What Type of Self-Critic Are You?

What Type of Self-Critic Are You?

As a therapist I see a lot of people who are self-critical. Throughout the years I’ve come to identify two types of self critics. There is no literature that I could find describing the two types, so I simply dubbed these types as overt self-critics and covert self-critics.

I will explain the two types and let me know whether these thought patterns seem familiar to you.

Overt Self-Critic: This is what I would describe as the more common form of self-criticism; the self-critic that tells themselves that they are a ‘bad ‘person because they inflicted hurt on another human being. No one enjoys inflicting pain on another person; as humans we are wired for love.

When this type of self-critic perceives that they’ve hurt someone else, they go into an anxious personal space where the only thing they can focus on is how the other person feels. If that other person said something disparaging about the self critic, the self-critic will feel that this statement is true. They do this quietly and possibly subconsciously, not even aware they are doing so at times. I would describe this person as having very low self-esteem and low self-worth. They spiral down. This person may or may not show it outwardly – for example, many of my clients may note a high heart rate (hovering close to 100 bpm) and I would never know it from just looking at their exterior. However, they tell me their anxiety is through the roof. They may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Self-Critic Type 2: These are the self-critics we don’t talk about very much, but they are out there. These people are self-critical because of a belief they have about themselves based in past experiences or trauma. These past experiences could have occurred in childhood or even before birth (the science of epigenetics) or from an experience that took place a week ago. The experiences could be based largely on cultural and/or societal influences. Think about a Black or Indigenous person and how their experience of marginalization might have shaped their lives.

“Many Covert Self-Critics don’t even realize they lack joy in their life. And that, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.”

via @luellajonk

So how can you tell an Overt Self-Critic from Covert Self-Critic? And why does it even matter?

It matters because I feel there are many, many Covert Self-Critics who don’t even realize they lack joy in their life. And that, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.

For the Overt Self-Critic, the anxiety is much more overwhelming. Also, you can often see it in their behaviours daily. For example, this person has a lot of difficulty planning, and quite often they are a people pleaser; they fear what others might think of them and known as Obligers according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendency Quiz. They can also be quite critical of others. And since they are insecure, they may be defensive because of an inner fear they have of being seen as wrong. Again, they normally have low self-esteem and low confidence in a global sense.

In reference to the Covert Self-Critic, this person may come off as very confident. They have no problem disappointing someone because they know that their needs are important and more so, they understand that they are of no good to anyone unless they replenish their own bucket before ladling out to others. They take care of their needs and are not bogged down with others’ problems, because they know that in order for them to feel good, they need to keep their energy up. These folks can come out as Upholders on Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz. They tend to be optimistic individuals and crave peace and harmony. They are quick to decide and are often leaders or entrepreneurs. They are very disciplined, quite often to a fault. They do not know what self-care looks likes. If this type is a woman, they are too far on their masculine side.

There is a quiet part of this second type of self-critic that they don’t want anyone to know about, because they see it as a sign of weakness. It might only be 10-20% of their makeup, but when they are in that 20% space, they are ruthless and extremely self-critical. No one has necessarily told them that they failed or are failing in this area, but they are constantly judging themselves on it. They tend to be real thinkers and analyzers. They are often deeply intellectual, but again, to a fault. They don’t give themselves a chance to breathe or to be human sometimes. They find a lot of peace in routine and can be very militant in their behaviours. They take ‘good habit’ formation to its highest level.

Examples of this second type of self-critic could be someone that struggles in interpersonal relationships. Maybe they view themselves as an inadequate mother because they saw their own mother struggle with self-doubt raising her own children. Or maybe they’re a very confident woman that has a terrible relationship with food, looking at each meal as getting a pass or fail score because to her food is is either good or bad, it is never just food that you need to eat because you are hungry. The woman in this second example may appear confident on the outside, and does not care what others think of her, but she is anxious as she prepares to eat or angry at herself later for not eating something she deems unhealthy.

