How To Stop Beating Yourself Up (20 Ways + Expert Insights)

Do you ever find yourself mulling over every little mistake or shortcoming, no matter how trivial? You’re not alone. Many of us fall into the trap of harsh self-criticism, thinking it will push us to do better next time.

However, this often has the opposite effect—draining our energy, leaving us feeling defeated, and holding us back from learning and growing.

The good news is there are effective ways to break this cycle, transforming self-criticism into opportunities for growth and self-acceptance.

Curious about how you can treat yourself better and discover a more compassionate approach? Let’s dive in and find out how you can stop being your own worst enemy and become your biggest supporter.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is not fancy—it’s about being here and now. Think of it as just sitting quietly and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without getting all critical about it. Doing this can help you recognize when you are being hard on yourself. 

Here’s what to do:

  • Find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down.
  • Breathe in and out, and pay attention to how it feels.
  • When thoughts pop up, it’s okay. Smile, say “not now,” and focus on breathing.

Regular mindfulness helps lessen stress and boost your mood. Over time, you’ll notice you’re more focused on the now and the good little things happening around you.

Get to the “Why”

It’s crucial to understand why you’re hard on yourself. What drives your self-criticism? Is it trying to meet high standards or echoing past voices? Knowing this can change your perspective.

Reflect on moments when you’ve been tough on yourself. What caused it? Seeing these patterns can help you tackle the root issues, not just the symptoms. When you know your triggers, you can manage them better.

Replace Negative Thoughts With Positive Affirmations

Negative thoughts can be sticky, but positive affirmations are like a mental soap. Think of them as your personal cheer phrases. When a bad thought comes, have a go-to positive line ready.

Try this out:

  1. Spot the negative thought.
  2. Say “Nope!” to it.
  3. Swap it with something good about yourself.

For example, change “I can’t do anything right” to “I am learning and getting better every day.” This habit helps you maintain a healthy balance in how you see yourself.

"When the inner-critic tells you, "You always do things wrong," notice it, and have your voice of reason come in with a more balanced statement such as, "Sometimes I make mistakes, but other times I do things really well.""

Dr. Sabrina Romanoff | Clinical Psychologist

Embrace Your Imperfections

Nobody’s perfect. Getting comfortable with this idea can help us take risks and handle life’s ups and downs better. When you accept that it’s okay to make mistakes, you start to worry less about every little imperfection.

Take learning a new recipe, for example. If you burn the cookies or over-salt the soup, it’s no big deal. Each mistake is just a chance to do better in the next round. Apply this forgiving attitude to other parts of your life, too.

When you start being hard on yourself, pause and maybe even try to laugh it off—this can take the weight off your shoulders and add a little joy back into your day.

"You are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Stop beating yourself up over something that could've happened to anyone. If you lived a perfect life, it would be boring. As humans, we need to "screw up" once in a while to learn and grow from our mistakes."

— Jaime Bronstein, LCSW | Licensed Therapist, Relationship Expert, Radio Host

Accept That Mistakes Are Part of Learning

Mistakes aren’t just unavoidable; they’re crucial for learning. When you mess up, you’re given a chance to find new solutions and better approaches.

Imagine playing a video game. Each time you fail a level, you learn what doesn’t work, which eventually helps you succeed. Life works much the same way. So next time you make a mistake, think of it as moving one step closer to mastering a skill.

Remind Yourself of Your Worth Daily

Remembering your value is key to stopping the self-beat-up cycle. You’re worth a lot, and it’s important to remind yourself of that, not just on good days but every day. 

You can start by:

  • Saying something good about yourself.
  • Thinking about your strengths or something you did well.
  • Celebrating being you.

You don’t need a big reason. It could be as simple as “I made someone smile today” or “I’m a good listener.” It’s about continuously helping you feel good about yourself.

"Remind yourself of how capable, knowledgeable, and talented you are. Understand that bad things happen to everyone and that you're not alone. No one is perfect all the time, so don't hold yourself to impossible standards."

— Charlene Walters, MBA, Ph.D. | Entrepreneurship Coach | Business and Branding Mentor, Own Your Other | Author, "Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur"

Build a Confidence Habit

Building confidence is like working out; it gets stronger the more you practice. Start small, like speaking up about your favorite movie. Then, build up to the bigger stuff.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Do one small thing that scares you.
  2. Acknowledge when you pull it off.
  3. Repeat and watch your confidence grow.

Every time you meet a goal, you prove to yourself that you can do it. This builds a solid foundation of self-belief. 

"Self-confidence is important because it enables choice and achievement and detracts from negative self-talk and feelings of insecurity. Confident people tend to overthink less and stay in action more."

— Randi Levin | Transitional Life Strategist, Randi Levin Coaching

Celebrate Small Victories

Big wins are great, but the small ones? They’re the bread and butter of feeling good. Finished a report? Did the laundry? These might seem minor, but acknowledging these moments builds a habit of positivity.

Here’s how you can celebrate:

  • Completed a task? Do a mini-dance or give yourself a pat on the back.
  • Acknowledge the effort, not just the outcome.
  • Share the win with someone—joy loves company.

