How do I stop feeling unworthy of myself

One thing that will ruin a perfectly good relationship

As Oscar Wilde put it, "Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography." It tells you more about the critic's psychology than about the people he or she is criticizing. Shrewd professionals can formulate a workable diagnostic hypothesis by hearing someone criticize.

Review is the first from John GottmanIs famous Four horsemen of the apocalypticwho predict divorce with greater than 90% accuracy. In my clinical experience, it is the most predictive catastrophe in love affairs as the other three are more likely to follow suit of it - stonewalling, defensive, and contemptuous partners almost always feel criticized.

Criticism is destructive to relationships when it:



  • About personality or character rather than behavior
  • Full of guilt
  • Not aimed at improvement
  • Based on just one "right way" of doing things
  • Depreciate.

In most cases, criticism in close relationships begins cautiously and escalates over time and forms a downward spiral with increasing resentment. The criticized person feels controlled, which frustrates the critical partner, who then increases the criticism, increases the other's feeling of control, and so on.

At no point in this downward spiral does an obvious fact occur to critical people: Criticism is a complete failure in achieving positive behavior change. Any short-term gain you might get from it will only lead to resentment down the line.

Criticism fails because it embodies two of the things people hate most:

  • It calls for submission and we hate submission.
  • It devalues ​​and we hate feeling devalued.

While people hate to submit, we like it cooperate. Critical people seem unaware of an important point in human nature: the cherished self cooperates; the devalued self resists. If you want behavior change, show the value for the person whose behavior you want to change. If you want resistance, criticize.



Critical people are certainly smart enough to find out that criticism doesn't work. In the face of mounting frustration, why do they keep doing it?

You keep going because criticism is a simple form of ego defense. We do not criticize because we disagree with a behavior or an attitude. We criticize because we somehow feel devalued by behavior or attitude. Critical people tend to be easily offended and especially need ego defense.

Critical people were often criticized early childhood by caretakers, siblings or peers. Criticism can be especially painful for young children. They cannot distinguish criticism of their behavior from rejection, no matter how hard we try to make the distinction for them, as in the well-intentioned "You are a good boy, this behavior is bad". Such a distinction requires higher level prefrontal cortex surgery beyond most young children. For a child under the age of seven, even if gently kicked, more than the occasional criticism means that they are bad and unworthy.

A shadow of life or death

The only thing young children can do to survive is to bond emotionally with people who care for them. I feel unworthy of attachment, how criticized young children feel, seems a bit like life or death. So they try to control the great pain of criticism by turning it into something self-Criticism - because pain inflicted on yourself is better than unpredictable rejection from loved ones.

Until early youth, you begin to "identify with the attacker" and imitate the more powerful critic. With late adolescence, self-criticism expands to include criticism of others. In young adulthood, it seems to be an outright criticism of others. However, most critical people remain primarily self-critical. I've never treated anyone who wasn't. As tough as they are on others, most are at least as tough on themselves.

This is how you can tell if you are critical

You are probably the last to know if you are a critical person. The joke is, “I give feedback; You are critical. I am firm; You are stubborn. I'm flexible; you're washed out I'm in touch with my feelings. you are hysterical! "

If someone tells you that you are critical, then most likely you are. But there is a better way to say: think about what you automatically say to yourself when you drop something or make a mistake. Critical people usually think "oh you idiot" or "jerk" or just curse or sigh in disgust. If you do this to yourself, you most likely do it to others too.

Criticism vs. Feedback

Critical people often pretend that they are only giving helpful feedback. The following are ways to tell the difference between the two.

  • Criticism focuses on what is wrong. ("Why can't you pay? Pay attention to the bills?")
  • The feedback focuses on how to improve. ("Let's go through the bills together.")
  • Criticism implies the worst about the other person's personality. ("You are stubborn and lazy.")
  • Feedback is about behavior, not personality. ("Can we first sort the invoices by due date?")
  • Criticism devalues. ("I think you're just not smart enough to do this.")
  • Feedback encourages. ("I know you have a lot on your plate, but I'm pretty sure we can do it together.")
  • Criticism implies guilt. ("It's your fault we're in this financial mess.")
  • The feedback is focused on the future. ("We can get out of this mess if we both give up a few things. What do you think?")
  • Criticism tries to control. ("I know what's best; I'm smarter and more educated.")
  • Feedback respects autonomy. ("I respect your right to make this choice, although I disagree with it.")
  • Criticism is compulsive. ("You will do what I want, otherwise I will not bond with you or punish you in any way.")
  • Feedback is not required at all. ("I know we can find a solution that works for both of us.")

Warning of feedback

When you are angry or angry, any "feedback" you give will be heard as criticism, no matter how you put it. That's because people react emotionally volume, not on purpose. It is best to regulate the anger or resentment before attempting to provide feedback.

To provide feedback on your core value:

  • Focus on how you can improve.
  • Focus on the behavior you want to see, not your partner or child's personality.
  • Encourage change rather than undermining trust.
  • Sincerely offer help.
  • Respect his or her autonomy.
  • Resist the urge to punish or withdraw affection when he / she doesn't do what you want.

If you are a critical person, you need to get a grip on your criticism impulse before it ruins your relationship.