Depression feels monolithic at times—it towers over our internal landscape, casting a shadow over everything. That long shadow robs the world of color, making it difficult to see anything beyond gloom and hopelessness. The construction of the monolith is complex, but when we look at its foundations, we find pessimism, self-loathing, and shame.

In today’s post, we’ll delve into the role self-criticism plays in creating and fueling depression.

What is Self-Criticism?

We all have an internal dialogue; it’s how we process and make sense of our role in the world around us. Self-criticism is a key component of that internal process. In some cases, self-criticism can be a tool for growth and positive change: It allows us to identify negative behaviors and ways we can improve ourselves. For many, however, self-criticism can run rampant. We become so focused on our perceived flaws and failings that we forget how to be kind to ourselves.

Effects of Self-Criticism

In severe cases, self-criticism can be like living with a noisy critic camped out on your shoulder. It is relentless, even cruel. It comments continuously on everything from your relationships and lifestyle to your appearance and physical or intellectual abilities. This sort of pervasive negativity would have a severe effect on even the most optimistic person’s self-esteem. 

Self-Criticism and Depression

Think of self-criticism as a mechanism for preparing our internal landscape for depression to take root. Relentless self-criticism translates into feelings of hopelessness and insecurity. Many lose faith in their ability to make positive changes in their lives or to improve their situation. Fertile ground for depression to take root.

woman of color looking off to the side resting her head in her handsFor those same reasons, self-criticism often leads people to isolate and withdraw from social circles. Our insecurities limit us; we may feel like a burden when reaching out to old friends, or making new connections. In tandem, depression often feeds on isolation. Isolation creates an illusion that no one cares about us. Without human connection, we’re robbed of positive connections with other people. For someone with an out-of-control inner critic, that’s like locking yourself in a room with someone who spends all their time insulting you. Accordingly, it’s important for harsh self-critics people to find connections that teach them to be kind to themselves.

At some point, you may begin to believe that critic. That criticism may be so pervasive and difficult to escape that you can’t help but see it as the truth. In such cases, your sense of yourself may become warped. While self-criticism can be healthy, if we let it run rampant, we may forget how to celebrate our achievements and victories in life.

Going further, our minds and perspectives on the world are closely linked to our brains and bodies’ physiological health and function. A negative perspective, uncontrolled, can cause changes to the way we process emotions and stress. As a result, our ability to be kind to ourselves, to feel joy and happiness, may atrophy like a muscle we’ve forgotten how to use. These changes are physical in nature, but they are not irreversible. Our body is constantly in conversation with our mind, and we evolve and adapt throughout our lives.

Getting Support

Self-criticism is often a habit we pick up in childhood, but it’s just as likely to develop later on in life as we experience setbacks and disappointments. Self-criticism paves the way for depression and provides material to ensure it continues growing into the future. Establishing a strong support network that can help you navigate those feelings and learn to manage them is important.

Reach out today to schedule a free consultation. We can work together to understand the roots of how your inner critic came to dominate your internal monologue. As a team, we can create a plan to help you tame that beast. Reach out to learn more about depression therapy and how it can help you.

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