It’s about noticing and appreciating the little things. And when you start stacking up all those small victories, you’ve got yourself a whole pile of reasons to feel proud.

Set Realistic Goals for Yourself

Shooting for the stars is great, but hey, let’s not forget to build a rocket first. Setting goals that are too lofty can leave you feeling down. Instead, aim for targets you can realistically hit. This approach prevents you from feeling overwhelmed and keeps you motivated.

Consider dividing a big goal into smaller, more manageable steps, adjust as you go, and acknowledge your efforts when you hit each mini-goal. This way, each step you complete gives you a boost of confidence. Plus, it keeps you moving forward bit by bit.

Treat Yourself Like You Would Treat a Friend

We can be our own worst critic. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves in ways we would never be with friends. If your friend made a mistake, you wouldn’t criticize them harshly, right? It’s time to start treating yourself with the same kindness.

When you stumble or face a setback, think about what you’d say to a friend in the same situation. Offer yourself comforting words and understand that everyone has tough days. 

Being kind to yourself promotes resilience and makes it easier to bounce back from life’s challenges. Remember, you deserve the same kindness you give to others.

"Refuse to be anything less than gentle and kind with yourself, and you will find you change this pattern of beating yourself up into accepting yourself and moving forward from mistakes to what you have and will learn with each struggle."

— Michelle R. Hammer, MS, LCPC | Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Motivational Speaker | Founder, Turning Leaf Counseling and Consultation

Take Breaks and Avoid Overworking Yourself

Don’t feel guilty for taking a breather. Taking regular breaks helps you recharge and prevents burnout. Just like a car needs to refuel, your brain needs a break to keep running smoothly.

Here’s a break for thought:

  • Schedule short breaks during your day.
  • Find a chill activity for your break time—listen to music, stretch, step outside.
  • Recognize that rest leads to better work. 

These pauses can help clear your mind, reduce stress, and keep you balanced. 

Shift Your Focus to What You Can Control

Spending energy on things you can’t change is like trying to stop the rain—it’s not going to happen. Focus on what you can change instead.

For instance, you can’t control the traffic in the morning, but you can decide what time you leave the house or what you listen to during your commute. 

Make a habit of asking yourself: “What can I actually change here?” Concentrating on these areas lessens feelings of helplessness and leaves much room for working on what you can.

"Instead of worrying about something you can't control, use this time to focus on what you can control. This includes deciding how to live your life and how you will feel about yourself and others."

— Kelly Ryan | Founder, Anchor Meditation

Engage in Creative Activities

Creativity isn’t just for artists—it’s a playground for everyone. When you do something creative, you give yourself the space to express and let go. Draw, cook, garden, or even doodle. It’s all about creating, not judging.

Consider these:

  • Choose something fun that makes you forget about time.
  • There’s no right way to be creative. Mistakes can lead to cool surprises.
  • Creative time is a no-pressure zone. Just enjoy the process.

When you create, you’re in the moment, and that self-criticism tends to fade away. Plus, finishing a creative project gives you a sense of accomplishment. 

Maintain a Gratitude Journal

Sometimes, when you’re feeling down, it’s all too easy to forget the good bits. A gratitude journal acts like a highlight reel of your daily life. Write down a few things you’re thankful for every day. Big or small, it all counts.

This practice helps you spot the positives in your life. It also sets a pattern where you start to look for good things throughout your day, helping you improve your mood.

Limit Social Media Consumption

Scrolling through social media can be like eating too much candy—fine in small doses, but too much can make you feel sick. Seeing everyone’s “perfect” moments can make you feel you’re not keeping up.

Keep social media in check:

  1. Set a timer for how long you can scroll.
  2. Follow accounts that make you feel good, not inadequate.
  3. Remember, people usually post the highlight reel, not the blooper reel.

Your time and mind are precious. So think about giving yourself more “real world” time and less scrolling time. That way, you’re living your life, not just watching others’ lives.

Engage in Physical Activity

Moving your body isn’t just good for your health—it’s great for your mind, too. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These are often called “feel-good” hormones because they can help improve your mood.

Choose an activity you actually enjoy. Take a walk, stretch, dance to your favorite jam, or hit a yoga mat. Try to incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine. While you’re focused on your body’s movements, you’ll have less space to dwell on self-criticism.

Set Boundaries With Others

Setting boundaries isn’t about pushing people away. It’s about saying, “Hey, this is my space, and it’s important.” They help you honor your needs and feelings, which can keep self-frustration at bay.

Boundaries can look like this:

  • Saying “no” when you’re stretched too thin.
  • Choosing who you spend time with. 
  • Asking for some space.
  • Choosing not to discuss certain topics that upset you.

When you draw those lines kindly but firmly, it can actually lead to healthier relationships all around. Over time, you’ll feel more empowered and less likely to beat yourself up over trying to please everyone else.

Seek Support From Friends or a Therapist

Talking to friends or consulting a therapist can make a big difference when you’re hard on yourself. Friends offer comfort and a fresh perspective, lightening your emotional load just by listening.

