Have you ever had a friend who is way too hard on themselves? Maybe they just can’t seem to accept a compliment, or they constantly criticize their own appearance and abilities. It’s tough to see someone you care about be so self-critical all the time. The good news is that there are some things you can say to help build them up and shift their mindset to a more self-compassionate place. You have the power with your words to help your friend start appreciating themselves for the amazing person they are.

Read on for some suggestions on what you can say the next time your friend is being too hard on themselves. With your support, you can help turn their self-criticism into self-confidence.

Why People Become Self-Critical

Why do we criticize ourselves so harshly? There are a few reasons:

  1. We absorb critical messages from others. The voices of critical parents, teachers, and peers get internalized, and we turn those criticisms on ourselves.
  2. We hold ourselves to unrealistic standards. We expect to be perfect, and when we inevitably fall short, we beat ourselves up.
  3. We focus on flaws and imperfections. Rather than appreciating our good qualities, we zero in on perceived weaknesses and mistakes.
  4. We think we deserve criticism. For some reason, we believe we should be reprimanded and punished. This belief is often rooted in low selfesteem and feelings of unworthiness.

The truth is, self-criticism is rarely constructive and often makes us feel worse about ourselves. We are all imperfect beings, and we all mess up sometimes. Instead of harsh self-judgment, try showing yourself the same compassion you’d show a friend. Focus on your strengths, learn from your mistakes, and work to challenge those critical inner voices. You deserve to treat yourself with kindness.

The Dangers of Chronic Self-Criticism

Constant self-criticism can be demoralizing and damaging. When your inner voice is relentlessly harsh, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never be good enough. The dangers are real.

Chronic self-criticism can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem over time. It impairs your confidence and self-worth, making you doubt yourself at every turn. You start to avoid challenges and opportunities, scared of failing or not measuring up.

Instead of motivating you, self-criticism backfires. You become your own worst enemy, trapped in a cycle of self-blame and self-sabotage. The negativity also takes a toll on your relationships, as others tire of reassuring you or watching you tear yourself down.

The good news is that you can break this cycle. Learn to recognize your self-critical thoughts and reframe them into more constructive ones. Practice self-compassion and treat yourself with the same kindness you’d show a friend. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments, not just your perceived weaknesses and failures.

With conscious effort, you can overcome chronic self-criticism. Speak to yourself supportively, and be your own best advocate. You deserve to treat yourself well and foster confidence from the inside out. Break the habit of harsh self-judgment and practice self-acceptance. Your mental and emotional well-being will thank you.

Understand Where Their Self-Criticism Comes From

Their self-criticism scaly stems from experiences in their past. Often, those who are overly self-critical developed this tendency due to critical parents, caregivers, or role models in their early lives.

As a friend, gently remind them that the voices of their past do not define them now. Their worth isn’t defined by what others say about them, especially when they are impressionable and have no control over the situation. Help them recognize that the criticism they internalized was a reflection of the other person’s issues, not the truth about who they are.

With compassion, encourage your friend to practice self-acceptance and self-love. It will take time and conscious effort to overcome a lifetime of self-doubt and criticism. Help them reframe negative thoughts into more constructive ones. Challenge them when you notice self-criticism, and ask them to rethink what they’re saying to themselves. Help build them up with genuine compliments and praise for their good qualities and accomplishments.

Your support and belief in them can help quiet those harsh inner voices. Remind them of their strengths, talents, and the times they made a positive difference. Help them see themselves through your eyes, not the eyes of their past. With patience and practice, self-acceptance can prevail.

What to Say to Someone Who is Self-Critical

Self-criticism can be a way of coping with stress, anxiety, or perfectionism, but it can also be harmful to your self-esteem and well-being. If you know someone who is self-critical, you may want to help them by offering some supportive and compassionate words. Here are some possible things to say to someone who is self-critical:

1. Don’t agree with their self-criticism.

Don't agree with their self-criticism.
Don’t agree with their self-criticism.

