Many people unconsciously judge themselves for every slightest blunder, thereby destroying their emotional balance and self-esteem. A psychologist tells us why the tendency to a permanent sense of guilt and criticism develops.


The root cause of self-esteem problems is a childhood surrounded by critical relatives.

From a small age you were constantly indoctrinated that you must do everything perfectly. Not just good, but better than the daughter of Aunt Masha from the neighbourhood. Because of any small mistake parents raised their eyebrows and wondered: “Where did your hands grow from? Who made you like this?” Grandma would run for corvalol because you were “about to drive her to her grave”, and grandpa would hide behind the newspaper so that “his eyes couldn’t see you”.

Over time, the criticising adult “moves into” the child. In psychology, this is called interiorisation – when an external object becomes internal. A person grows up, lives separately from his parents, but in case of a blunder, the words from childhood are automatically heard in his head: “I’m stupid! I always have nothing to do!” And consciously he wants to raise his self-esteem, but unconsciously he scolds and criticises himself even for small things.


If you want to gain confidence, have a sense of self-worth and stable self-esteem above average, then without working with the inner critic it is unlikely to succeed.

You will have to develop the ability to maintain and keep a good attitude towards yourself at any mistakes, falls and failures. You will have to learn to get upset about breaking important contacts, to get angry at the person who did not keep a promise, to worry about being late, and not to blame yourself for all situations.


Don’t get the idea: you don’t have to turn into a pompous turkey with an inflated sense of self-importance. Dignity does not exclude moderate criticism of your behaviour. But it is criticism, not criticism.

For example, you can admit that you took out your anger on a child, shouted at him for nothing – and apologise. That’s being critical. To dwell on that action, sprinkling your head with ashes and calling yourself names is criticism.


Example 1

Some people admit their mistakes very easily, apologise sincerely, tell everyone how they didn’t mean for it to happen and how guilty they are in front of you. They are ready to vividly demonstrate their “I’ll make it up to you” behaviour, post pictures of themselves with you online with luscious captions, and dramatically lament in front of the whole team or family.

If the budget allows, it is even possible to rent a billboard, where all your virtues will be written and, of course, a hundred thousand apologies. If funds are not available, such people will tear the shirt on their chest, swear on their mother’s heart that this will not happen again, and wail: “Well, do you want me on my knees to apologise?”.

Don’t expect more than that, however. They can only offer you vivid remorse

Fixing the situation, repairing the consequences, compensating you and preventing future recurrences is too complicated a way to be good. So the real issues will remain your problem. But it is worth resenting, as you will hear in response, “I admitted fault, what more do you want?”

If you claim monetary compensation, however, it is completely in vain. For example, a friend’s child smashed your phone. You spent a week listening to words about how inconvenienced she was. But when you plucked up the courage to ask if she plans to pay for the repair, you heard reproaches in mercantilism: “You do not care about our friendship, you only think about money!”

At the same time, the accuser herself feels great, because the bad person appointed you. This means that her inner critic has allowed her to relax, released her stranglehold and at least for a while allowed her to remember her sense of dignity.

Example 2

In conflict situations, it is the search for a guilty party that reveals a person with a strong inner criticising part. For example, there is a scandal in the family: the teenage daughter has slipped to a “C”. The teacher talks to the parents, asking them not to scold the girl, not to be too strict with her – it’s still adolescence. And then the father exclaims: “So what do we get now? You think it’s my fault?” Although the teacher did not say anything about guilt. You can continue the dialogue after assurances that no one is blaming anyone. The dialogue is about helping the student, not passing judgement on her parents, school or bad company.

Example 3

Sharing your worries with such people is also hard. If you feel bad, they unconsciously consider themselves guilty and start to defend themselves: “I told you right away that he was a womaniser! But you didn’t want to listen to your mother!”

If you recognise yourself or someone from your surroundings in these examples, it will not be possible to get rid of self-blame with the help of positive affirmations. Neither praise nor reassurances that you or a loved one is a wonderful person will help. Until there is no alternative way of reaction, it will be difficult to find self-esteem. It will become much easier after a course of psychotherapy. Thanks to it you will learn at least to recognise the influence of the inner critic and to manage it.