If self-criticism feels overwhelming, a therapist can help. They provide professional guidance and tools to manage negative thoughts more effectively. Therapy offers a safe space to uncover deeper reasons for your self-judgment and learn new coping strategies.

Reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows courage and commitment to your well-being.

"When we get into the cycle of beating ourselves up, we often think we are the only ones to have made that mistake. Social validation e.g. "That sucks. I've been in a similar situation before," helps to take you out of your own shame and judgment cycle."

— Lindsay Bryan-Podvin | Financial Therapist, Mind Money Balance | Speaker | Author, "The Financial Anxiety Solution"

Validate Your Expertise

You’ve got skills—own them! It’s an effective way to boost self-esteem. Recognize the knowledge and experience you’ve gathered over the years. It’s not about bragging but giving yourself credit where it’s due.

Simple ways to validate your skills:

  • Help someone with your know-how. It feels great to share.
  • Keep learning. Courses or books? Go for them.
  • List what you’ve achieved. That list is real, and it’s all you.
"Keep a running list of all the things you do well and you are an expert in... Validating what you do well, counteracts fear and creates evidence to support self-esteem and confidence."

— Randi Levin | Transitional Life Strategist, Randi Levin Coaching

Try Not to Compare Yourself or Your Life to Others

Life’s not a race. Comparing yourself to others is a common trap that often leads to unnecessary self-criticism. Everyone’s on different paths, and that’s okay. 

The only fair comparison is you today to you yesterday. Instead of looking at others as benchmarks, focus on your own progress and goals. This helps build contentment and appreciation for your own life’s path.

When you look at your own life without the weight of others, you’ll probably see how far you’ve really come.

More Expert Insights

“Loving yourself unconditionally can alleviate the need to beat yourself up. When you love yourself unconditionally, there is no judgment… Love yourself and know your worth. You deserve to feel loved by yourself and others.”

— Jaime Bronstein, LCSW | Licensed Therapist, Relationship Expert, Radio Host

“Each one of us is on our own journey, whether that is health, wellness, career, family, etc. There will always be people with more, as there will always be people with less than you. The time you spend beating yourself up because you aren’t as good, as thin, as rich, as someone else is time lost forever.”

— Melissa Bell | Certified Nutrition and Life Coach | “The Menopause Coach” | Creator, Power Surge Program

“It’s critical to step back from whatever mistakes you’ve made and analyze them with curiosity, not with harsh judgment. It’s also critical to value all your efforts to improve and to give yourself credit for how hard you try to be a better person.”

— Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW | Licensed Clinical Social Worker

“You may want to make amends, look at your faults and mistakes, or be a better person, but it must be rooted first in self-love. Like a tree that is grounded in the earth for a long time, one must be in the pillar of self-esteem. Then heal. Then make changes.”

— Audrey Hope, D.D. | Certified Addiction and Trauma Therapist, Relationship Expert

“Sometimes it may feel like everything is going wrong, but there’s still always something to be thankful for… When we just stop and be grateful for these things, it does put everything else in perspective.”

— Anna Nielsen | Marketing Director, Our Good Living Formula

Frequently Asked Questions

Does self-criticism ever help?

While constructive criticism can be beneficial, harsh self-criticism usually harms more than helps. It can de-motivate and cause emotional distress. Focusing on positive reinforcement is a more effective way to promote personal growth.

What are some common examples of self-criticism?

Some common examples of self-criticism include:

Name-calling: Saying things like “I’m an idiot” after a mistake.

Overgeneralizing: Thinking “I never do anything right” from a single failure.

Negative focus: Ignoring successes and only seeing failures.

Impossibly high standards: Feeling nothing is good enough, regardless of success.

Catastrophizing: Believing a small error could have disastrous outcomes.

Dwelling on past actions: Constantly regretting old decisions and questioning past choices.

These brief points highlight typical self-critical thoughts that can undermine self-esteem and well-being.

How long does it take to change a habit of self-criticism?

Changing any habit takes time and persistent effort. The timeline varies for each person and depends on factors such as the intensity of the habit and the consistency of applying new strategies.

Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small steps of progress along the way.

What is the difference between healthy self-assessment and self-criticism?

Healthy self-assessment involves objectively evaluating your behaviors and results to foster growth and learning.

Self-criticism, in contrast, often involves harsh judgments and focusing excessively on perceived failures, which can be detrimental to your self-esteem.

Final Thoughts

Remember that being kind to yourself isn’t just about feeling better at the moment—it’s about building a healthier mindset for the long run. Each step you take towards positive self-talk and compassionate reflection is a step towards a happier, more fulfilled you.

Keep practicing, and treating yourself with kindness will soon become your new normal. Here’s to a kinder you!

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Robby is a multimedia editor at UpJourney with a journalism and communications background.

When she's not working, Robby transforms into an introverted art lover who indulges in her love for sports, learning new things, and sipping her favorite soda. She also enjoys unwinding with feel-good movies, books, and video games. She's also a proud pet parent to her beloved dog, Dustin.