When a friend is being overly self-critical, it can be hard to know what to say. Here are some suggestions to offer them support without agreeing with their negative self-talk:

Don’t agree with their self-criticism. Rather than echoing their criticisms, offer a more balanced perspective. Say something like:

  • “You’re being too hard on yourself.”
  • “I don’t see it that way. I think you did great.”
  • “Everyone makes mistakes. Try not to be so self-critical.”

Let them know that their self-doubt is unwarranted and that you believe in them. Your positivity can help offset their negative views.

Challenge their unrealistic expectations. Self-critical friends often hold themselves to impossibly high standards. Gently remind them that:

  • “No one is perfect.”
  • “You can’t control everything.”
  • “Go easy on yourself.”

Help them develop more realistic expectations so they won’t feel like failures over every perceived mistake or shortcoming.

Focus on the positives. Rather than dwelling on perceived faults or flaws, encourage your friend to recognize their strengths and accomplishments. Say:

  • “Look how far you’ve come.”
  • “You should be proud of yourself for what you achieved.”
  • “Let’s appreciate all the good things in your life.”

A balanced perspective and gratitude for what’s working can help quiet self-critical thoughts. With your support, your friend can learn to be kinder to themselves.

2. Point out their strengths and positive qualities.

When your friend is being too self-critical, remind them of their strengths and positive qualities. Say things like:

  • You have so many amazing qualities.
  • You’re kind to others and willing to help whenever someone needs it.
  • You make people laugh with your sense of humor.
  • You’re intelligent and always curious to learn new things.

Focus on your accomplishments and skills. Point out their talents, skills, and achievements to remind them of their abilities. For example, say:

  • You’re an incredible artist. The paintings you create are beautiful.
  • You ran that half-marathon last year. That took dedication and discipline.
  • You should be proud of yourself.
  • You have a gift for photography. The photos you take are stunning.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Gently remind them that everyone has room for improvement, and they’re being overly self-critical. Say things like:

  • You’re your own worst critic. Try being as kind to yourself as you are to others.
  • No one is perfect. We all have things we could improve on.
  • You’re doing great and are far more capable than you realize.

Your kind and encouraging words can help shift their mindset to a more positive view of themselves. Continually build them up and remind them of their strengths, talents, and accomplishments. Over time, they may start to see themselves through your eyes rather than through their own self-critical lens.

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3. Remind them of their accomplishments.

Remind them of their accomplishments.
Remind them of their accomplishments.

Remind your friend of their accomplishments and strengths. When self-doubt creeps in, it can be easy to minimize or forget about successes and positive qualities. Gently remind your friend of times they overcame challenges or handled difficult situations. Help them see their inherent strengths, skills, and talents that make them uniquely who they are.

  • “Remember how you organized that huge event last year? You have a real gift for bringing people together and pulling off ambitious plans.”
  • “You’re one of the most creative and innovative people I know. Think of all the creative solutions and ideas you’ve come up with over the years.”
  • “You have so much determination and grit. Like the time you trained for that marathon while working full time. Not many people would have stuck with it, but you did.”
  • “Your kindness and thoughtfulness inspire me. The way you always go out of your way to help others in need says so much about your character.”

Helping your friend recognize their wins, natural abilities, and acts of strength and courage can help put their perceived shortcomings or flaws in perspective. Our self-doubts often stem from focusing too much on a single mistake or imperfection rather than looking at the bigger picture of who we are and all we have accomplished. Remind your friend of their inherent worth and awesomeness. They need to hear it, and you’re the perfect person to remind them.

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4. Ask questions to change their perspective.

To help your self-critical friend gain a more balanced perspective, ask them open-ended questions about the situation. Questions can help people reframe their negative thoughts in a more realistic and compassionate way.

  • What evidence do you have that supports your self-criticism? Often, negative self-talk is exaggerated and not grounded in facts.
  • How would you react if a friend was in this situation? We are usually much kinder to others than ourselves. Ask them to show themselves the same compassion.
  • Are there any alternative ways of viewing this situation? Help them come up with a more balanced and forgiving explanation or solution.
  • What are your strengths and accomplishments? Remind them of their good qualities and past successes to build their confidence.
  • How will this matter in the long run? Asking about the bigger picture can help minimize the perceived importance of mistakes or imperfections.
  • What steps can you take to improve or do better next time? Focusing on constructive solutions is more helpful than harsh self-judgment.

