4 Bad Habits Of Self-Critical People That Destroy Great Relationships

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Redheaded woman hugging man who is turning away, country road in the evening

At the start of any relationship, we tend to highlight and tout our strengths to our potential new partner. Rightly so, as we usually want to put our best foot forward.

We may share a few negatives here and there at the onset, but generally we know enough to avoid anything too negative to reel the person in with our better qualities before disclosing what might be perceived as deterrents to solidifying a possible partnership or a long-term relationship.

Then, finally, it happens — we find and formalize the perfect love interest. We cherish spending time with each other, we laugh with each other, we work through hard times together, and overall, we feel like we’ve hit the jackpot.

Yet, sooner or later, the flaws that we so diligently kept to a minimum initially start to present themselves in the relationship.

It could be caused by stress in specific scenarios, or they simply develop in clarity over time. To acknowledge our shortcomings, we may point out these imperfections to our partner more and more regularly, which may cause some friction between us and our significant other.

Yes, self-reflection is necessary, and a healthy dose of self-disapproval can, at times, be helpful for personal and interactive growth.

But sometimes our self-criticism can wear down the great relationship we’ve spent time forming, and often, we don't even realize it. 

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Here are four ways your self-criticism might be undermining your relationships 

1. You use your self-criticism as an excuse 

While it may be helpful to remind our partners that certain things are not our forte, using self-criticism as a crutch or a way to get out of doing something on an ongoing basis is not good for your relationship.

Partnering with another person requires a give and take, and part of the giving is often doing something you don’t want to do or may not be very good at. Continually falling back on or using your self-deprecating ways to avoid or even guilt your partner into doing something you don’t want to do eventually will have detrimental side effects. 

At the same time, if you’re feeling extra incapable of something, it is best to express your concern. Life happens and our tolerance and capability fluctuate with stress, health, and other factors. Being upfront about levels of comfort and discomfort can provide an opportunity to work together and deepen the relationship.

Asking for help should not be avoided, but it should also not be a regular occurrence when it deals with an aspect of yourself you feel is a lesser quality and that you criticize often. Your partner will quickly grow tired of the perceived games, start calling your bluff, and may eventually consider stepping away from the relationship altogether.

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2. You don’t try to improve your self-criticized aspect

If you find yourself unable or maybe unwilling to even attempt to improve a specific aspect of yourself for the sake of the relationship not to mention for yourself, within reason of course, the relationship may suffer and worse yet, may not last as long as you hoped. Not learning from your mistakes or weaknesses can definitely wreak havoc on your relationship. However, if you are actively and continually working on improving some of your self-proclaimed flaws, exceptions are ok as long as they aren’t the rule.

On the other hand, there may be nothing you can do to improve what you’re criticizing yourself for, like the family you were born into, or a physical aspect of yourself. Here, you might need to incorporate things like acceptance or forgiveness and continue to highlight all the positives you see in yourself and avoid focusing strictly on the negatives.

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3. You are constantly affected emotionally by your self-criticism

Since you know many of your own weaknesses, you are apt to disappoint yourself. You may be regularly affected by your internal and external flaws, and you may feel guilty and inadequate for a variety of self-inflicted reasons. The inadequacies you feel or experience may prevent you from deepening your relationship with someone who you find an important part of your life simply because you have made yourself feel less than.

If find yourself consistently down due to these aspects or you continually rely on your partner to make you feel better about your self-criticisms, these practices could lead you to a path of separation. As much as people may like to try, no one wants or has the energy to be a consistent cheerleader 24/7. That scenario shifts the scales and creates an imbalanced relationship.

Yes, your partner should be supportive when you’re down or low, but it’s your responsibility to get yourself out of your own funk most of the time. 

On the flip side though, if you’re experiencing more lows than usual and you feel you are at risk for depression, you may want to consider attending therapy to work with an ongoing issue. There are always ways to support our mental and emotional health if we’re open to them.

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4. You start carrying criticism over to your partner and other external situations

Criticism in general begets more criticism. If you are always looking at yourself for things that are wrong, you will tend to view your relationships and all life experiences through that same lens. You eventually tire of being down on yourself and start looking at your partner and all external situations and begin to criticize them as well. 

Over-criticizing your partner can push them away, even if you have their best interest at heart. There are objective ways to deliver criticism and it is good practice to talk with each other to determine what the best times and ways to do so would be, as well as how open you both are to discussing said criticism.

While there is usually room for improvement in all of us and in many situations, a healthy balance of constructive reflection and staying aware of your strengths is always helpful.

In a healthy, balanced relationship, including the relationship with yourself, you can learn to play your strengths to your weaknesses and see the good in yourself, which then can translate to seeing the good in others and external situations.

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Pamela Aloia is a certified grief coach, intuitive/medium, and author supporting people through change and enhancing their lives and experiences via energy awareness, meditation, and mindfulness.