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9 Tips to Stop Beating Yourself Up (& be At Peace With Yourself)

by Hugo

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Beating yourself over something that happened in the past doesn’t help you live a happier life. However, moving on and accepting the past is easier said than done. How do you stop beating yourself up, then?

Writing down what you’re beating yourself up over is the first step. What follows next is a journey of self-acceptance and mindfulness that will help you move on. In the end, you’ll hopefully learn to accept that you’re only human and that everybody makes mistakes sometimes. Stop beating yourself up for every mistake you’ve ever made, and focus on a positive future instead.

This article covers some of the dangers of constantly beating yourself up, and more importantly, how to move on and get over these negative feelings.

The dangers of beating yourself up

Sometimes, it’s good to be hard on yourself. This is mostly true when you’re working towards goals and you need to be disciplined when you can’t rely on your motivation. In that case, beating yourself up may help you work towards your goals for long-term happiness.

But you can also be too hard on yourself. If you’re constantly beating yourself up over something you’ve done in the past, it’s likely hurting your happiness.

This topic is closely related to rumination, which means repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and their possible causes and consequences. If you’re constantly beating yourself up over something, chances are you are ruminating without being aware of it.

Rumination leads to depression

Rumination is closely related to depression, both as a symptom and a predictor. For example, a 2010 study found that higher levels of rumination were associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing both a current depressive episode and a past history of depressive episodes.

The study also found that rumination correlated with greater severity and duration of depressive episodes. 

Beating yourself up affects your physical health

Beating yourself up doesn’t just affect your mental health. A 2012 review found that there is a relationship between ruminative thinking and impaired physical health.

For example, rumination may intensify the perception of perceived somatic symptoms or result in genuine biological stress. Furthermore, rumination can also be a predictor and a contributing factor to physical pain.

There’s some good news underneath all this negative news. Beating yourself up doesn’t have to lead to a psychological disorder or a physical illness. There are things you can do to stop this self-damaging behavior and break the negative cycle.

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How to stop beating yourself up

There are numerous things you can try to help you move past rumination and questioning your past actions. If you try these methods, you may find it easier to stop beating yourself up.

1. Write about it

The first step is painfully simple. Just grab a pen and a notebook, jot down the current date, and start writing about whatever you’re beating yourself up for.

Ask yourself questions that might seem simple but are hard to answer:

  • What are the things that are constantly on your mind?
  • When did these things happen, and when did they start taking up most of your mental capacity?
  • What could you have done to prevent this from happening?

Try to answer all these questions on paper. By writing about whatever’s keeping you down, you’ll experience a number of benefits.

  • Writing about how you beat yourself up makes you confront those issues.
  • It allows you to better deconstruct the issues without getting your thoughts distracted.
  • Writing something down can prevent it from causing chaos in your head. Think of this as clearing the RAM memory of your computer. If you’ve written it down, it’s easier for you to forget about it and move on.
  • It will allow you to look back at your struggles objectively. In a few months’ time, you can look back at your notepad and hopefully see how much you’ve grown.

2. Accept what happened

A part of living in the present is being able to say “It is what it is”.

One of the best lessons you can learn in life is recognizing what you can change and what you can’t. If something is not within your circle of influence, why would you allow that thing to influence your current state of mind?

The things that you’re beating yourself up for are probably outside your current circle of influence. It may be true that they once were within your circle of influence, but if it’s in the past, there’s nothing you can do to change it.

No one can ever change what has happened in the past. All we can change is how we deal with our current situation while moving forward.

If you look at it that way, you’ll see how beating yourself up won’t actually improve your situation. Instead, you can focus your energy on living in the present and improving your actions in the future.

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness has grown a lot in popularity over the past decade, and rightfully so.

According to a 2012 paper, practicing mindfulness is related to greater emotion differentiation and fewer emotional difficulties in young adults. In another study, a short mindfulness intervention was shown to benefit emotion regulation on a neurobiological level – meaning that mindfulness can change how certain areas of the brain work.

But what does mindfulness have to do with you beating yourself up over something? How can you incorporate mindfulness as one of your mental health habits?

