Ever been in that situation where you just feel like a total failure? You know, those times when life, work, and family responsibilities seem like an impossible juggling act, and you’re left questioning yourself?

Trust me, you’re not alone in this boat. It’s like being stuck in a never-ending cycle of stress, overthinking everything, and getting irritated and frustrated with pretty much everything around you.

As if all of that isn’t enough to deal with you end up heading down the self-judgement rabbit hole.

Every time life gets overwhelming, you can’t help but wonder, “Why can’t I handle this better?” And when you see your colleagues seemingly breezing through it all, you start thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I have it together like they do?”

Let me introduce you to Alex, a client of mine.

Her work was as hectic as ever, but something felt off. She was constantly overwhelmed, stuck in a loop of overthinking, and her self-judgement was off the charts. On top of that, she became super reactive, like losing her keys when she was already running late would send her into a total meltdown.

She was experiencing:

  • Second-guessing herself frequently
  • Hesitation in decision-making
  • Constantly worrying about the outcomes of her choices
  • Feeling lost and incapable due to self-doubt
  • Self-judgment and thoughts like, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?” 
  • Mental and physical effects experienced by Alex
  • Tension headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Constant fatigue and brain fog 

And guess what? It all led to more self-judgement!!

The worst of all of the symptoms she was experiencing was the constant self-judgement. She’d beat herself up, thinking, “I should be able to handle more,” or “I’m just too darn sensitive.” Frustration and anger at herself kept piling up because she felt like she wasn’t measuring up to who she wanted to be.

That inner critic of hers? It was loud, dishing out constant self-criticism that chipped away at her self-esteem, leaving her with one nagging question: “What’s wrong with me?”

She had no clue just how much it was affecting her overall well-being.

Let’s dive into what’s happening from a nervous system perspective

So, picture this: Your nervous system is like your primal bodyguard, and it’s constantly on the lookout for threats. When it detects danger, it triggers what we call the “fight or flight” response.

This used to be super handy back in the day when we had to deal with real predators, but nowadays, it’s not as helpful.

You can’t fight your overflowing email inbox, punch your boss (not a good idea!), or run away from your job.

Physically, when you’re in this fight or flight mode, your heart rate shoots up, your breathing becomes shallow, and you become hyper-aware of every little high-pitched noise. 

Mentally your view of yourself and the world around you plummets.

Suddenly, everything around you starts to seem like a potential threat. Your thoughts go into overdrive, and they tend to lean towards the negative.

You start thinking that every possible outcome of a situation is going to be a disaster.

That’s where the whole overthinking thing comes into play (check out my blog for some tips on overcoming it here).

All of this turmoil in your system is the perfect storm for extra critical self judgement to rear its pesky head.

Your thoughts start spiralling into self-doubt territory: “I can’t handle this. It’s too much. I’m not strong or smart enough.” Yep, that’s self-judgement, and it loves to join the party.

Now, here’s the big revelation:

Your nervous system interprets this self-judgement as yet another threat.

So what does it do?

It cranks up the fight or flight response even more. You end up stuck in this loop of feeling stressed, activated, judging yourself for not measuring up, and then getting even more stressed and activated.

So, in a nutshell, self-judgement and your nervous system are kind of like a tag team that amplifies your stress. It’s a tough cycle to break, but understanding it is the first step to finding some peace in the chaos.

So what’s the solution?

What should you do when you find yourself stuck in this seemingly never-ending cycle of self-criticism?

Well, the first crucial step is to become aware that it’s happening


When you find yourself tangled up in intense self-criticism, it’s crucial to recognize that your nervous system is sending you a signal. It’s indicating that you’re experiencing a significant amount of stress, causing your nervous system to go slightly out of whack. Once you grasp this connection, you gain the ability to make a conscious choice not to immerse yourself in self-blame.

Step Away from Self-Judgment

Remember, this self-criticism is not a reflection of who you truly are. Do not beleive everthing you think!

The criticsim is your body’s way of trying to shield and safeguard you. It doesn’t define your intrinsic worth or capabilities. You’re not flawed, feeble, or incapable; these feelings are all manifestations of nervous system dysregulation.

Embrace Self-Compassion

Self-compassion works wonders in restoring balance to your nervous system and countering self-judgment. Once you acknowledge the judgment and opt for self-compassion instead, everything begins to shift for the better.

Tell yourself, “This isn’t my fault. I acknowledge that my nervous system is in overdrive, and I’m genuinely doing the best I can.” Observe how this alters your internal state; you may sense a wave of relief or a newfound sense of calm washing over you.

Here are some examples of how you can reframe your inner judgement with compassion:

  • “I should be able to handle so much more than I am”  “I’m doing the best that I can in this situation”.
  • “What’s wrong with me?” “I recognise there is nothing wrong with me, I’m feeling this way because my system is trying to tell me I’m overloaded”
  • “I’m not strong enough, I need to harden up”. “I am very strong, instead of hardening up and pushing myself, what would be a more loving choice? Rest and a reevaluation of how much I’m taking on.”

Ask yourself “What do I need right now?”

We often find ourselves caught in a whirlwind of stress or even on the brink of a meltdown because we tend to pile on more than we can handle. It’s like we’re constantly striving to meet the expectations and deadlines set by others,, we forget to ask ourselves a vital question:

“What do I really need right now?”


is what I’m doing helping or hindering me?”

Try adopting some nervous system regulation practices

Start adding some mindful breaks into your day, three breaks where you stop and take five conscious steady deep breaths with slow exhalations.  see here for more practices

So how are things for my client Alex now?

She’s thriving.

Her “aha” moment that her constant self-criticism wasn’t a personal failing, but rather a sign of her body’s response to stress changed everything.

  1. Now, Alex is more in tune with her body’s signals when it’s under stress. Instead of seeing them as distress signals, she uses them as a reminder to step back and break free from the cycle of self-blame.
  2. Because she knows it’s her system’s stress response making her inner critic more intense she is more easily able to stop believing in everything it’s saying and instead pivot to self compassion. 
  3. She understands that her self-doubt and frustration are just her body’s way of trying to protect her, not proof of her inadequacy. 
  4. What’s more, she’s on a journey to learn practical techniques to manage her nervous system. She takes short breath breaks during her workday and practices calming deep-breathing exercises. These strategies help her stay composed when life throws challenges her way.


In the end, Alex’s story teaches us a valuable lesson: our inner critic might actually be our body’s way of telling us to slow down and prioritize self-care.

The next time you find yourself in the rabbit hole of self judgement ask yourself “is this a result of nervous system dysregulation?” See if you can release yourself from the inner critics blame and shame by following the steps above.

It’s time to pivot from judgement to compassion. Let this be your first step on your way to nervous system regulation.

Written by billee white

More From This Category