Most people know it — even kid about it; that they are their own worst enemy. They are critical of themselves in ways they would never be of others. And when they stop long enough to pay attention, they can also acknowledge that they are the worse for all of that self-chastising. The problem is that, too often, they don’t try to stop, or don’t know how.

Those who are masters at self-criticism often create relationship problems with it. Consider Nancy. She is a very nice woman who had a caring boyfriend, Steve. The problem is that she tends to doubt herself a lot and often expects that people will judge her for her mistakes or failings. Because of this, every time Steve complimented her, she asked him why he would even say what he did or went on to explain how he was wrong. At first, Steve was eager to prove that she really was wonderful. But, after a few months, he grew so tired and frustrated by this that he began to associate spending time with Nancy with being annoyed. Soon he began making excuses to do things without her and eventually broke off the relationship.

If you, like Nancy, are your own worst enemy, it’s important that you learn to be your own best friend. To accomplish this feat, you need both self-awareness and self-compassion. Self-awareness occurs at many levels. It means being in touch with your emotions enough to recognize and label them. It means being aware of your traits, strengths, and weaknesses. And it means understanding how your life experiences have affected, and how they continue to affect, you.

Self-compassion is about approaching yourself in an accepting and caring way. While Nancy might be self-aware, she is anything but compassionate toward herself. Instead, she uses her knowledge about herself to be more critical. If she learned to practice self-compassion, she would be more accepting of herself, loving the whole package of who she is. She would also be more open to positive feedback. And if she found herself being self-critical, she could practice being compassionate toward her struggle. Even if she were uncomfortable with some of Steve’s compliments, she would choose to focus on the fact that he sees her in a flattering way and perhaps even learn (with time) to see herself that way, too.

Such compassionate self-awareness is a wonderfully effective antidote to self-criticism. Although it takes time and effort to practice, you can help it along by choosing the right, supportive partner — one who sees all of you and loves you for who you are (accepting, or even loving, the parts that you think are not so lovable). By looking to that person and really practicing seeing yourself through his or her eyes, you just might find self-love along with a loving relationship.

Read article at:, By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD,,