By simply taking conscious breaks more frequently. Mindfulness is all about being in the present and not letting your thoughts run amok. Practicing mindfulness will help you stop beating yourself up over something, as it makes you realize that it’s completely outside your control.

Mindfulness allows you to focus on what matters, on the here and now.

We published an article specifically about mindfulness and how to get started with it if you’re interested!

4. Try to think positive

We often talk about the preferred version of ourselves:

  • “I wish I was 15 pounds lighter”.
  • “I wish I did better in school”.
  • “I wish I picked a different career”.

Some of these things are easier to change than others, and there’s no harm in wanting to change the things that we can change. After all, we all want to improve ourselves as a person.

But it’s important to maintain a positive outlook when thinking about stuff like this. Whenever you beat yourself up over something like this, try to find a part of the issue that’s within your circle of influence and work on that.

  • Start tracking your calorie intake so that you can lose those 15 pounds.
  • Find a skill that you want to improve and take lessons or an online course.
  • Explore options to change or improve your current career path.

This type of thinking can really make a difference when you’re trying to not beat yourself up over past events. By thinking positively about yourself, you’re actually more likely to trigger a chain of thoughts that leads to positivity.

This last point was confirmed in a fun study by Barbara Frederickson. The study found that a positive mindset can be triggered, and more importantly, a positive mindset initiates more creativity and an urge to “play ball”.

Basically, when you have a positive mindset, you’re better able to deal with the challenges that life throws at you.

5. Distract yourself with something fun

One of the more interesting studies we’ve encountered over the years is from Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert. The study used random surveys to find that a wandering mind is more likely to be an unhappy mind.

In other words, if you are not busy actually doing something, your mind starts to wander. As a result, you’re more likely to beat yourself up over something as you simply have nothing to keep your mind occupy your mind with.

You can prevent this from happening by just distracting yourself with something fun.

Ideally, you want to find something that will occupy your mind and take up enough brainpower so that there’s no more room for dwelling on something negative. Some examples might include:

  • Going for a run while listening to a podcast or audiobook (my personal favorite).
  • Watching a movie on Netflix.
  • Solving a crossword or sudoku.
  • Talking to a friend.
  • Simple forms of exercise.
  • Etc.

While you can’t distract yourself for all eternity, this method can help you through the most difficult periods. So if you ever catch yourself feeling depressed because you’re being hard on yourself, try to simply distract yourself with something you enjoy doing.

6. Be critical of your negative self-thoughts

Everyone has an inner critic. It’s the nagging, negative voice in your head telling you that you’re a terrible person and that you don’t deserve to be happy.

This inner voice is often the main reason you’re beating yourself up. But what actually causes this inner voice to control the thoughts in your mind?

There are a number of causes, and they can vary based on your own experiences. The biggest causes of this negative inner voice are:

  • Having been excessively criticized, scolded, or yelled at in the past.
  • A general lack of confidence.
  • Suffering from imposter syndrome.
  • The fear of failure in the future.

If you want to stop beating yourself up, you need to start questioning your own negative thoughts.

While this might sound a little crazy, not all of our thoughts are helpful. So taking your internal monologue with a healthy dose of doubt is perfectly reasonable. In fact, one of the best questions to ask when you’re beating yourself up is: “Is this thought helpful?”

If it isn’t, why should you keep repeating it?

Other helpful questions include:

  • What proof do I have that this (negative) thought is true or false?
  • If my friend were in the same situation and thought the same way, what would I say to them?
  • What are some alternative explanations for this situation?
  • Will this matter one day from now? What about in one week or a month? How?

By learning to question your negative inner voice, you’re becoming more self-aware. This added self-awareness can help you focus on more positive thoughts in the future.

7. Talk to yourself as if you were your best friend

How would you react when your best friend shared a mistake he made years ago?

For example, if my best friend told me about a huge mistake he made at work that cost his company thousands of dollars, I’d offer him encouraging words. I’d say that everybody makes mistakes and that a single mistake he made doesn’t compare to all the good things he’s done.

