Challenging self-critical thoughts

Now we have learnt to catch these self-critical thoughts in the act, we can now work towards the habit of challenging them.

It’s very easy to believe the thoughts in your mind, but if you can spot these thoughts for what they are you can learn to externalise these as the voice of your low self-esteem. Once this is established, they may begin to affect you less, and challenging them becomes simpler and less daunting.

Often, your thoughts are not looking at the whole picture, and you’ve maybe not taken all the information into account. We might liken this to tunnel vision.

Challenging self-critical thoughts Brighter Life Therapy

Another key question is would you say the same to a family member or friend, or could this be a bias double-standard you hold against yourself? It is common for those with low self-esteem to have one rule for themselves and a kinder, fairer one for others.

How do these questions help? By looking at the wider picture, we might find a more balanced way to evaluate situations we are in. In turn, this can reduce the negative emotions self-critical thinking brings with it. Furthermore, we can add more columns to the diary from step 1- ‘Identify self-critical thoughts’, to allow us to effectively use this process. See below!

Have a read of the example below that builds on the example from the last technique:

Challenging self-critical thoughts Brighter Life Therapy

Time to practise

Try to take a week to challenge any self-critical thoughts that arise for you. You can start by trying to challenge some of the ones you identified from the previous week, or start with new thoughts that crop up for you. Try to give this technique at least 10 minutes every day.

Top tips

Top tip #1 – if there isn’t a reduction in your difficult emotions when trying this technique, then we can go back over the technique to ensure we’ve done it the best we can. Firstly, go back to the ‘evidence against’ columns, and see if there is anything else to add. Then, see if the ‘evidence for’ column is actually true facts. Finally, double check if the ‘balanced thought’ is fair and believable (we’re not aiming for positive – we’re just aiming for balanced).

Top tip #2 – it’s hard to do this in the moment when the thought first crops up. Our clients tend to start by practising this technique in the evening after their commitments, with any thoughts that popped up over the day. As they get more used to it, they can use the worksheet to guide them to challenge the thought in the moment. Finally, they master doing it automatically in the moment, without the guidance of a worksheet.

Take some time to jot down your ideas – you can use the downloadable resource below.