With kindness and patience, you can support your friend in overcoming unhealthy self-criticism. Your questions may be the catalyst they need to start speaking to themselves with more understanding and encouragement. Though it can take time, helping a self-critical friend achieve greater self-compassion is a gift that will benefit them for life.

5. Suggest Ways for Them to Be Kinder to Themselves

Suggest Ways for Them to Be Kinder to Themselves
Suggest Ways for Them to Be Kinder to Themselves

It’s never easy to hear a friend beat themselves up over perceived imperfections or mistakes. As their friend, you’re in a position to lift them up with kindness and support. Here are a few ways you can encourage your friend to be gentler with themselves:

Focus on their strengths and accomplishments. Remind your friend of their talents, skills, and achievements. Say something like, “You’re being too hard on yourself. Think of how far you’ve come and everything you’ve achieved.” Help them maintain a balanced perspective.

Challenge negative self-talk. When your friend says something self-critical, ask them to reframe it in a more constructive way. For example, if they say, “I’m so stupid,” you can respond, “You made a mistake. Everyone does. Don’t be so harsh; you’re intelligent in so many ways.” Help them adopt a growth mindset.

Offer empathy and validation. Let your friend know you understand why they feel that way but that their self-criticism is undeserved. Say something like, “I can see why you would feel that way, but you’re a caring friend, and you don’t deserve to beat yourself up like this. Your empathy and support can help relieve their distress.

Suggest self-care Recommend that your friend do something kind for themselves, like exercising, meditating, or pursuing a hobby they enjoy. Self-care helps release feel-good hormones and improves self-esteem. Say, “You seem really stressed. Why don’t you do something nice for yourself today, like going for a walk outside? You deserve to treat yourself with compassion.”

Encouraging your friend to be kinder to themselves is one of the best gifts you can give. With your support, they can learn to silence their inner critic and nurture confidence from within.

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6. Helping them Challenge Negative Self-Talk

When a friend is being overly self-critical, it can be hard to know what to say to help them feel better. Here are some suggestions to offer them encouragement and help challenge their negative self-talk:

Focus on their strengths. Remind your friend of their positive qualities and strengths. For example, say something like, “You’re really talented at” or “One of the things I admire most about you is.” Help them reflect on their strengths and accomplishments to gain perspective.

Question their negative thoughts. Ask them questions to encourage rethinking their self-criticism, such as:

  • “What evidence do you have that you’re not good enough?”
  • “Would you say that about a friend in the same situation?”
  • “Are you looking at the whole picture or just part of it?”

Challenging negative thoughts with balanced perspectives can help shift their mindset to one that’s fairer and more compassionate.

Offer Reassurance Provide your friend with reassurance and encouragement to help build their confidence. For example:

  • “You’re way too hard on yourself.”
  • “I have confidence in you and know you can do this.”
  • “Everyone struggles at times. I’m here for you.”

Your kind words and support can help ease their self-doubt and remind them of their own inner strength and abilities. With your help, their negative self-talk will start to lose its power over them.

Suggest Self-Care Recommend that your friend practice self-care to improve their mood and outlook. Things like exercising, meditating, spending time in nature, or pursuing hobbies they enjoy can help shift their mindset and reduce negative reflection. Self-care is one of the best ways to overcome destructive self-criticism.

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7. Recommend professional help if needed.

Recommend professional help if needed.
Recommend professional help if needed.

If your friend continues to be overly self-critical even after your support, it may help to gently recommend they speak to a professional. Therapists and counselors are trained to help identify the root causes of negative self-perception and give people the tools to build themselves up.

You could say something like:

  • “I’ve noticed you seem to be really hard on yourself lately, and it’s worrying me. Have you thought about talking to someone about how you’re feeling?”
  • “A therapist could help give you strategies for being kinder to yourself. I really think it could help you feel better.”

Seeking counseling or therapy is not a sign of weakness. Many successful, high-achieving people make working with a mental health professional a priority. Speaking with an expert can help uncover patterns of negative thoughts and give your friend practical ways to cultivate self-compassion.

