Self-Criticism vs Self-Compassion as Motivation

Motivation: “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”

If you are reading this then you are probably someone who works out at least sometimes. Well, I have some questions for you.

Are you someone who usually succeeds when they try something? 

Are you someone that hasn’t struggled with failure? 

Are you too afraid to put yourself out there to even have the possibility to fail?

I’m sure you can see a few times in your life you have stumbled or messed up. 

Let’s say you made a poor choice and ended up in a situation where you needed to ask for help. Who do you turn to? The person who is going to yell at you and tell you how stupid you are or the person who makes sure you are okay first and then asks how they can help?

You may be thinking “Of course I would choose the second person!”

Well my friends, that is the difference between self-criticism and self-compassion. Self-criticism are those thoughts we have when a failure happens and we start to yell at ourselves.

“How could you be so stupid”

“This is why no one likes you”

“You should be better by now”

“You’re not trying hard enough” 

Starting to sound familiar? I bet a few times in your life you have used these phrases. Maybe after getting fired, going through a break up, or failing a lift you have hit before? When we yell at ourselves we release adrenaline and cortisol. Our fighting hormones. Our hormones that say “You need to protect yourself” but who are they fighting against? 


You are now fighting and defending yourself against yourself. Literally the biggest lose lose situation I can think of. Statements meant as motivations such as, “rub some dirt in it”  or “you’re not actually hurt just keep going” are not as helpful as they were intended. These phrases have been embedded in your psyche as rules. You begin to question if you actually aren’t hurt and you shouldn’t listen to the signals your body is sending. 

Here is what to do instead:

Here’s where self-compassion comes. You hold yourself accountable while also seeing if there is room for improvement. This looks like:

  • Watching back a video of a missed lift and breaking down points of performance
  • Taking into account how much you are sleeping and eating
  • Asking yourself “What do I need right now?”

These things help you LISTEN to your body and it’s signals. This increases your awareness of your wants and needs without tearing you down. As a result there is a release in endorphins and oxytocin helping you feel more positive and loved. 

Try this out next time you are struggling. I promise you are way more likely to be able to achieve your goals with self-compassion than self-criticism.

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