So why am I bringing this to your attention? Because some of you out there are very aware of your anxiousness and the sense of constant self-scrutiny. Yet, there are also many others who don’t see themselves as unhappy, anxious, or stressed…yet if they did some deep reflection and slowed the thoughts, they might have a true realization of what it means to feel joy all – the – time. They have made ‘perfectionism’ so normalized, they are not even aware of it. They are not aware of the amount of adrenaline shooting through their bodies and ‘must not fail’ or ‘be weak’ or ‘do lesser than’ part of them that is on constant high alert because of constantly measuring themselves up to others.

How to get out of this need to succeed? How can we take that pressure off ourselves to always measure up to ________? The answer will be in next week’s post. But to give you a teaser, it is related to tapping into your physical energy. What makes you smile, dance, radiate, stand upright…

Till then, I would like you to gain more awareness of how you feel at any given moment, as you go about your day. Are you too much in your head? Are you catastrophizing something that no one else sees? Are you judging yourself as you engage in normal daily behavior? Or can you just exist and live gregariously? Can you be you and still feel joy?

How I Used Atomic Habits in My Own Life

How I Used Atomic Habits in My Own Life

Realizing that most of my clients have some habits that they are proud of and others that they hate, I became more and more curious over the years. Habit formation/change is a big deal and I was interested in learning about the research that’s been done on it. I sought out several books on the subject, and Atomic Habits by James Clear was the one that resonated most strongly with me.

James Clear provides some great guidelines on how to change our habits, both those we want to cultivate and those that aren’t serving us. I took his template of ‘How to Create a Good Habit’ and ‘How to Break a Bad Habit’ and went to work on two habits that I want to change for myself.

“Getting curious about our behaviours while being accepting of yourself is the key to healthy self-discovery.”

via @luellajonk

To create a good habit, Clear breaks it down into Four Separate Laws:

1. Make it Obvious

2. Make It Attractive

3. Make it Easy

4. Make it Satisfying

One habit that I wanted to create for myself was drinking a ‘greens drink/greens powder’ every day, which is something I took away from Episode #6 of my podcast I Think, I Can. On this episode I spoke to Liana Warner-Gray about foods that reduce anxiety, as well as having incredible health benefits, including cancer prevention. Super simple to add that to your life, so why not? Using the template provided, I went to work.

Make it obvious: I decided to drink the powder at lunch time, therefore I needed to place it in a spot that allows me to see it every day at lunch, otherwise I know I will forget it. I am usually starving at lunch so I often grab some almonds when I enter the kitchen (which may or may not be a bad habit ?? stay tuned…) before preparing my lunch. So right beside the almonds is where you will now find my greens powder.

Make it Attractive: The beautiful green colour makes me think of a lush forest and springtime, which is very attractive to me.

Make it Easy: Again, once reminded, it is easy.

Make it Satisfying: I don’t particularly love or hate the drink, but I guess I make it satisfying by visualizing how all the cells of my body are just singing out loud – Thank you! That is just what I needed!

Okay – that was pretty easy. Now, onn to the next task: How to Break a Bad Habit. Right away I know that this is not going to be as easy.

I had to really think about this a bit…because there are a few things related to my diet that I don’t think are particularly good but I might need to consult with my guest from Episode #11, Patrick Laine, an Optimization Mentor and Coach about that one. Instead, I chose a habit that I mentioned to you in a previous post that I don’t think is helpful to me – watching cooking videos.

I mean, I’ve admitted in a previous newsletter that I hate cooking, so what is the point of watching these videos? PLUS, what is even worse, is I do it in bed! On my laptop! Here I am, preaching all about sleep hygiene, telling my clients to NOT take electronics to bed, etc. etc. and now you just found out this therapist does it as well. This is so embarrassing. I am now walking the walk of shame, so please forgive me.

According to Clear, the Four Laws of Breaking a Habit are:

1. Making it Invisible

2. Make it Unattractive

3. Make it Difficult

4. Make it Unsatisfying

If you’re having trouble determining how to decide whether a particular habit is working for you or not, here is a question Clear suggested to use: “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” Ouch… Doesn’t that just make you lower your head somewhat? That question hit me hard. So I did my best to apply his template to my cooking video situation.

