By Stacey Colino for Life & Beauty Weekly


Bad habits aren’t limited to things like nail biting and
procrastination. For women, one of the most common and insidious habits
is being overly critical or judgmental of themselves. What’s worse, a
pattern of self-criticism can become so ingrained, you might not even
notice you’re doing it.

“It’s a huge issue for women,” says Alice Domar, who has a doctorate in health psychology and is the author of Be Happy Without Being Perfect.
“We criticize ourselves from morning to night, and all that negative
self-talk puts you at risk for depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.”

You can learn to silence your inner critic and become more accepting of yourself, however. Start with these strategies:

1. Listen to yourself.
The first step is to
recognize when you’re engaging in negative self-talk. Decide to spend a
day tuned into your thoughts about yourself and jot down every comment.
That night, count how many are negative.

Seeing in ink how many times you call yourself a bad mother or
berate your lack of diet willpower helps you realize just how critical
you’re being. “It’s a big wake-up call,” says Domar.

2. Be honest.
Now that you’re better tuned in, when
you “hear” criticism, ask yourself four questions, says Domar: “Is this
thought logical? Is it true? Does this thought contribute to my stress?
Where did it come from?” In most cases, your answers will be, “No, it’s
not logical or true. Yes, it stresses me out.” And the thought
originally came from a former boss, a judgmental relative or a mean
teacher you had in high school.

By paying attention to and dissecting the criticism in this way,
you can better realize that the criticism isn’t valid. And that’s a
crucial first step toward stopping it.

3. Avoid the comparison game.
Comparing yourself to
others doesn’t do anything but make you feel bad. It’s unfair and
damaging to reprimand yourself because you’re not as thin as one friend
or as organized as another. “There will always be someone who will
exceed you in some part of life,” says Pauline Wallin, who has a
doctorate in clinical psychology and has written Taming Your Inner Brat.

Instead, focus on what you do right. Recognize, for example,
that you’re a great multitasker or can manage a complex project
efficiently — and ignore that you’re not a pro networker like your
colleague. You’ll feel better about yourself, which helps you succeed in
the long run.

4. Look at the big picture.
what if your house isn’t immaculate? Who cares that you lost your keys?
Will beating yourself up change anything in the grand scheme of things?

It’s important not to get caught up in minor details. Instead,
think about what’s really important: You may not spend time scrubbing
your floors, but you do spend time with your kids, and they are healthy,
well-adjusted and love you, for example.

5. Get a second opinion.
“People hold themselves to
much higher standards than they do others,” says Domar. So when you
start getting beat down, talk to a trusted friend to get a needed
reality check.

Another’s voice will help you see things from an outsider’s
more accepting perspective. She’ll help you realize all the things
you’re doing well in your life and that nobody thinks you’re a
bad mother, woman, employee — whatever! Your criticisms will soon seem
as silly and unwarranted as they actually are.

6. Decide to stop being negative.
a while, you will start to recognize when you’re about to be (or are
being) too hard on yourself. When you do, stop yourself — literally,
says Domar. Visualize a stop sign, take slow, deep breaths, then
consciously make a choice not to be negative. Remember that you control
your thoughts. It can be quite empowering to decide not to let them hurt you.

Try changing the subject in your head by shifting to
something positive, such as an upcoming party or vacation. Changing the
subject helps short-circuit negative thoughts immediately, says Wallin.

7. Keep a bravo journal.
in the habit of recognizing success can help overtake negativity. So at
the end of each day, take stock of what you did well and write it in a
journal or share it with your partner. “A lot of us have been brought up
to think bragging is bad,” says Domar. “But if you’ve accomplished
something, recognize and share the good news.”

Whether you gave a stellar presentation at work or helped your
daughter create an A-plus art project, seeing accomplishments in writing
or hearing them in your own voice helps you think of yourself more
positively every day. This will evict the inner critic, and a kinder
commentator will move in — one who treats you with the respect you’re
so good at giving others.

Stacey Colino is a writer in Chevy Chase, MD. She has written for many national magazines, including Newsweek, Real Simple, Self, Woman’s Day, Parents, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour.

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