Diagnosing Self-Criticism

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all criticized others before. It may be our spouse, our children, our boss—maybe all three in one day! Criticism is a form of pride, and it can easily be recognized as sin. What’s more difficult, and what often goes undiagnosed, is self-criticism.

I can easily mask self-criticism as humility. I can convince myself that I’m so humble that I have a low opinion of myself. Or I can analyze and critique my every move and believe that I’m simply trying to become a “better me.” While we should certainly be growing and changing as believers, the trouble with self-criticism is that it keeps me at the center of my own thoughts. Worse than that, it undermines the power of the gospel; it says that Jesus’ death somehow wasn’t enough to pay for my sins and shortcomings.

“. . . the trouble with self-criticism is that it keeps me at the center of my own thoughts.”

I have struggled with self-criticism over the last six months. It’s been an issue in other seasons, but never like this. In December, I gave birth to my first child, our precious daughter, and I have fought the lies that I’m not good enough ever since. There’s something uniquely beautiful and challenging about motherhood in the way that it causes you to self-examine. If marriage is a mirror into our sin, then motherhood, for me, has been a funhouse mirror. I’m keenly aware of my own humanity, and at times have struggled to believe that I’m forgiven and redeemed through Jesus. My head is crowded with the noise and clamor of the enemy’s lies and my own self-assessment. The resulting shame and guilt can be paralyzing if I allow it. It can keep me from living out my calling as an Ezer, to nurture, invite, and partner with those around me. We cannot live a sacrificial life for the glory of God when we’re focused on ourselves. I’m reminded of Philippians 2 and Paul’s call to imitate Christ:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4

“We cannot live a sacrificial life for the glory of God when we’re focused on ourselves. “

Under the guise of “self-evaluation,” I can become so focused on myself that it’s virtually impossible to take an interest in someone else. It’s hard to serve others, pray for others, or be in relationship with others when we can’t see beyond ourselves. The only true antidote to self-criticism is the gospel. We must reflect on the gospel daily to remind ourselves that what Jesus accomplished on the cross is enough. Because of His radical love for us, we are free from condemnation, including self-condemnation. May we be women who are confident in that truth, and empowered to love and serve others for God’s glory and our good.

Anne Boyd

Anne is a classic firstborn with a love for order & organization. She’s eaten an apple every day for over a decade and might be what you’d call a creature of habit. She’s a new mom to a precious baby girl and has quickly learned the value of a good night’s sleep. Anne attends our Pelham campus.