Types of Self-Criticism

22 Feb

self criticism 2


As a researcher and self- criticizer myself, I have concluded over the years that there are 5 most common types of criticism. When reading about each type, think to yourself which one (s), if any, are most typical characterize you!

Types of Self Criticism:

1.  Public Self-Criticism.

  • The public self-criticizer is the one who says things like: “I’m always so slow to catch on — would you mind repeating what you just said?” “Gosh, I must be stupid — I don’t understand what you are talking about.” “I know this is a dumb question, but….”


2.  Fatigued Self-Criticism.

  • Spontaneous, unsolicited self-criticism is frequently related to fatigue. The negative thoughts may flow late at night or just after a long, hard day at work. One woman in a workshop on criticism demonstrated how fatigue makes her focus on the negative. “I’ll walk down the street mentally beating myself up for not being productive and for putting off certain things. In the middle of self-criticism, I might remember some important things I accomplished. But negative thoughts overshadow the positive.” Regardless of when the negative thoughts arise, be aware if they typically occur when you are tired.


3.  Hindsight Self-Criticism.

  • Jerry, who owns several restaurants, complains about all the money he would now have if he hadn’t managed certain things so poorly. Susan kicks herself repeatedly because the particular project she chose to work on turned out to be a disaster. Tom engages in a boxing match with himself for investing a lot of money in a new business venture that failed. He’s beating himself up for losing the money, but the toughest punches are thrown for not being able to see problems ahead of time. In each instance, the criticism would not be possible without hindsight, but the criticizer is angry about not having foresight.
  • Sometimes sparks fly because we have failed to act when the timing was right. The consequences of our actions (or failure to act) are not yet clear, but the criticism still swells. The “I should have” self-criticizer yells at herself for not buying the one-of-a-kind dress at the clothing store or beats himself up for having said something that may have offended a potential client (remember, he doesn’t know for sure if he offended the person).


4.  Pre-Event Self-Criticism.

  • The pre-event criticizer is the flip side of the hindsight criticizer. The event has not occurred but already the criticisms are taking off. The golfer who stands up to hit the ball and instantly clutters his mind with all kinds of negative thoughts is a classic pre-event criticizer, as is any athlete engaging in a competitive sport. Or it’s the executive who takes hours to prepare for an important presentation, all the time feeling anxious and criticizing herself for all the things that may go wrong.


5. On-The-Spot Self-Criticism.

  • The on-the-spot self-criticizer is the salesperson who loses his self-confidence in front of the client because he’s mentally telling himself that he’s blowing the whole deal. Or it’s the engineer who allows the self-criticism to crowd his thoughts during a technical debate so that he finds it difficult to think conceptually.


Of these forms of self-criticism, some parts of them have improvement value while other aspects are simply exercises in self-derogating success blockers.


Hindsight self-criticism most often has the potential of offering a learning point that, when clearly understood, can be of great value in preventing a reoccurrence. One would be wise to try to rid oneself of all the other forms.  Especially the fatigued self-criticism messages delivered when tired need to be quickly disregarded. Things will look a lot brighter when you are refreshed and energized.

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