4 signs a man is prone to excessive self-criticism in a relationship

Being overly critical of ourselves in relationships is an easy trap to fall into these days, especially for us men. 

Social media, in particular, can cause us to form unrealistic expectations of ourselves. 

While we can all appreciate recognizing the need for improvement, excessive self-criticism simply doesn’t serve us. 

Rather it makes us and our significant other less satisfied, and when left unchecked, can create a negative feedback loop that makes us truly miserable. 

Think you are being a little too hard on yourself?

Today, we discuss four signs that this is the case. 

Let’s dive in. 

1) You say “sorry”…a lot 

Excessive “sorry’s” may seem like well-intentioned politeness, but they are often a sign of a man (or woman) who is very critical of himself. 

It’s all too common nowadays.  

It’s so common, in fact, that Google Chrome has a Just Not Sorry plugin to monitor such phrases that undermine one’s message when writing emails!

Anyway, do you apologize when your partner shares his or her feelings as if their emotional experience is a discomfort you caused?

Do you say sorry for your opinions during discussions, undermining your own thoughts before they’re fully expressed?

Do you apologize for needing some alone time?

If you are nodding along right now, it’s a clear sign that you are a little too hard on yourself. 

As noted in a Fobes article by Psychologist, Jay Rai, it’s a sign of low self-esteem. It can also make others think less of you

Not to mention that for your partner, it is quite frankly annoying

Over-apologizing can obscure genuine communication. Instead of having a conversation, you end up drowning in a sea of “sorry’s”. 

It creates a boy who cried wolf situation. How can your partner know when you are genuinely saying sorry and when it is just a subconscious reaction?

They can’t. 

So what’s the solution?

Reflect on why you tend to apologize excessively; understanding the root causes can be a game-changer in breaking the habit. Engaging in self-reflection through journaling can be a great way to do this. 

Once you have identified situations and reasons you tend to over apologize, simply stop yourself from uttering the words “sorry”. You will need to make a conscious effort to avoid it at first but with time, you can break the sorry cycle. 

Finding a way to say “thank you” instead can also be helpful. 

For instance, if your partner shares their feelings, instead of apologizing for how they feel, you can say, “Thank you for opening up to me. I appreciate your honesty.” 

This not only avoids unnecessary apologies but also fosters a more positive and appreciative atmosphere in your relationship.

2) You don’t take compliments well

Not being able to accept compliments is another clear sign that you might be grappling with excessive self-criticism.

This could stem from numerous sources, including past experiences or societal pressures

You may not even realize you are doing it, but it can eat away at your confidence, and as a consequence, damage your relationship. 

Here are some telltale signs:

  • You brush off compliments from your partner with a self-deprecating joke or comment.
  • You attribute your successes to external factors like luck or the help of others. 
  • You feel physically uncomfortable or anxious when praised by your partner and shift the conversation away from yourself. 

Often, this isn’t just modesty. This inability to accept compliments suggests that you don’t believe you deserve them. 

Instead of shifting the praise of moving off the topic, trust that your partner is being sincere and just say, “thank you”. 

Even if you don’t believe you are deserving at first, this simple shift can help to begin a mindset change. 

3) You compare yourself to others

This is a big one. 

Comparing oneself to others is natural, and we all do it to a certain extent. However, when we constantly measure our life against others’, it’s a problem. 

Do you scroll through social media, eyeing the curated highlights of peers and feeling you don’t stack up in your career, physical appearance, or even the happiness of your relationship?

Or perhaps you hear of a friend’s success and, instead of feeling joy for them, you are plunged into a spiral of self-doubt, questioning why you haven’t achieved the same milestones. 

Often this kind of mindset extends to our relationships. It can cause us to question why our relationship isn’t like those we see around us or on social media. 

Unsurprisingly, this leads to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. 

It’s not a good mental state to be in. 

What can we do about it? 

As advised by Dr. Jordan Peterson in 12 Rules For Life, “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday”. 

Comparing our relationships, or any part of our lives, to those of others is completely illogical. The truth is we simply don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. 

Social media shows a glimpse of people’s lives, often the most glamorous part. 

Colleagues and acquaintances are motivated to present themselves in a good light in person and online. 

The only relevant comparison is to your past self. Forget about everyone else. 

4) You dwell on small mistakes

Do you often find yourself mentally replaying those small missteps, almost as if you’re stuck in a loop? 

Does your inner dialogue sound more like a harsh critic than a supportive friend?

Do your past mishaps overshadow current victories?

If so, it indicates a harmful level of self-criticism.

When we are unable to move past even the trivial blunders, it leads to a cycle of negative self-talk and resentment. 

This can put a strain on your relationship. It may sound harsh, but your partner doesn’t want to be constantly hearing about your regrets or putting up with a man who can’t get over his past.  

Instead of ruminating on past mistakes, big or small, reframe them as learning experiences. See the silver lining. 

Also, acknowledge that we all mess up from time to time. None of us are perfect, and mistakes are simply a part of life. 

Like the others on this list, breaking this habit will take time and effort, but with a commitment to change, you can break free from it. 

The bottom line 

Change is slow, but with patience and steady steps forward, anyone can break free from the chains of self-doubt to embrace a more confident and self-assured existence. 

As always, I hope this provided you found this post enjoyable to read and that it has provided you with some food for thought. 

Until next time. 

Picture of Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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