This is the sort of support, encouragement, and love that you should show yourself when you’re beating yourself up. Why would you support your best friend, but not yourself?

Nobody’s stopping you from talking positively about yourself, so why should you?

8. Talk to a friend

If talking to yourself as if you’re a friend is not your thing, try talking to an actual friend. Talking to a friend allows you to make sense of your own thoughts, as you’ll be forced to put your thoughts into words. Simply giving a voice to your issues can help you realize why you’re unfairly hurting yourself for the wrong reasons.

(This is also why writing about your issues is such a great method that can help you deal with a problem.)

Besides, talking to a friend is a great way to relieve stress and negativity. A good friend will support you in your struggles and will want to improve your mood.

Even if you don’t figure out how to stop beating yourself up, you’ll at least find comfort in knowing that there’s a person out there who cares about you.

9. Seek help

When you just can’t seem to stop beating yourself up over something, it’s important to seriously take care of yourself.

A therapist or counselor can help you look at your issues from a new perspective. When you’ve been dealing with negativity for a long time, it may seem that you have thought about every aspect of it. In reality, however, there can be parts of the problem that you are unconsciously ignoring and a professional can help you shed light on those areas.

More often than not, these problems are easy to spot for a person that is looking from the “outside-in”, instead of your personal “inside-out” point of view.

Besides the many benefits of therapy, the taboo on therapy is shrinking every day. You shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit to seeing a therapist. Your mental health is far more important than someone else’s opinion.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Wrapping up

If you keep beating yourself up over something, you’ll find it hard to be optimistic and positive about yourself. If that’s the case, you need to take care of your mental health by working on accepting yourself and seeking support. I hope the tips in this article will help you to stop beating yourself up and move towards happiness.

Do you struggle with self-acceptance? Is there something that happened in your past that you blame yourself for and beat yourself up about? How did you eventually grow beyond this? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

4 thoughts on “9 Tips to Stop Beating Yourself Up (& be At Peace With Yourself)”

  1. This is helpful! I made a (relatively) minor mistake with my newly exclusive girlfriend and have been mentally beating myself to a pulp for the last day! She and I talked about it already, and she’s still my girlfriend! It wasn’t a HUGE mistake, and yet that inner voice can be pretty damn relentless. This article, along with my therapist, is starting to help me cut through the self-hatred I have.

  2. Yesterday at work we wrapped up running a promotion for one of our Clients here. I do Marketing, so pretty much the whole promotion I had to execute on my own. When it came to pulling the top 3 buyers, that was no problem. It was posting to social and letting know our followers who won was the issue. In our Marketing meeting this past Friday, we talked abut this and also an email was sent out by the Dealer Service Manager on how she would like the winners to be announced. I was so overwhelmed by this promotion, a mobile sale that we had just got done with on Tuesday, and my weekly/daily duties that I still had to get done, that I had completely forgot how to announce the winners on our social. I went into the Dealer Service Manager’s office and asked her how she would like to announce the winners. She got mad at me and just told me to talk to my Marketing Manager who I report directly to. I guess the Dealer Service Manager got tied of saying over and over how she wanted to announce the winners (it was only twice) but I completely dropped the ball on this by making it seem like I had no clue what was going on and seeming very unprepared. Eventually, everything was posted to social and the winners notified, but not without talking to both the Dealer Service Manager and my Marketing Manager. After it was all done, I completely felt like a failure and felt like I was complete trash. I was very sad and could feel myself slipping into a depressing state. I stumbled across the article and read the whole thing. I am glad that I have found some comfort and accepting what happened and realizing that I have done so much more for this company Marketing wise than this little mistake and also that I am not alone. I am also not Superman, but an imperfect human who sometimes makes mistakes. I surely learned for this and am hoping not to make this same mistake again. With a strong support system to help keep me from making mistakes in general I feel empowered and more comfortable to keep doing the bomb job that I currently am doing.

    • Thanks for sharing with us, Denzel. You’re right, you’re only human and everybody makes mistakes sometimes. C’est la vie. 🙂 As long as you learn from it, you move on to become a stronger person.

      I’m happy you found our content helpful!



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