How to Stop Focusing on Your Flaws

How to Stop Focusing on Your Flaws
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 25 January, 2023

Focusing on your flaws isn’t an act of honesty or a way of being more aware of who you are. While self-evaluation is important so you can learn from your mistakes, it’s a long way from focusing on them, building on them, and criticizing yourself mercilessly.

Within the great capacities of the human brain, is that of seeing our own activity almost ‘from the outside’ at the moment we’re carrying it out. In other words, we observe ourselves while we’re acting and judge what we’re doing.

Unfortunately, this ability sometimes becomes too incisive. It means we excessively focus on our flaws. Therefore, instead of healthy self-criticism, we beat ourselves up and end up belittling ourselves. Why does this happen? Is there any way of overcoming it? Let’s find out.

You don’t have to be so hard on yourself or punish yourself. You have to exercise self-compassion and believe the science and the studies that show that treating ourselves well when we make a mistake does not negatively affect our results.”

-Celia Antonini-

Woman looking in the mirror with fear
Focusing on errors and defects can be extremely destructive.

Why do you focus so much on your flaws?

Excessively focusing on your flaws is an exercise that, most of the time, you carry out without noticing it. You’ve probably adopted it as a habit without even realizing it. In fact, you might even consider it to be a positive action since you believe that it’s a way of improving yourself.

However, you tend not to take into account the fact that excessive self-criticism is far from being a path to growth. Indeed, focusing on your mistakes doesn’t improve you, but actually hurts you. It’s a form of self-harm that ends up limiting your actions while increasing your insecurity.

Why do you do it? There are two possible causes:

  • Educational pattern. You had a childhood in which criticism was the protagonist. Therefore, you internalized the idea that it was appropriate to always point out and face your mistakes. Consequently, focusing too much on your own flaws is consistent with this idea.
  • The unconscious feeling of guilt. There’s something in your life that you feel ashamed or guilty about, but you’re unaware of it. You might have done or wanted to do something that you considered to be reprehensible. Consequently, severe self-criticism is a way of continually punishing yourself.

Signs of excessive self-criticism

Focusing too much on your own flaws may be something you consider to be perfectly normal. You don’t even realize that you frequently do it. So, how do you know if you’re falling into the trap of a self-destructive pattern or simply want to be aware of your mistakes?

The following are signs that you’re overly critical of yourself:

  • Latent guilt. Whenever something negative happens, you think that you could’ve done something to prevent it.
  • You generalize your own behavior. You find yourself saying things like “I’m not capable of doing anything well” or “Situations always get out of hand”, etc.
  • Huge self-demand. For you to consider that something you did is right, it actually has to be perfect. If it isn’t, you consider it a failure.
  • You don’t congratulate yourself. If you make a mistake, you beat yourself up. On the other hand, if you do something right, you just let it go as if it were nothing.
  • Dichotomous thinking. Everything is either black or white. If you didn’t achieve everything, you feel like you didn’t achieve anything.
  • You compare yourself with others. This means you end up losing out.
  • You fear risks.
  • You think that forgiving yourself is condescending and unacceptable.
worried woman thinking
Excessive self-criticism is full of biases, like the illusion of doing things perfectly in order to feel better.

Self-compassion is the way out

Self-compassion isn’t the same as self-pity. In fact, being compassionate with yourself is almost a duty. It means showing solidarity with yourself, adopting an understanding attitude toward your mistakes, and forgiving yourself with spontaneity and joy.

Self-compassion doesn’t mean you’re more indulgent in what you do. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you strengthen the image you have of yourself and, instead of focusing too much on your own flaws, decide to simply let yourself be, it’s highly likely that you’ll obtain greater achievements in all aspects of your life.

Self-compassion spontaneously motivates and fosters positive changes in you. On the contrary, severe and excessive self-criticism only destroys and reduces your chances of moving forward. Therefore, by learning to be a good friend to yourself, you gain much more than when you behave like your own executioner.

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  • Arrebola-Domínguez, M. (2018). La autocompasión.
  • I Massó, A. G. (2009). El cerebro como máquina para aprender, recordar y olvidar. Arbor, 185(736), 451-469.
  • López Cavada, C. (2020). Tratamiento de la Autocrítica a través de la Terapia Focalizada en la Emoción.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.