Limiting ourselves with self-judgment

Singer and actor Katharine McPhee has acknowledged that she fought a five-year battle with bulimia, and had childhood reading problems that sabotaged her self-esteem and made her turn to food for comfort.

“Low self-esteem was huge for me,” McPhee said. “I was always the pretty little girl who was stupid. That was really difficult… I was terrified the teacher was going to call on me to read out loud.” [ABC News story]

Healthy criticism can help refine our talents and creative projects in the pursuit of excellence.

But when it is based on excessive perfectionism or an unrealistic self concept, criticism can be destructive and self-limiting, eroding our creativity, and fueling low self-esteem.

Being critical may become a self-limiting habit, leading to anxiety and other problems that block us.

In her article Addiction to Self-Judgment, Margaret Paul, Ph.D. explains, “Generally, the hope of self-judgment is to protect against rejection and failure.

“The false beliefs are that, ‘If I judge myself, then others won’t judge me and reject me. I can be safe from others’ judgment by judging myself first,’ or ‘If I judge myself, I can motivate myself to do things right and succeed. Then I will feel safe and be loved and accepted by others.’

“However, just as a child does far better in school with encouragement than with criticism, so do we as adults. Criticism tends to scare and immobilize us. Instead of motivating us, it often creates so much anxiety that we get frozen and become unable to take appropriate action for ourselves.”

She says the way to deal with it is to become aware of your “feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, or depression and then ask yourself, ‘What did I just tell myself that is creating this feeling?’

“Once you become aware of the self-judgment, you can then ask yourself, ‘Am I certain that what I am telling myself is true?’ ”

John Lennon once said, “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.”

[From the page Self-esteem / self concept.]

What we need to think about ourselves is somewhere in between, a realistic perspective on our worth and abilities. Although, admittedly, some high achievers are hypomanic and may tend to be closer to the “God Almighty” end of the scale.

Related article: Ranking and Self-Esteem.


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