard on themselves. When people have eating disorders, they are always struggling with their body and self-image. They want to achieve what they feel is the perfect body, and often it results in extreme measures. Those with eating disorders have a challenging time finding something good about themselves. They struggle daily with their looks and feeling good about themselves.

The overthinking disorder is another causation for people to be hard on themselves. People with an overthinking disorder, or anxiety disorder, excessively think about their fears and stressors. They worry about nearly every aspect of their life and have a difficult time moving forward.

Generalized anxiety disorder is like overthinking disorder; however, it tends to come with thoughts and emotions that cause self-harm. While self-harm can be physical, it can also be self-directed verbal and emotional abuse.

Self-injury disorder is entirely about taking out negative emotions and feelings on your physical self. Self-injury may include:

  • Cutting yourself
  • Banging your head on walls or surfaces
  • Burning yourself
  • Picking at your skin

Most people who participate in self-injury rarely act in groups; they tend to self-harm alone and in privacy. Self-harmers do not want anyone to know that they are hurting themselves. It is used as a stress-reliever or when the world gets too heavy.

How Can I Stop Being Hard On Myself?

Feelings are easy to confuse when you are at a heightened state of emotion. For example, excitement and fear can resemble one another and look a lot alike. Depending on how you deal with emotions, it can be a positive or negative experience. It is the individual person that defines the feelings and determines if they will make the situation a good one or a poor one.

Science and sociology tell us that a person’s gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status plays a role in how we manage our emotions but does help us to accept them. Those who recognize their situation and their feelings are less likely to respond to negative stressors. On the other hand, people who do not necessarily accept their position let their emotions take over, and they end up less confident than they should be in reality.

People who have a hard time separating their personal circumstances from their current place in the world find it challenging to find the positives. Those who can see the “rainbow through the clouds” are more likely to find pleasure or a positive side to every situation.

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The first step to being easier on yourself is to try and look at a negative situation and find one positive attribute. Yes, you need to self-critique yourself from time to time, but if it not in a constructive way, then it is the wrong way. Self-critiquing should not be confused with self-degrading measures. It is essential not to beat yourself up too much. If you do, it can begin to wear on you, and you will be on negativity overdose.

Here are some specific examples of how not to criticize yourself so much.

Do Not Criticize Yourself For Past Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes; it is how we deal with them that is important. Dwelling on a mistake that you made will not fix the problem. It only makes things worse because now you are in a bad or depressed mood. On top of that, your other work will suffer. When you are reeling with past mistakes, you cannot put your best effort into your current assignments. You need to maintain and understand that everyone makes mistakes and tries not to dwell on things that you cannot control. It happened, and it is over. It is time to move on and let go.

Be Present And Stop Focusing On What You Have Not Accomplished Yet

People who are always concerned about the “what-if’s” and how to accomplish a task that has been put off is not productive. Being present in the moment, or being mindful, is an important skill to have to be happy. Do not punish yourself for not getting to finish your to-do list, future project list, or budget list. Focus on what you are doing right now and do it to the best of your ability. Remember to celebrate the things that you finish or your successes and then move onto the next task at hand.

You Never Give Your Ideas Enough Support And Dismiss Them For Others

Being Hard on Yourself Can Take a Toll
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Any sentence that starts with, “I know this is not a good idea, and you will probably not use it, but what if you tried…” is a waste of breath. When you present an idea, starting it with a negative tone will tell others you do not think it is worth considering it.

Instead, own your opinions and ideas. You are your best advocate. Never tell others an idea is not suitable before they even hear it. Instead, use positive words to present your positions. You will see how a change in those around you and yourself. For example, “I have an idea that I know will work and help take our project to the next level. This is my plan…” This statement gets people’s attention. “I know it will work” is a positive stance and sets the tone for the rest of the content your listeners will absorb.

Stop Feeling Guilty For Everything

Guilt is a tremendous emotion that comes with being hard on yourself. You need to stop feeling guilty for everything; it will help you to live a happier life.

Feeling guilty for being sick or being late to an appointment due to traffic is not necessary. You did not have control over either situation, so why are you apologize and feeling guilty?

Guilt can happen over the smallest things. You accidentally put the pen you borrowed in your purse. Now you feel so guilty about stealing it. First, you did not steal it. You accidentally put it in your bag because you were rushing most likely distracted. There is a reason that offices and banks have so many pens; they expect people not to return them. They are also typically branded with the company’s information. The company knows how easy it is to take a pen, and they want you to take it home and share it with others. It is part of their marketing efforts.

Feeling guilt over significant issues is also unnecessary. It happened, move on. Let’s say you made an accounting error at work, and the papers you presented your boss has inaccurate information. When you find out, you feel immense guilt for the mistake, and it eats at you for days. Stop feeling guilty. Mistakes happen, and most of the time, the documents can be fixed, and the problem resolved. Recognizing that statement, “mistakes happen,” is a mantra you should live by; do not feel guilty if you can make one. Instead, fix it and forget it.

You Defer To Negative Terminology And Fail To See The Positives

If you find that you are always speaking negatively about things, you will never see the positives of a situation. Being hard on yourself includes speaking negatively and projecting your negativity onto others. For example, you went to the store, and they were out of a few items you needed. They also had two registers open. When you get home, you complain to your family. You said how you could not believe they were out of things you specifically wanted, and the lines were so long since they only had two lanes open. You hate going shopping because this happens all the time and you wish you could just get what you need and get out quickly.

What you have stated is that shopping is horrible and a waste of time. What does this teach your children? That they do not ever want to go to the grocery store. The next time you ask if anyone wants to go with you, everyone says “no” because they know that it is horrible from your past comments.

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Seeing the negative in things is how people who are hard on themselves function. They cannot see the positive side. Instead of saying, “I got nearly on the items on my list, and I was able to pick out a few things for a different meal this week since they were out of some items. I cannot wait to try a new recipe,” or “the lines were long, so I was able to find some coupons on my phone while waiting, and save $20 on grocery shopping! Maybe we can go out for ice cream after dinner since I did not spend all our money at the grocery store today.”

These two statements take a situation that might not be pleasant and find the positives. Maybe the next time you need to go shopping, your child will want to go with you and find coupons so you can save even more money, with the hopes that they can get ice cream again.

When you stop being hard on yourself, you can see the best parts of life. Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but there is almost always a positive that can be taken from each situation. Try not to focus on what went wrong. Instead, look at the world more positively; you will start to see things that you never saw before.


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