Why Am I So Hard On Myself?

Although the debate surrounding the moral leanings or even the existence of human nature rages on, I think it’s safe to say that most people are generally good at heart and will show kindness to those in need.

But a lot of the time, it’s a totally different story when the other person is, well… us.

Why Am I So Hard On Myself?

Yep, many of us assume the role of the good Samaritan when others are hurting, but when it comes to ourselves, we’re the victim, robbers, priest, and Levite of the famous parable all rolled into one seething mass of self-deprecation.

You may even reach a point at which being unrelentingly hard on yourself is completely naturalized and you stop noticing you’re doing it.

But to truly break out of this prison of the self, one must be mindful of the inner voice and strive to figure out when and how it took on such a cruel tone.

Why Is Self-Talk Important?

Self-talk is an essential part of our day-to-day lives and development as we grow older, but the way in which we address ourselves can have a seismic impact on our moods, personalities, and future.

Much like repeating information can be a learning aid, the repeated subjection to our self-talk can imprint its sentiment on our sense of self, making it one of our most definitive characteristics.

In light of this, a negative inner voice can become a crippling, implosive force in our lives, but it’s not an anomalous, random occurrence.

Nope, being too hard on ourselves is far too prevalent for that. There are concrete reasons why we fall into this mire of self-admonishment.

Why Is My Inner Voice So Negative?

Caregiver Projection

Like all behaviors, chronic self-criticism can be learned, often at a very young age (You might also want to check out Positive Affirmations For Teens You Need Today).

If your guardians were overtly critical of themselves, others, or indeed you, this worldview will be projected, imprinting deep into your psyche during your most impressionable years.

This avenue to self-criticism can be particularly hard to overcome, as it has been normalized from birth.


Any form of abuse can lead to an overly critical inner voice, be it bullying endured at school, emotional or physical abuse endured in the home or workplace, or sexual abuse endured in or outside a romantic relationship.

In essence, abuse is a forced imbalance, with one person seizing power over another, making the victim feel lesser, which almost always leads to diminished self-esteem and, sometimes, intense self-loathing.

Childhood Trauma

Experiencing abuse or some other form of trauma in our youth can often leave us feeling guilty, that what we experienced was our own fault, and, as moral creatures, we erroneously attempt to exact justice by being unkind to ourselves.

Cultural Shortcomings

Negative self-talk is considered a powerful motivator in certain parts of the world, especially in those nations with capitalist leanings and an esprit de corps that valorizes triumph over all else.

From birth, we’re bombarded with the failure/success binary and taught how failure is synonymous with ruin, and success with intrinsic value.

We internalize these sentiments, carrying them with us into our adult life, and even when we do succeed, we’re hardwired to find faults in our triumph and strive to do more and achieve greater things with our next endeavor.

Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is a complex personality trait. While seemingly antonymous to overt narcissism, there are a few baseline similarities that plague the individual.

One, for example, is the insatiable desire to collect the admiration of others. 

The individual might end up incredibly self-effacing because they’re unable to draw the attention or position they crave. Without this external validation, the covert narcissist nosedives into obsessive self-doubt (Also check out How To Stop Obsessing Over Someone?).

Anxiety Disorders (Overthinking Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Self Injury Disorder, etc.)

Why Am I So Hard On Myself?

If that last entry sounded worryingly familiar to you, don’t fret; the chances of you being a covert narcissist are very remote.

The symptoms detailed above that you see in yourself are more likely the result of an anxiety disorder in one form or another.

The key distinction between an anxiety disorder and narcissism is empathy. If you empathize with others, then, by definition, you cannot be a narcissistic personality.

Anxiety disorders encourage us to focus on our fears and failures, gradually chipping away at our self-esteem, until we essentially become our own bullies.

Body Dysmorphia

Eating disorders warp our self-image and encourage us to set unrealistic, illogical, and unhealthy goals, goals that can never truly be achieved. Self-loathing comes part and parcel with this kind of dysmorphic disease.

How Can You Stop Being So Hard On Yourself?

When being hard on ourselves becomes a habit, life can feel like a living nightmare, but there are ways to break this self-destructive behavioral pattern!

  • Meditation & Mindfulness — Comparison lies at the root of most everyday strife in the modern world, and the prevalence of social media only encourages the weighing of ourselves against others.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness gives us pause to reflect on the vastness and beauty of life, to put things into perspective and remind us of our intrinsic value, no matter what we “achieve” in this life.

  • Seek Counseling — Talking helps, especially when the other party is a trained professional, certified to guide you out from within the labyrinth of the self.
  • Be Positive — Make a conscious effort to be kind to yourself at least once a day. Positivity is infectious and will start to dilute your negative inner voice. Talk to yourself how you’d talk to a child. Be constructive. Be reassuring. Be kind.
  • Lose the Dead Weight — If people in your life are making you feel like a second-class citizen, cut them loose; they’re only harming you.
  • Practice Failure — Some of us never learn the value of accepting defeat early on in life, which can lead to problems later on, but it’s never too late to face this fear.
  • Do Things You Love — Find things that give you a sense of well-being and do them as much as you can.

Final Thoughts

We can all be a little hard on ourselves from time to time, but for some of us, it becomes a downward spiral into an abyss of self-deprecation, and it’s in no way conducive of good mental health.

However, awareness is half the battle, and now you have a better idea of why you are this way and how you may be able to climb back out from this dark spot in your psyche, your future looks brighter than ever!

Ben Easter
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