Most of us are much harsher on ourselves that we ever are on others. We give our friends all kinds of leeway to make mistakes and be human. But, often we expect outstanding performances from ourselves. And, since that’s never possible, we end up viewing ourselves in an unfair and unkind light.

Developing a balanced, realistic view of yourself takes curiosity and commitment. You need to be willing to look at the ways in which you talk to and appraise yourself and you have to be willing to change those habits. But it’s worth it. Healthy self-appraisal is associated with reduced depression and anxiety, more satisfying relationships, and improved overall quality of life.

Here are three steps to start.

1. Listen to your self-talk.

Narrating our successes and failures; this streaming commentary, which cognitive behavioral therapists call “self-talk,” is usually internal and automatic. And we’re often not even aware that it’s going on at all.

2. Evaluate its credibility.

Once you’ve tuned into your self-talk, it’s time to explore it. There could be negative self-talking involved as well. Catastrophizing: Predicting negative outcomes while ignoring other possibilities, Black and white thinking: Seeing things (including yourself) as all good or all bad, rather than somewhere in the middle, Mind Reading: Assuming that you know what others are thinking & Emotional reasoning: Believing something is true because you feel like it is, without having any real evidence.

3. Challenge unhelpful messages.

Try these strategies to end irrational self-talk.

Examine the evidence. When there isn’t compelling evidence for your unhealthy self-talk statements, tell yourself so – again and again. 

Once you get into the habit of challenging negative self-talk, you’ll probably find that it has less power over you and eventually occurs less frequently. This is a great sign that you’re doing the hard – but worthwhile – work of silencing your irrational inner critic and beginning a more peaceful and supportive relationship with yourself.