13 Strategies for Overcoming Self-Criticism

Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council share their best tips for combating the discouraging thoughts that plague many entrepreneurs.
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
March 9, 2021
Updated: July 13, 2021
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
March 9, 2021
Updated: July 13, 2021
stop-self-doubt
Top row, from left: Zac Johnson, Solomon Thimothy, Riccardo Conte. Second row, from left: Daisy Jing, John Turner, Blair Williams, John Brackett. Third row, from left: Kelly Richardson, Brad Burns, Matthew Capala. Bottom row, from left: Cody Candee, Stephanie Wells, Syed Balkhi.

As youre tackling challenges in business, falling into the trap of negative self-criticism is easy. This pattern of behavior, while common, can be extremely discouraging and leave you mentally and emotionally depleted.

To embrace your fullest potential, you’ll want to become your own biggest advocate and engage in healthier, more empowering dialogue with yourself. Below, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members shared their best strategies for overcoming the type of toxic, negative self-talk that can hold you back as a business leader.

1. Remember How You Got to Where You Are

Remember where you came from and how you got to where you are. As entrepreneurs, were often way too hard on ourselves, and we are likely doing much better than the doubt we subject ourselves to would make it seem. During times of struggle, take a moment to sit back and reflect on how you got through such times in the past and excelled in getting to that next level. —Zac Johnson, Blogger

2. Observe Your Thoughts

Try meditating and observing whats going on in your head. Most of the thoughts that fly by are random, unorganized bits of information you once saw or heard. Your self-image is formed by what happened to you in the past, and your negative self-talk is also the result of your past experience. Its a product of your psyche, but it doesnt mean you have to listen to it. You are not your thoughts. —Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

3. Focus on What You Can Control

Be realistic in the first place. Acknowledge that challenges are unavoidable, so when the moment comes, lay out all the possible alternatives and focus on what you can do. Dwelling on things you have no or little control over wont help. Focus your energy on what you can control or influence. —Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow

4. Recognize That Flaws Can Be Strengths

Understand that there are strengths that are disguised as flaws. For example, although you may be extremely sensitive, this may also be a strength because it means you have empathy and good listening skills. Try to focus on what you have instead of putting yourself down by magnifying what you dont have. Turn it around and make your flaws a strength moving forward. —Daisy Jing, Banish

5. Talk to the People Around You

When negative thoughts start popping up in my mind, I take some time to talk to the people around me. Ive found that conversations about the situation at hand can help frame the problem in a different light. Once you have that new perspective, you can shift your thinking and tackle the challenge head-on. —John Turner, SeedProd LLC

6. Engage in Physical Activity

Jump off the train of negative thinking. You can do this by engaging in physical activity. Just going outside and taking a brisk walk can make a world of difference. Taking in some fresh air and a different scene can help you stop your negative spiral. Then, try to replace your negative thoughts with more neutral ones. Focus on small steps instead of big goals. —Blair Williams, MemberPress

7. Practice Mindfulness

If youre constantly beating yourself up mentally when working through company challenges, youre doing a major disservice to yourself. We all have the potential to face occasional self-doubt, but the key to stopping it is mindfulness. When negative ideas start flooding your mind, take a second to consider whether your thoughts are justified. In most cases, you’ll find that they are not. —John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

8. Surround Yourself With Positive People and Things

Surround yourself with people and things who can give you energy and motivate you. Talk to those who are ambitious like you, call a friend, play a podcast, listen to a song, watch videos that motivate and validate you. When youre feeling down, raise yourself up. Know what helps improve your mood and your mindset so you can change it. Always know that action follows your thoughts. —Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz

9. Reflect on Your Achievements

When I have an inkling of personal doubt entering my mind, I reflect on the successes and achievements of the organizations Im at the helm of. Acknowledging your success and the challenges you faced along the way helps you put the situation in perspective. —Brad Burns, Wayne Contracting

10. Make a Gratitude List

Write down 10 things youre grateful for. This is an old practice, but it’s a great one. As a Polish immigrant who started out on the scaffolds of Manhattan with nothing, its not lost on me that I am favored by fortune; however, I use this practice to regularly remind myself of that fact. Gratitude is a practice that wards off negative self-talk daily. Try it! —Matthew Capala, Alphametic

11. Get Better Sleep

Sleep is huge. It sounds crazy, but research shows that negative self-criticism is far more frequent when you havent slept well. Check out the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker for the science on this. Whenever Im feeling down or giving in to negative ideas, I try to get a good nights sleep. I invariably find that when I get up the next day, the negativity is gone. —Cody Candee, Bounce

12. Write Down How You Feel and Why

When I find myself turning to negative thoughts, I like to write down how Im feeling and why. Doing so helps me practice self-awareness so I know how to navigate my emotions and clear my mind of the negativity. Its there for a reason, and unless I understand why, I wont be able to overcome it. —Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

13. Ask Yourself If These Thoughts Are Rational or True

One way to deal with negative self-talk is to ask yourself exactly how rational or true such words are. Very often we think of things like Im a failure or This is terrible when we may have just made one mistake. Thats not rational thinking at all. Being aware that youre thinking in extremes can help you slowly drop the habit of negative self-talk. —Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

More From YECIn a Funk at Work? 13 Signs It’s Time for a Career Change.

Expert Contributors

Built In’s expert contributor network publishes thoughtful, solutions-oriented stories written by innovative tech professionals. It is the tech industry’s definitive destination for sharing compelling, first-person accounts of problem-solving on the road to innovation.

Learn More

Great Companies Need Great People. That's Where We Come In.

Recruit With Us