Why do we, as men, beat up ourselves so much?

November 11, 2023

Many men are skeptical and cynical about themselves; whether when introducing themselves or appraising work performances, men sell themselves short. Why are men so quick to judge themselves poorly and set this as their default tone?

Being self-critical is essential and has advantages. However, if you are more of a cheerleader for yourself, self-doubt, lack of confidence, and imposter syndrome could be reduced or eliminated. Men’s inner voices should lean more toward being much more proud than judgmental, but this inner critic will never stop.

Do you want it to stop? Yes and no. You want to critique yourself, but it must be a balancing act so that you can critique yourself without beating yourself up. And it’s better to be a little too hard on yourself than too full of yourself.

If your inner critic tells you what you’re doing is sh!t, it’s telling you the truth, but you must evaluate the message with context. Think about it: after you’ve been working on something, the finished product will be levels and levels above. So, the inner voice shouldn’t be turned off or ignored because listening to this inner critic will help you identify what is lacking and needs more work. Hence, the end result is the best it can be.

Don’t justify mistakes and missteps; rather, replace criticism with correction, the voice of kindness. That way, you can correct yourself without losing self-esteem from being critical. This approach creates a win-win attitude that allows for personal betterment and growth in the framework of self-worth and emotional maturity.

Listen closely to that inner voice, and instead of thinking you’re a failure, needing to give up, or needing to shut out that voice, look that inner critic in the eye and respond with, “I am working on it.” Being your own critic can be a good thing because it can push you to do things appropriately and with the best effort. Being critical of ourselves helps us to improve, provided we aim toward chipping away at our weaknesses.

But many men tend to be harsh on themselves, having entrenched in their psyche that they need to succeed no matter what. So, they internalize this expectation. But there’s a massive difference between criticizing for the sake of self-improvement versus constantly beating yourself up for no reason. If you’re beating yourself up for no reason, you may need help because our minds should not work that way.

You have to transform the inner critic from destruction to constructive – a kind critic. This step is the hard part. Would you talk to your friend the way you speak to yourself? Once you start treating yourself like you’d treat your friend, your inner critic can become an asset rather than a liability.

Sometimes we have ‘what the heck am I doing?’ moments, but sometimes we have ‘I did it!’ moments. Both are normal, but if you start questioning what you’re doing, drop it momentarily and do something else. You can come back to it later and reevaluate.

You can also be a better coach, teacher, advisor, coworker, or acquaintance to yourself than one of these people can be to you. Sometimes, people believe they are giving good critiques, but they aren’t helpful. That said, we must filter in and out what is being told and speak for ourselves. When I have gotten down on myself, I directly talk to myself about what I need to do better, which has been much more effective and encouraging than what people who are not invested in my improvement or betterment can say.

Constructive criticism must be rooted in genuinely wanting to help someone. Still, sadly, many people don’t care or are destructive, which unfortunately includes people in authority. This difference can be slight or subtle, but it’s undeniable to observe now that I am an adult and understand how people’s actions and attitudes can reflect their intentions.

But this also brings me to the fact that we are our worst critics. We are so incredibly hard on ourselves. We can take something that is a non-issue, which nobody in a million years would ever guess that we’re worried about, and make an issue out of it. We can make it blow up into some huge thing.

Instead, the best bet is to make yourself more confident and secure. That way, over time, you’ll pay less and less attention to that critical inner voice. Life is what you make of it, where your outer world reflects your inner world. If you go through life focusing on the negative, that’s what you will see: finding things that back up your belief system. This thinking can lead to a downward spiral because you are looking for it.

Having a critical inner voice is part of human nature. Just how much we let it take control of our lives matters. It’s a mechanism to improve constantly, which is okay in a limited amount, but know how to differentiate between the things in your control versus those that are not in your control. Don’t let that critical voice and thoughts take control of your life. Focus on the good, and good will come. Focus on the bad, and you will find more bad. To fix the problem, start in your own head.

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