Make it unsatisfying: Well, that seems pretty natural. When I end up shutting the light off at night, I do feel unsatisfied. I am disappointed in myself because I likely stayed up at least 30 minutes longer than I would have wanted to and obtained absolutely nothing out of it. I am not engaging in the activities of ’30 min supper ideas’ or ‘meal prepping made simple’ – so it was a waste of my time.

Making it Invisible: Okay – that seems easy. I don’t bring my laptop up to my bedroom OR I do not allow any video to play on my laptop. In other words, shut off my WIFI so I read only. I chose READ ONLY and test if I can maintain this and not be tempted to turn on the WIFI.

Make it unattractive: Hmm, the only idea that comes to my mind is identifying myself as someone that mindlessly ‘scrolls’ or ‘wastes their time on social media’ even though watching a cooking video could be arguably different. The only way it would be different is if I was in fact a cook OR loved cooking. Neither one of those statements is true. So, it is truly an act of aimlessly zoning out. I don’t like identifying myself like that, so it is unattractive to me.

Make it difficult: This seems similar to Law #1, make it invisible. However, I think leaving my laptop in my office and out of my bedroom would make it extremely difficult because once my body hits those sheets, I ain’t getting out.

One week later, my results:

Habit Formation: drink a green’s drink every day. It is a win for the greens drink!! Make it obvious works well for me. I think it was highly attractive for me because I used visualization as well, seeing all those phytonutrients and vitamins being sucked up by my cells worked for me. It may not work for everyone, but it worked for me. The greens drink is also time saving and perhaps cost saving. How many of us throw green produce away because of not meal prepping well (yup, that’s me).

Habit Ending – Not the best. I am still unravelling this a bit, to be honest. I sort of stacked ending a bad habit with the idea of forming a new good habit (reading a book). So I went to Chapters and bought a book that I thought I would really like. It turned out I didn’t. I have another one on order that I will try, and that way I can see if it is just the book or maybe I am not a reader? That is something I need to figure out and speak on a bit more on another post.

After trying the reading a couple of days and seeing it wasn’t satisfying for me, I opened up the laptop. For the next several nights I tried only reading. When I say reading – I don’t mean reading a book. I am usually learning (by reading blog posts, articles, etc.) on topics I am interested in (pertaining to health and happiness). However, in reality, most websites have videos attached to them. So, before I know it – I am watching a video on the topic. I guess that is not bad…or is it? This is what I mean about my need to unravel it more. After all, one could argue ‘how is this any different from watching TV?’. It doesn’t matter whether I am watching a YouTube interview or the Nature of Things on TV, I am watching a screen and it is screen time.

I am not going to get too deep into this – but I think it is the fact that the ‘identification of being someone that watches a screen at night prior to bed’ is not distasteful enough for me. Which is sort of concerning. Or is it?

As I said, I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole because this post is already long enough… but it is making me think…and that, my friends, is a good thing. Getting curious about our behaviours while being accepting of yourself is the key to healthy self-discovery.

Maybe finding the right book is the answer for me. Maybe I am not a reader when it comes to books. Maybe I take information in better by listening to books (lectures, webinars, and yes, Youtube videos). At this moment, reading or watching /listening to topics on my laptop in my bed is NOT unsatisfying or unattractive enough to break the habit. I did stop watching cooking videos however, so perhaps it was a win.

How to Repair After an Affair

How to Repair After an Affair

Hopefully none of you will need to use this information, but for those couples who do, please keep reading.

As a Gottman Level 3 trained therapist, I know a lot about what makes marriages work and what does not. I understand how couples distance themselves and how they are able to come together again. I know who, in my therapy room, are the masters of healthy relationships and who are the disasters. For a nice introduction into Gottman method of couple therapy, please have a listen to Episode #8 of my podcast I Think, I Can.

After infidelity, there is a certain protocol a couple needs to follow when attempting to repair the relationship. And I advise not to try to do it alone. Repair after infidelity is a tricky, circuitous path to navigate, one best done under the guidance of a trained therapist. For anyone who has gone through such a deep betrayal as infidelity, they know what I am talking about. It is not something to be taken lightly. It is a gut wrenching, mind-blowing type of hurt that is difficult to describe. It goes into the depth of your soul. How do I know this? Because I have seen it on my clients’ faces, even long after the betrayal has occurred.