A good therapist will listen without judgment, provide empathy and support, and work with your friend to set small, achievable goals for improving their self-image over time. While you offer a sympathetic ear, a therapist is trained to properly diagnose and treat unhealthy thought patterns. Recommending professional help could be one of the kindest things you do for your friend.

With support from both friends and professionals, your self-critical friend can learn to ease up on themselves and focus on their strengths and accomplishments. It may take time and practice, but with compassion from others, they can build the ability to be kind to themselves.

8. Offer support and encouragement.

It’s never easy to see a friend being overly self-critical. Here are some things you can say to offer your support:

  • You’re being too hard on yourself.

Remind them of their strengths and accomplishments. Say something like, “You have so much to offer. Don’t forget all the great things you’ve achieved.”

  • I believe in you.

Let your friend know you have confidence in them. For example, say, “You can do this. I know because I’ve seen what you’re capable of.” Your belief in them can help build their self-belief.

  • Focus on your progress, not perfection.

Encourage them to look at how far they’ve come rather than have unrealistic expectations of perfection. For instance, say, “Look how much you’ve improved and grown. Focus on your progress, not some unrealistic idea of perfection.”

  • You learn from your mistakes and failures.

Help them reframe failures and mistakes in a more constructive way. You might say something like, “Mistakes help you grow. Now you have the chance to learn from this and come back stronger.”

  • I accept you as you are.

Let your friend know you appreciate them for who they are—flaws and all. Say something like, “You don’t have to prove yourself to me. I accept you as you are.” Your unconditional acceptance can help ease their self-doubt.

The most important thing is showing your friend you care. Your encouragement and support can help build their confidence from the inside out. With time and patience, their self-critical thoughts may start to ease as they internalize the belief that they are enough, just as they are.

9. Focus on the future and set smaller goals.

Focus on the future and set smaller goals.
Focus on the future and set smaller goals.

When a friend is being overly self-critical, it can be hard to know what to say to help lift them up. Focusing on the future and setting smaller, more achievable goals is a great place to start. Tell your friend:

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone struggles at times and has room for improvement. Learn from your mistakes and perceived shortcomings, then move on.
  • Stop dwelling on past failures or imperfections. The past is gone, today is a new day, and tomorrow can be better.
  • Set small, concrete goals, and take things day by day. Don’t feel overwhelmed by some idealistic vision of who you think you should be. Progress, not perfection.
  • Celebrate small wins along the way. Reward yourself for achieving goals and milestones, no matter how small they seem. Positive reinforcement can help build momentum and confidence.
  • Focus on self-care. Make sure to schedule in time for adequate rest, nutrition, exercise, and downtime. Your self-worth isn’t defined by your productivity or achievements. You deserve to take good care of yourself.
  • Seek professional help from a counselor or therapist if needed. Speaking to an objective professional can help give you strategies and tools for developing a healthier self-image and overcoming negative self-talk.

Your friend’s self-criticism likely comes from a place of wanting to improve themselves, but the path to progress is through self-compassion, not self-judgment. With your support and encouragement, help motivate your friend to be kinder to themselves while taking constructive action. The future is bright, as long as they go easy on themselves along the way.

10. Ways to Help Your Friend Build Self-Confidence

To help build your friend’s confidence, try the following:

Offer Compliments

  • Compliment your friend regularly and sincerely. Say things like “You’re so talented at __” or “I really admire how you handled that situation.” Hearing specific compliments from a good friend can help shift their self-perception over time.

Challenge Negative Self-Talk

  • When your friend says something self-critical, challenge it with a more constructive perspective. For example, if they say, “I’m so stupid,” you can respond, “You’re not stupid. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.” Help them reframe their negative thoughts into more positive and realistic ones.

Focus on strengths

  • Remind your friend of their strengths, skills, values, and accomplishments. Help them recognize all the great things they have to offer. Discuss specific examples of times they excelled to combat feelings of self-doubt.

Set small goals.

