As humans we discover things by playing and experimenting. Through trial and error we get better and better as we persist and practice.
Babies learn to walk by first dragging themselves along, then by crawling, then precariously standing holding on to objects, then taking steps with help, and finally being independent to take a few steps on their own. They need to develop strength and skill and they do this by getting on with “having a go”.
We love encouraging little ones and cheer them on as they go on their journey of discovery and learning, but it is interesting to see how rarely we cheer ourselves on.
When we slip up, we often tell ourselves unhelpful things like, “I’ll never get this right” or “I’ve always been slow to learn” or “It’s not worth putting in the time to learn this, because I will only be mediocre anyway”.
So why do we do it?
We may have learnt to be self-critical because we were criticized while growing up. “Put downs” from brothers and sisters, kids at school, teachers and parents can go a long way to building an over active internal critic.
We also may have learned to be critical by watching negativity and criticism on news and current events shows and on so called “reality TV” where judgement and put downs become entertainment.
Unfortunately we live in a world where criticism is all too prevalent and somewhere along the line most of us picked up the criticism habit and started to use it on ourselves.
Our inner critic may convince us that we are protecting us from “making fools of ourselves” or from having overwhelming feelings of doubt, confusion and shame. But in the end I see it as debilitation rather than protection.
Constant self-evaluation can lead to a life of walking on egg shells, trying to be perfect and trying to please without having any times of play, fun or lightness.
Self-criticism can stop us taking a risk, experimenting, or “having a go”. Just the idea of making a mistake is too painful for some of us, but if we continue this way we can become stuck, stagnant, and far from happy.