The truth About Why We Beat Ourselves Up

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

I consider myself pretty lucky, apart from a few scraps here and there at school, I have never actually been in a real fight. Though I can’t say I’ve never been beaten up. Whereas I have never been beaten up by another person, I have been beaten up by myself. On numerous occasions. And like some archetypal bully it happens again and again. Why is that?

A happy soul

It’s not like I don’t like myself or the person that I have become. On the whole I’m quite a happy soul. And it is not like I am clumsy, forgetful or prone to putting my foot in my mouth. Of course I have my moments, but it’s nothing to make a big deal over.

Now even if it is the case. I am not saying either would be an excuse for some self kicking. Yet the fact is for some reason I am still at the mercy of a tyrant who, despite numerous protestations won’t leave me alone.

And this could be for anything, from the smallest thing, like how I am looking to some grand question like what am I ‘really’ doing with my life. It does not discriminate. Often when I am beating myself up for one thing, I will look around and find something else to beat myself up with, grabbing the nearest metaphorical stick. 


It can go on and on, in one long and vicious cycle. Until I am totally defeated, humiliated, scared or just completely cowed. Take your pick, I always end up as one or another.

What is more, the beating is always particularly vicious. As it is me beating myself up, all weaknesses are known and exploited. Every button is mercilessly pushed and because no one seems to be watching no quarter is given.

It’s really horrible and at times there seems like there is nothing I can do. No pleading works, it just makes it worse and I certainly can’t hide, because well, I can’t, not from myself.

Self inflicted Pain

So I just have to sit there and take it. The thing that is most annoying and probably most troubling is that I always seem to beat myself when I am already feeling low. Never when I am full of energy, feeling great or super positive. I know exactly when to strike. 

All those  times where I really need a big hug or for the cheerleading squad being rolled out to remind me just how amazing I am. Not jumping on myself with critical fists flying. Anything that is not going to make me feel worse would do. A little solidarity or compassion at least, but no, I can never seem to bring myself to do it. 

So what to do?. I also know that it will never go away because it is part of me and there will always be points in my life where I am feeling low. I can’t just ignore it either, It carries on regardless of that. Yet I cannot go through this rigmarole time and time again. The key here, I have decided, is empathy and understanding. 


And this is what I have started to do. I have begun to really question why I am doing this to myself? To ask what is really going on here. What is the real reason behind it all?  Amazingly it seems to be working.

An example: Monday morning

I feel really low and start beating myself up for doing this or not doing that. It goes on and on. I accept it all at face value, I think yes, I could have tried harder there or I should have been better at that. Then I ask myself what is really going on here and realise:

  1. I am tired and didn’t sleep well; 
  2. It’s raining outside and I have to go out and do stuff; and
  3. I had a great weekend, having lots of fun and am sad it’s over. 

The list can go on. But at the end of the day, it is the real reason I am beating myself up.  The other stuff has absolutely nothing to do with it. When I realise this, it is totally understandable to be feeling how I am feeling.

It’s OK

It is alright to want to stay in bed, who wouldn’t?. That yes, doing stuff, especially outside when it is raining, is hard sometimes. And of course it is completely normal to feel sad after having a really good time. When I do this I can be just that little bit kinder to myself. I can empathise with myself and in time give myself a break. 

Of course, It doesn’t always work out but the more I have been trying, the more it seems to. I have come to realise there is always a reason as to why I am feeling a certain way. And again that is ok. When I realise what that is I can let things go.  

I know we can all beat ourselves up from time to time and it is ok. There was a reason someone came up with the term ‘we can be our own worst enemies’. And the fact is we can be. However as the statement implies it doesn’t have to always be the case. We have a choice.

It can be hard but the more we can get in touch with ourselves the easier it can be to discover the real reason we are reaching for that big stick. And maybe, just maybe we can convince ourselves to put it down.  

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