The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance)

What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like

It is easy to hear the term “self-critical” and be immediately put off. After all, it’s difficult to be our own critics. However, utilizing self-criticism means taking a more self-aware path to ensure that you aren’t overlooking any possible areas of self-improvement.

Self-criticism is a useful tool to identify patterns of weakness that you can look to eradicate by adapting your behavior.

Self-Criticism vs Self-Deprecation

In exploring the idea of self-criticism, one has to first consider what it means for the individual. It’s important to remember that there is a significant difference between being self-critical as compared with self-deprecating behavior.

Self-deprecation is the act of putting oneself down, sometimes in an attempt to be humorous, but oftentimes out of a place of doubt and insecurity.

Self-deprecation erodes one’s confidence. It isn’t something to use lightly, as your own self-talk will play a part in defining your existence and how you are perceived – but more importantly, in how you perceive yourself.

At the same time, you can’t take yourself so seriously that you are unable to make light of your mistakes as you pursue becoming a better version of you. There is of course, as in all areas of life, a balance to be struck, and both self-criticism and self-deprecation can be utilized in moderation.

Learning the difference between the two is the key to pursuing a productive life that will allow your successes to compound and your failures to be reduced. While self-deprecation can highlight flaws in your approach to life, self-criticism is more concerned with addressing those flaws and then acting to correct them.

The Audit Example

I’ll give an example from one of Rachel Hollis’s recent podcasts:

She discussed the idea of a yearly calendar audit in which she looks at all of her appointments from the past year and tries to identify which meetings led to great business success and which ones were essentially wastes of time.

She tried to recognize patterns in the winners versus the losers so that she could hopefully cut out more of the dead-end appointments in order to create room for more successful meetings that were fruitful to her long term goals. ((RISE Podcast with Rachel Hollis: The Most Important Things I Do Every Year))

If we could all use this method, taking the time to reduce inefficiencies in our own behavior and increase productive usage of time, then of course we would see better results in time that allow for future success!

How can you analyze your own yearly ventures from 2019 in order to help create a better path to success in 2020?

I’d argue that the first step is to analyze the process of self-criticism in order to better understand the pros and cons behind such a strategy and in order to increase your potential for future success in your pursuits.

Self-Criticism: A Roadmap for Positive Change

Self-evaluation as a tool can open your eyes to the problematic behaviors that are derailing your goals. By identifying those behaviors, you can identify the steps to take to become the best version of yourself.

“Your thoughts affect how you feel and how you behave. The way you think has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” — Amy Morin((Psychology Today: 7 Ways to Overcome Toxic Self-Criticism))

This idea underlines the importance of not allowing self-criticism to blur into the realm of self-deprecating behavior. That will only work against you as you are attempting to constructively analyze your own behavior.

Auditing is necessary and good. Look at industries across the board and you will find that the most successful companies, people, and products have worked hard to refine their final output. Auditing your life, schedule, clients, contacts, and more. will help you to identify the good from the bad.

If you don’t look back on what you’ve done and allow yourself to be self-critical of the areas that created more problems and less results, how will you learn how to avoid those missteps in your future endeavors?

Auditing will allow you to build your own map to success by targeting behaviors that are ineffective in your pursuit of goals, and it will help you realize the changes that need to take place in order to correct for those inefficiencies.

The Pros

Self-Criticism Opens Your Eyes to Areas of Improvement

In life, you ought to be your biggest fan and instill the confidence in yourself to show the world that you are worthy of the life that you’ve achieved up until now.

At the same time, however, you need to have the self-awareness to understand that you can feel like a million bucks whilst still having room for improvement. Learn to be self-critical enough to increase your overall success in the pursuit of your goals.

We all need to look in the mirror at times and work to identify the deficiencies in our own behavior in order to find room for improvement. So many people live their lives in a manner that allows no room for self-reflection and thus are missing out on key opportunities.

Being self-critical allows us to realize a better life that is more intentional and allows for a clear trajectory of success.

For example, many people complain about not having the money to save for retirement but instead of working to identify a solution, they assume that it cannot be fixed. Some of those individuals might find that if they challenge themselves and open themselves up to criticism, they may find the source of their problem.

Perhaps they don’t have a proper budget in place and are spending more money than they bring in on a week-to-week basis. Being self-critical would help them realize this.

I’d argue that if we all spent more energy evaluating our place in life, how we got there, and where we want to go, it would clearer what is missing from the equation that might be disallowing those plans or desires from coming to fruition.

Self-Criticism Allows You to Realize Your Potential

By working to analyze your own behaviors and identify areas that need to be improved upon, you as an individual will be able to better strive to reach your full potential in life and unlock success.

Being self-critical will help you to go from where you are now to where you seek to be, and it will increase your self-awareness. There are so many positives to be gained by adopting a self-critical attitude.

Read more about self-improvement: 42 Practical Ways to Improve Yourself

The Cons

Self-Criticism Can Overemphasize Negatives While Under-Emphasizing Positives

The problems that could arise if one is overly self-critical are not always clear, but there are a few issues that can pop up if one starts being too hard on oneself.

If you are self-critical too often and don’t allow space in your own audit of yourself for praise, celebration, and reassurance in your victories, then you may be on a path of negative self-talk and perhaps even depression.

If we are constantly looking for what is wrong with our actions or pursuits while failing to see what we are doing right, then we aren’t utilizing self-criticism properly. While the line is thin, there is definitely a difference between appropriate, foundation-building self-criticism, and over-zealous, confidence-eroding self-deprecation.

Self-Criticism Can Lead to Negative Distortions of Yourself

One struggle I often see in individuals is with their own perception of self. If you have been raised to believe that you are a failure, for example, then you may not have a healthy expectation of yourself.

By being overly self-critical, you might be distorting your own self-image, which of course would be a very bad thing. The key here lies in utilizing the device of self-criticism correctly, which many people often do not do.

If utilized properly, self-criticism can be a fantastic tool, but if used incorrectly, it can have devastating effects on your own self-worth and confidence.


In reality, there aren’t many cons to self-criticism. In fact, the only cons that materialize are when you take self-criticism too far and it transforms into self-doubt and negative thought patterns.

When used properly, self-criticism is the key to success.

We must work hard to ensure that we are in fact exercising a constructive analysis of our own behavior and not falling into self-deprecation.

Unfortunately, it seems as though many view the idea of being self-critical with a negative connotation. However, it can be an extremely positive and fruitful exercise if pursued with the right mindset.

Of course, one must utilize the tool of self-criticism in a healthy manner, or it can too easily delve into the arena of negativity, which will only derail you from your overall goals and pursuits.

It helps tremendously when you have a community of friends and family who also help to uplift you and encourage you as you are pursuing your dreams in life.

In evaluating your own situation and in attempting to constructively self-criticize, you should also take a look at the people you surround yourself with to try and better understand if those individuals are helping you in your aspirations or if they are holding you back as you work to better yourself.

“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn((Business Insider: You’re the Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With))

In working to evaluate your own life and identify areas of improvement, you must also look at those who keep your company. There is no doubt that they will impact your walk in life and how high you can soar in pursuit of becoming a better you.

If you work to adopt a healthy version of self-criticism and avoid allowing it to delve into self-deprecation or self-doubt, then it will serve you well as a tool to lend support to your goals and aspirations.

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