And then when you turn towards your partner and ask them how they could do something like this, the classic answer is “I don’t know”.

“Infidelity is a symptom of a relationship that required daily tending, much like a garden would, yet was ignored.. When too many weeds take over, the garden cannot thrive.”

via @luellajonk

Hmmm – that doesn’t fly over well, now does it?

If I see that the betrayer authentically does not know, then we need to do more individual work. I have that person come in alone and provide them with a questionnaire which helps them to find that answer. During the couples’ session however, I might also ask the betrayer “Now ask your partner what it feels like to hear you say, ‘I don’t know’.” If the betrayer remains emotionless, as a therapist I know we have a problem.

There are three phases of re-establishing the relationship after infidelity.

  • Attunement
  • Atonement
  • Attachment

During the first phase, atonement, any questions the betrayed needs to ask the betrayer is done in the safety of the therapy room. I may encourage the betrayed to write down a list of questions prior to coming in as sometimes these thoughts race around in one’s head all day – but under the pressure of a couples’ session, they can get lost. The purpose of this session is so that ‘no stone gets unturned’ so to speak. The betrayed should have every single question answered. After all, they deserve answers. The truth needs to come out. If it doesn’t, the relationship will never be repaired. The goal is to re-establish trust; without trust, no relationship will stand. Trust and commitment are the two supporting walls in any sound relationship house.

The attunement phase is when we go into the health of the relationship prior to the betrayal. How did the couple communicate? Was there communication at all? However, there are strong rules that I insist on with this discussion. There is no blame, attack, or criticism. In other words – this is my chance to see what the couple’s communication style is – and from there I teach them what communication should look like. I teach them that the four horsemen of the apocalypse (what John Gottman dubbed as the four communication breakdown behaviours he saw in his research with couples) are Criticism, Contempt, Stonewalling, and Defensiveness, and they are NOT allowed in my room. If I see these behaviours, I have no problem abruptly interrupting the discussion. I point it out in the moment so that they become better at noticing it themselves. Attunement is a place for couples to process their feelings. To feel the hurt of the other and to communicate their pain to their partner. The whole process is to bring each other closer, to help them understand each other’s own subjective reality. There are usually many betrayals that have happened in the couples’ history together and we may need to go back to these times and process the feelings that perhaps never got processed.

Attachment is the place where all couples want to get to. It is a place of peace, safety, and contentment, a place of serenity and calm. Trust is solidified during this phase. It is also a time where we establish very clear boundaries going forward. In this phase, we create a plan going forward so you feel safe in continuing this relationship, much in the same way I help couples draw up a parenting or separation agreement when I act as a relationship coach. I encourage the partners to use verbiage such as “I feel ______when you do _____, and this is what I need (from you)”.


No one wants to find themselves or expects to ever be betrayed. Sexual or emotional betrayal can be catastrophic in a relationship, and frankly can end the relationship quite abruptly. There are some individuals that have very firm boundaries that are tied in with moral values. However, the decision to end the relationship is rarely that simple. Each couple I deal with have very different personal histories. Factors that I feel most predict whether a relationship will last through the betrayal or not would be length of time together as a couple, whether there are children, whether trust has been breached prior to this incident, and cultural background.

Personally, as a therapist, it is very difficult for me to see the hurt on an individual’s face who has experienced betrayal in their relationships. I think the most difficult part of this is that it changes the individual (betrayed) on a very personal level. Someone who was once very trusting of their partner, is no longer someone who trusts. Regaining trust in a relationship can be a massive undertaking for any person. It is hard work and it takes time. However, I have a massive respect for couples that make it through this and come out stronger because of it, which is quite often the case. Infidelity is a symptom of a relationship that required daily tending, much like a garden would, yet was ignored.. When too many weeds take over, the garden cannot thrive.

To read more about betrayals, check out my blog series, 10 ways a partner can betray you, (2021).