Self-Critical Thinking: How to Overcome It and Improve Your Self-Image

by The Relationship Guy
August 9, 2019

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In our previous posts, we looked at how you can improve your self-image as a means to control your life and the results in it by starting to imagine yourself with a positive self-image. If you haven’t checked those out yet, go have a quick read before jumping into this one. In this post, I want to add another tactic to improving your self-image which is overcoming self-critical thinking and is super important for your long-term success.

Improving Your Self-Image Through Overcoming Self-Critical Thinking pinterest post

Why should you consider improving your self-image through overcoming self-critical thinking?

The first and simplest reason is quite simply that negative attitudes and self-critical thinking are at the root of almost every failure.

Think about it.

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish or overcome, self-critical thinking in the form of critical inner voices or imagining the worst outcome(s), are there attacking you for even trying to do something that could potentially improve your life or situation or outcome.

Sometimes even, the self-critical thinking or critical voices don’t show up in the form of a full-on mental assault and yell at you, but they’re far subtler, more subdued and soothing.

They’re almost like wolves in sheep’s clothing, telling you just to forget about losing weight and have that other slice of pizza or glass of red wine you want.

Or don’t even apply for the job because you don’t really want it anyway.

Also, there are most likely many others far better suited or more qualified for the job and you, who should have the job.

If you’re not careful, this type of self-critical thinking might even sound like your friend.

In reality, however, it is all a trap.

If you want to overcome self-critical thinking you must start to consider these types of thoughts, no matter how harsh or demeaning they are, as your enemy.

Because if you allow this type of self-critical thinking to run the show and make decisions for you, it will end up preventing you from accomplishing and creating anything great, or just living and enjoying life more.

To become successful or create any new result in your life, you have to start by looking at your current self-image and ask yourself – how is the way I’m seeing myself serving me right now?

And secondly, ask yourself – how are my thoughts and self-critical thinking contributing to that current self-image? Is it hurting or helping it?

And if during this process you discover that you’ve been allowing self-critical thinking to run the show, you need to challenge yourself to overcome this self-critical thinking by starting to take actions that will begin creating new results in your life.

It’s almost like you’re overwriting self-critical thinking by taking opposite actions and proving it wrong.

It’s like the leadership expert, Robin Sharma, once said:

“It’s easier to behave yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of behaving.”

It’s that same principle.

You simply overcome self-critical thinking by ignoring it and taking an opposite action that not only ignores the self-critical voices but also, ultimately, negates them.

So how can you do that?

How can you start?

Here are some tips to overcome critical self-thinking and begin to go after what you want with confidence:

Don’t demand perfection

Good enough as the enemy of best.

But perfection is the enemy of good enough to start.

Striving for perfection only sets you up for failure and more self-critical thinking about not being good enough.

And you end up stalling or putting something off indefinitely.

Just start moving towards the goal you have.

And when you make mistakes, acknowledge them, learn from them but still carry on.

Don’t let perfection get in your way of starting.

You don’t need to have the whole process perfectly mapped out before taking the first step towards something better.

Let go of the hurt and pain from your past

The thing that oftentimes prevents us from trying again or attempting something new, is something in the past.

Maybe you’ve tried once before to improve your marriage but it blew up in your face.

Perhaps you’ve tried to lose weight only to end up gaining weight.

And now your self-critical thinking is making it impossible for you to forget I reminding you of the hurt and pain from your past.

All the failed attempts.

The mistakes.


But, and this won’t be that easy, if you want to improve your self-image in order to change the outcomes in your life, you MUST learn to put those negative comments about yourself out in the cold.

Replace them with positive affirmations and choose not to give the past a place in your present or future life apart from lessons learned.

Build your confidence

A powerful way to improve self-critical thinking is by improving your competency levels.

When you KNOW how to do something, i.e. you feel competent to do something, confidence will flow from that.

Sometimes we need to stop overthinking things and simply start by taking baby steps towards the thing we want to create or achieve.

When we consciously and actively focus on the mechanical aspects of competency, in other words, how to do the individual aspects of a particular task well, feelings of confidence to do more of the same will follow.

Again, the comes back to the idea of outsmarting and overcoming self-critical thinking by “out behaving” it.

When you do something long enough and know you can do it well because you’ve done it so much, feeling more confident to do it again and more often will be the natural byproduct.

Regardless of what self-critical thinking would then try and convince you of.

Know your values and be true to them

Another way to overcome self-critical thinking is to know your values and stay true to them.

Your mind might want to convince you of all sorts of things just before you attempt to do them.

And it will usually use FEAR as a means to get its way.

For example, just before you commit to being a more forgiving spouse, your mind will remind you of every time your partner failed or disappointed you when you “let them off the hook” too lightly and easily.

Now, you might give into this because your mind can come up with all sorts of really scary stuff.

But a powerful way to overcome this, especially when you know it’s needed, is to know your values and stick to them.

What if you fundamentally believe that being a forgiving person is what is truly important in life?

Shouldn’t that be the highest standard you hold yourself to, and not scary scenarios cooked up by your self-critical thinking?

So, don’t let anything or anyone sway you from living your values and beliefs.

Not even your own mind or self-critical thinking.

Take care of yourself first

This one flows from the previous one.

Oftentimes, when we live up to our values, other people might try and abuse it.

And our mind knows this and will often times convince us to act out of character because of all the potential negative repercussions.

If you act nicely, somebody might exploit that.

Or, if you try and be a better person, some people will call you out on that or even exploit it.

Either way, you remain a prisoner of your mind and own self-critical thinking.

But a better rule of thumb I always try and live by is the principle of taking care of yourself first.

It’s the whole, “when the plane goes down put on your own oxygen mask first before helping someone else” idea.

If you don’t put yourself first in the scheme of things, you stand a chance of either hurting yourself or being hurt by others.

So, don’t be afraid to take care of yourself first – and let everything else flows from that.

Also, taking care of yourself first is super important to start going after what you want or creating a result that you desire in life.

Because at the end of the day, you cannot give what you don’t have.

If you’re running on empty, there is no way you’d be able to go the distance.

A few final thoughts …

If you want to improve the results in your life, you have to start with how you see yourself, i.e. your self-image.

But if you want to improve your self-image you also have to improve your self-critical thinking and unhelpful thoughts.

A quick way to start doing that is to 1) become aware of your self-critical thinking and  2) concentrate on thoughts that will serve to replace negative thoughts and emotions.

And whenever you begin to think badly of yourself or hear the ever-present critical voices, replace it with a different positive or helpful thought about yourself.

These thoughts or “affirmations” can be your successes, strengths and values.

Write them down if it helps, and look at them several times a day to burn them into your mind.

When you learn how to best respond to your self-critical thinking, you will have conquered a giant obstacle standing in the way of your success and happiness.

About the author 

The Relationship Guy

Gideon Hanekom is the founder of, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor almost 10 years ago. He also completed graduate studies in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over seventeen years and is the dad of two children. His articles have been published on and The Good Men Project.

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