Dealing with self-criticism

Too many of us are quietly, privately, hard on ourselves. We walk around with an inner critic, telling us we’re not ‘good enough’ and never amount to anything.

Sometimes we feel so much pressure to achieve, self-criticism seems like a necessity. Lockdown has kept us cooped up and in many cases with more free time. We may feel especially guilty if we’ve not been ‘productive’.

We’ve all seen people who ‘achieved’ despite the difficulties of the pandemic. Marathons run in backyards, new languages learned, what seems like hundreds of books read. It’s difficult not to compare ourselves and put pressure on ourselves too.

There’s a myth we can hang on to that a harsh inner critic is useful to get where we want in life.

In this article, you will find:

Why do people self-harm?

Self-harm is when someone intentionally damages or injures their body. Also known as self-injury, it can take on many forms, such as cutting, burning, hitting, or scratching.

Risky behaviour that can be harmful is also considered self-harm behaviour. Binge drinking to the point of blacking out or vomiting regularly, restricting food intake, or overeating could be considered risky.

Body image and mental health

Body image is the way we feel about how we look. Most of us experience dissatisfaction with how we see our body at different points in our life.

Very few people are 100% confident about their appearance at all times. However, if the way we feel about our body starts to impact what we do in a negative way, we need to address this.

Difficulty with body image affects people of any gender. In today’s society, there’s a focus on physical appearance and the ‘perfect body’ and social media can emphasise this.

Scrolling through Instagram and making comparisons between ourselves and what we see is very common. This can distort our sense of body image, creating unrealistic expectations of how we should look.

Ask Jigsaw: Everything is overwhelming

I just feel everything is so overwhelming atm, like so much expectations and pressures coming from everywhere. A lot of the time I feel like I cant cope with things everyone else can deal with. I’m just slacking in everything and I sometimes feel like failure.

I tend to jump to the worst case scenario really quickly and I’m worried I might do something impulsive sometime. I don’t really know what to do or how I’ll stop feeling this way, i always convince myself facing up to stuff is too hard to do. Do u guys know what I should do? Thank you 🙂


Hi Aishlinn,

It is such a difficult place to be in when it feels like a lot is expected of us and that we are getting pressure from every angle. When we are feeling overwhelmed, it’s hard to start anything and that can lead to feeling like a failure.

Ask Jigsaw: Techniques to help motivation

Im currently really struggling with finding motivation and interest in college. I enjoy the course but for some reason i just cant motivate myself enough to hold down and do the work. Its not just in college though and its impacting other parts of my life as well including work and general interaction. Is there any techniques that could help me to focus or that would help me with motivation?


Hi sk,

Motivation rises and falls at different times throughout our lives. Understanding our own experience of it can  help us to manage it better.

Ask Jigsaw: I want to start loving myself

I’ve been told I might be suffering from body dysmorphia and I can see the signs, but despite that I seem to be getting worse? It’s gone to the point where I tear up when I see a recent picture of myself..and I do want to start loving myself but it’s just really hard to. I’ve been thinking of making an appointment, but I’m really scared of face to face interaction. I’m scared of my anxiety since it’s really hard for me to talk to strangers especially when I have to bring up my concerns.. Any recommendations on what I should do? 

– zwolfxo 

Hi zwolfxo, 

Sounds like it’s been really tough for you recently, but you did the right thing to reach out! At different points throughout life, body image can become more, or less important. But there’s no doubt that being unhappy with your physical body can have a big impact on your mental health.  

How to address self-harm

As a parent or guardian, hearing about young people harming themselves can be really alarming and difficult to understand.

If you suspect that your young person is harming themselves, there is a lot you can do to support them.

Exercise and mental health

Let’s face it, we all know that exercise is good for us. ‘Get active’ is one of the five recommended things to do every day to support our mental health.

Some people don’t have any issue going to the gym and fitting in runs. For others, finding the time, energy or motivation to get out of bed, let alone exercise isn’t easy.

Here we will look at exercise and mental health, how they are related and ways to incorporate it into our lives. Think of exercise as any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing.

In this article you’ll find:

Being the best

We live in a competitive world, where comparison is everywhere. It’s often present in school or college, on the sports field or in relation to social status.

There can be a focus on ‘being the best’ when we are ranked and compared to those around us.

At school or in college there is often competition, with exams designed to assess our academic ability. Ratings can be compared to every other person our age in Ireland.

Sports can come with pressure and a focus on winning. Even in non-competitive activities, such as the gym, we are encouraged to try to get a ‘personal best’. We might focus on doing more weights or improving our time, in competition with ourselves to be our best.

Online and on social media, we can usually see how many followers/friends, likes, or comments another person receives. We often compare our social media stats to those of others. Looking at posts and wondering why some got more support than others can become a habit. What stories are we telling ourselves about success and failure?

Feeling pressure

Life can feel full of pressure sometimes. Especially while we figure out who we are, what we want, and how we want our lives to be.

Young people who come to Jigsaw often talk to us about the pressure they’re feeling. Some of the things they feel pressure from include:

  • Fitting in – Having to change who they are to be included in a group.
  • Supporting friends – Feeling they have to respond to friends’ difficulties, even when it interferes with their own wellbeing.
  • Conforming – Falling in with an education system that feels unfair and out of line with everything else in their life.
  • Performing well in exams – Comparing results and achievements.
  • Competing and doing well in sports or other hobbies – This can be to the point where they no longer enjoy it.
  • Future plans – Feeling they should know what career path to choose.
  • Fulfilling the expectations of others – Living up to the expectations of parents. Or matching the achievements of siblings.