Self-Criticism: How our internal critics enslave us


How often have we sat in silence thinking of all the wrong things we have done or just judged ourselves in a room full of people. But have you ever thought how this self-realisation, fancy way of saying self-criticism, can sometimes play with your sanity and impact your peace of mind?

The process of formulating a judgement based on the evaluation of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments is known as critical thinking. The topic is complex; there are several definitions, but the essential notion is that it entails a rational, sceptical, and unbiased inquiry or evaluation of verifiable data. It is an integral component of human development, yet this constructive desire can occasionally devolve into harmful impotent protest and embittered resignation, leading to cynicism.

What is self-criticism?

When expectations are not met, self-criticism is characterised as the inclination to engage in negative self-evaluation, resulting in feelings of worthlessness, failure, and guilt; it was once thought to be particularly relevant to the development of depression.

In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism.

Adam Philips in his work Against Self-Criticism, found in his acclaimed collection ‘unforbidden pleasure’, explores the human tendency to go far beyond the self-corrective lucidity required for improving our flaws.

He talks about how our predatory self-criticism nature has now become a pleasure.

In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism; in which the alternatives of celebration and criticism are seen as a determined narrowing of the repertoire; and in which we praise whatever we can.

Freud’s ideological Legacy

Drawing coherence from Freud’s ideological legacy, Philips discusses how human’s masochistic impulse for self-criticism is derived from our very nature of being ambivalent towards life.


In Freud’s vision of things we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate, we love; wherever we love, we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can also frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us, we always believe that they can satisfy us. We criticize when we are frustrated — or when we are trying to describe our frustration, however obliquely — and praise when we are more satisfied, and vice versa. Ambivalence does not, in the Freudian story, mean mixed feelings, it means opposing feelings.

Love and hate are two strong words and antonyms that are majorly our source of emotion. They are so interdependent on each other, that at a time, you can only have a single emotion. Our hate for people is defined by how much we love them and vice versa. This is the reason that these feelings are part of everything we do in our lives.

As Freud said, we are ambivalent about everything and anything that matters to us. Ambivalence is how we detect when someone or something has become meaningful to us. There is always protest where there is commitment and distrust where there is confidence.

We have become so busy criticising ourselves and the others around us, that we have forgotten to enjoy the other side of it – Self-love.

Were we to meet this figure socially, as it were, this accusatory character, this internal critic, we would think there was something wrong with him. He would just be boring and cruel. We might think that something terrible had happened to him. That he was living in the aftermath, in the fallout of some catastrophe. And we would be right.

This criticism has to lead to continuously changing our character. Our inner voices have taken over so much of ourselves, that we have forgotten how to live without them. This is also the reason that even before we start something, we begin to judge ourselves.

Self-criticism is nothing if it is not the defining, and usually the overdefining, of the limits of being. But, ironically, if that’s the right word, the limits of being are announced and enforced before so-called being has had much of a chance to speak for itself.


In this era where criticism is freely flowing on the internet, and every other person is being criticised for their looks, work or their gender, it is extremely important that we stay true to ourselves. we should not let criticism sink our confidence and change the person we are.

Always remember that no matter what others say or what you do outside, it is always the ‘Man in the mirror’ you have to come back home to. So, Be the Best and learn contentment as you grow old.

While self-criticism cannot be completely eradicated-not it should be. It is also one of life’s navigating tools. But it is important to nurture it wisely as self-criticism can become “less jaded and jading, more imaginative and less spiteful.”