  • Encourage your friend to set small, achievable goals to build a sense of progress and competence. Starting with easy wins can help build momentum and self-confidence over time. Offer to check in on their goals and provide support and accountability. Celebrate achievements together, no matter how small.

Practice Self-Care

  • Suggest that your friend practice regular self-care to improve their confidence and mood. Things like exercising, meditating, journaling, or pursuing hobbies can help increase feel-good hormones and ease symptoms of depression or anxiety that fuel negative self-image. Make self-care a habit, and confidence will follow.

With patience and support from a good friend like you, someone who is self-critical can learn to build self-confidence by shifting their mindset to focus on their strengths, accomplishments, and self-care. Keep offering encouragement and help keep them accountable; your belief in them can make all the difference.

11. When to Suggest Therapy for Self-Criticism

When to Suggest Therapy for Self-Criticism
When to Suggest Therapy for Self-Criticism

When self-criticism becomes obsessive or irrational, it may be time to suggest speaking to a therapist. As a friend, you want to be supportive without enabling unhealthy thinking patterns. Here are some signs it may be time for professional help:

  • Their self-esteem seems to depend entirely on achieving unrealistic goals or standards of perfectionism. No amount of your reassurance helps.
  • They have trouble accepting compliments or praise, frequently dismissing or downplaying their achievements and good qualities.
  • Their negative self-talk is frequent, harsh, and disproportionate to their perceived mistakes or flaws. Statements like “I’m so stupid” or “I always mess everything up.”

Their self-criticism causes significant distress or life disruption. For example, avoiding social interactions or opportunities due to a fear of judgment or not being “good enough.”

Your support and encouragement don’t seem to be helping them develop a healthier self-perception or ease their self-critical thoughts.

As a caring friend, suggest speaking to a therapist by saying something like:

  • “I’m worried your negative self-talk may be causing you a lot of pain. Speaking to a professional counselor could help you develop skills to be kinder to yourself.”
  • “Have you thought about talking to a therapist? They’re trained to help people overcome unhealthy thought patterns and see themselves more compassionately.”
  • “You deserve to be happy. A therapist could help you work through what’s holding you back from fully appreciating how great you are.”

Let your friend know you care and just want the best for them. Be there to support them through the process of therapy. With professional guidance and ongoing support from friends like you, overcoming unhealthy self-criticism is absolutely possible.

Phrases to Avoid Saying to Someone Who’s Self-Critical

When talking to a friend who is being overly self-critical, there are certain phrases you’ll want to avoid saying:

Don’t Say:

  1. “You’re too hard on yourself.” While meant to be reassuring, comments like this can come across as dismissive of their feelings.
  2. “You have so much to be grateful for. This implies their feelings are not valid, and they should just focus on the positive.
  3. “Stop being so negative.” Self-criticism is not about being negative; it’s a coping mechanism. Comments like this are judgmental and unhelpful.
  4. “You’re just seeking attention.” Your friend’s feelings are real, and they deserve your empathy and support. Accusing them of attention-seeking will only make them feel worse.

Instead, offer empathy and encouragement. Say things like:

  1. “I’m here for you if you want to talk about it.” Let them know you care and are willing to listen without judgment.
  2. “You matter, and you are deserving of self-compassion.” Help build their confidence by reminding them of their inherent self-worth.
  3. “What do you need from me right now?” Ask open-ended questions to determine the best way for you to support them. Meet them where they are with compassion.

The most important thing is to avoid insensitive or hurtful comments, even if they are made with good intentions. Offer a listening ear, share words of encouragement, and help build your friend’s confidence during times of self-doubt. With support from true friends, their internal critic’s voice can become quieter over time.


You’re a good friend for wanting to support someone who struggles with self-criticism. The most important thing is to show you care by listening without judgment and offering encouragement. Remind them of their strengths, accomplishments, and the times they’ve helped others. Your kind words can help shift their perspective to a more balanced and compassionate view of themselves. Ultimately, though, you can’t force someone to change how they think or feel about themselves. All you can do is continue to be there, speak positively, laugh together, and provide a safe space where their perceived imperfections and flaws don’t matter. Your friendship is a gift, so do your best to lift them up and help them see themselves through your eyes.


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