711: Too Hard On Yourself

In 2013, two researchers published in the Journal of Psychology integration a review of the research and discussion of the phenomena of self-criticism. That particular paper defined self-criticism as, quote:

a conscious evaluation of one-self that can be a healthy and reflexive behavior, but also can have harmful effects and consequences for an individual.

In other words, reflecting upon your thoughts, beliefs, words and actions can be very useful. But like all things that get a bit overwhelming in too heavy of a dose, self-criticism tends to tip the scale into a harmful realm when it becomes harmful.

Generally, the research on individuals who are very self-critical and/or perfectionist tends to treat those particular behaviors as associated behaviors – or even symptoms of – depression and anxiety. But several researchers are starting to dig in to the idea that perhaps, rather than a symptom alone, that even neurotypical individuals may have topics or areas where they are very self-critical in ways that become damaging.

And while it can be tempting to think that being hard on yourself is part of what drives success, it’s worth paying attention to the conclusion of the 2011 article “The Effects of Self-Criticism and Self-Oriented Perfectionism on Goal Pursuit:

Although self-criticism has previously been shown to be related to diminished goal progress, a controversy remains regarding the potential association between aspects of “positive perfectionism,” such as self-oriented perfectionism, and enhanced goal progress. The results of the five studies demonstrated a consistent pattern of negative association between self-criticism and goal progress.