A little self-criticism is a good thing because it allows you to give yourself a reality check. However, there's a huge difference between self-criticism and self-sabotage.
Here are some ways to stop yourself from going into full-on self-attack mode:
- Make it small.
We have a tendency to blow our mistakes and failures way out of proportion. When you catch yourself doing this, picture a small box. Then imagine yourself taking the huge, upsetting thing and squeezing it into the little box. By making it small, it becomes more manageable to deal with.
- Ask yourself if it's really that bad.
Something may feel like it is the most horrible thing to ever happen to anyone in the history of the universe, but is it really? In life, things aren't usually as bad as they seem because you are the center of your mental universe when you're inside your head. For example: "I really need to work out" vs. "I'm a fat, ugly blob." The first is a constructive statement of fact. The second is a gross overstatement.
- Ask yourself if you'd treat a beloved friend the way you're treating yourself.
If you wouldn't be that cruel to a close friend, don't be that cruel to yourself.
- Use humor.
For example, say, "Oh, here's my perfectionist gremlin taking over again." By giving it a name, it helps you separate yourself from the middle of it.
- Talk to someone.
When you feel embarrassed or ashamed, pick up the phone and call someone you trust. Just say, "I feel like a complete idiot because I did/said ____," and then talk it out with them.
- Come up with a game plan.
- Forget about being perfect. There's a school of Japanese aesthetics in which the artist always intentionally includes a flaw in a piece of art as a reminder that nothing is ever perfect. We should have integrity and respect for everything we do, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up when we can't do it all perfectly. One of the greatest imperfections is perfectionism.