Self-criticism is not the same as self-awareness. Self-criticism is like a negative mantra that most alcoholics and addicts have unconsciously practiced for years. There is a way to combat this vile chatter. The compassionate, self-awareness resulting from consistently practicing the 12 steps, especially 4, 5, 6 and 7, are the answer.
You’ll need patience with yourself – not something that comes naturally to people who tend to view themselves negatively. At first it can take time to even realize that your thoughts of “that’s just the way I am” (e.g. I’m a loser) are really self-criticisms. And when you do realize this, more ‘rational’ alternatives might not come to mind easily (and most likely not in the moment). But with practice, time, and patience, there’s a good chance you will begin to view yourself more positively.
Unfortunately, you might also find that you remain committed to your old, self-critical beliefs – irrationally fighting the new, more positive thoughts. Then, to make matters worse, you might chastise yourself for this resistance. The problem is that you are trying to make yourself believe something that you don’t really believe. It’s like someone else trying to convince you that night is day; you will probably never believe them no matter what they say.
Think about your interactions with other people. When they show that they are really trying to understand you, and have compassion for your struggles, you are more likely to open up. The same is true when you are on the receiving end, and listening to another’s painful story. This combination of self-compassion and self-awareness (compassionate self-awareness) can be very powerful. By healing ourselves we help to heal those around us.