- in Self-Care
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do."
~ Charles R. Swindoll
One of the ways we survive a childhood that is missing much of what we need, that is insufficient to nourish us and reflect our essential beauty, is to keep the awareness of that insufficiency at bay.
If we know we are starving, we feel the emptiness more. So, it is not uncommon for children who are emotionally deprived to learn to blame themselves. In this way, they can keep hope alive and avoid the cold hell of despair. This is the premise of my book, The Dark Side of Hope. Adults who have had to employ this emotional survival strategy will reflexively admonish and criticize themselves. When they are hurting, they torture themselves with another layer of anguish. “I’m bad, I’m wrong, I’m not enough, I made all the mistakes.”
This has been going on for so long, it’s automatic.
The inner voice which repeats “you’re not good enough” in so many ways began as a method of trying to protect the self. As long as the child sees himself or herself as being at fault, the cause of their own pain, it is still possible to believe those critical needs will be met. To continue to hope that a cruel or disengaged parent will provide kindness and love, interest and respect, allows children to survive. Ultimately, this attempt to keep hope alive stops working; rather, it disintegrates self-worth and saps strength.
In order to put a stop to this self-defeating and undermining process, first the source of it must be illuminated.
That’s painful but, ultimately, with the help of a compassionate guide, the pain will pass and healing can begin. And the man or woman who has been ashamed for so long, can transform into a proud, self-aware individual.
That’s the true hope, to come through the tunnel of self-loathing into the sunlight of self-love.
Karen Krett, LCSW – www.karenkrett.com
Have you ever taken a week or so to really be mindful and aware of the way you talk to yourself?
Have you listened with intention to the tone, the words and the emotions behind your “inner voice”?
If you have not then I invite you to do so. The first step to changing any behavior is to become aware of it. We all do it- we have this voice inside- that we know no one else can hear. In the “safety” of that solitude we can be mean! When you notice how you talk to yourself, what you say, how you say it then I invite you to ask yourself this question, would you talk to anyone else like that?
Most often the answer is no. Most often we would never be that cruel or critical and non-accepting of others but we will ourselves on a daily basis.
So let’s get back to this question of how to silence this inner “bully”.
1. Become aware of how often you say something mean “I am so stupid”, “I am so lazy”, “I can never do what he/she did,” “I don’t deserve anything good because I am such a horrible person” etc. Just make a note of this. You can do it on a piece of paper, in the notes on your phone…I encourage you to do it on something tangible that you can hold and see and count to really get a feel for it.
2. After you have noted the frequency of your “mean inner bully/critic” for a few days to a week then you will be able to become more aware when the inner “tirade” starts and at this point I invite you to gently stop and with kindness and compassion change the tone of the inner voice.
Stop and look without judgment at the words and thoughts of that bully- I encourage you to observe them like a movie or words on a page. Then simply (becomes much simpler with time) dismiss them. You can say to them “thank you for coming by but I don’t need you”. Visualize the “mean inner bully” floating away.
3. Send that inner critic that compares you to others, tells you that you are not good enough, that you will never be enough away and then replace her/him with a kind and gentle inner voice.
Visualize your “inner goddess/god” as a beautiful and kind being. As you learn to dismiss the inner critic and replace them with a graceful and serene “inner god/goddess” that bully will disappear. Notice the things that you are good at and tell yourself “way to go”, “I love how you took the time to rest today”, “I love that you are taking care of yourself by sleeping enough and exercising”.
Once you begin to do this then I ask you to repeat the first exercise in which you made note of the “inner critic”.
I invite you to notice and become aware of your “inner god/goddess” and the kind, gentle and compassionate things she/he says to you. This is the good stuff. Most of us are kind and compassionate with others and you deserve your kindness and compassion as much (if not more) than others do. Self-compassion is not a luxury, it is a vital part of self-care. It takes an ongoing practice and self-awareness to nurture that inner goddess/god but once you do you will never allow that inner bully back. I would like to leave you with a quote.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive” Dalai Lama
Jamie Stacks, LPC, LADAC – www.jamiestackstherapy.com
According to Albert Einstein, you can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.
Silencing your inner critic is no different. One’s inner critic is a product of the ego – the persona that we create in order to best survive in this world. Some aspects of the ego can be healthy, but the inner critic is not one of them.
There is a way to replace the voice inside your head that constantly tells you that you’re not good enough with a voice that continuously encourages and validates you. And that is by cultivating a relationship with the level of yourself that is deeper than your ego and more reflective of who you really are. We’ve all had encounters with this aspect of ourselves.
Perhaps while sitting on the beach and feeling a sense of well-being so strong that it feels in that moment that nothing could shake you out of your bliss. Or perhaps in a moment where you feel overwhelming compassion for another human being to the extent that you are no longer aware of the plethora of distractions that usually occupy your mind.
How do you begin to tune in to this more loving voice? By making an effort to get to know this part of yourself with the following three steps:
The first step is to consciously breathe.
This means that you breathe a little deeper than usual and focus on your breath instead of the constant chatter in your head. Take a minute or two in the morning, afternoon and evening to do this. Each time you become aware of your breath, you quiet your inner critic.
The next step is to begin asking your essential self questions.
For example, “How should I handle my debt?” You will be amazed. You will actually begin to hear or feel the answers to your questions at the oddest times!
The last step is to take time to actively listen to your essential self.
You may not even hear or feel anything at first, but just spending time in a receptive state helps you learn how to tune into this deeper part of yourself.
Shifting your attention from the part of you that’s critical to the part of you that’s loving becomes easier with time and is well worth the effort!
Kimberly Kingsley, Energy Coach – www.kimberlykingsley.com
We live in a society filled with media stereotypes of perfection and the not so subtle messages in which love and acceptance require body, income, clothes, job, and car to be that of kings and queens (yet without having the court of helpers and the Crown Jewels). How does one hush those thoughts of inferiority?
First of all, I say WITH REALITY! Perfection is a myth!
Efforts of grace creates a byproduct of inner perfection. We must first look within and find acceptance in the balance between our strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas that we wish were “better” but we also know we have areas that we kinda actually like about ourselves.
One of the most powerful exercises I have used in sessions with my patients is to have them say out loud, “even though: I don’t like —, I struggle with —, I hate my —; I still DEEPLY LOVE AND ACCEPT MYSELF”. Take a moment and try it. Really try it! Say it with passion like you would say it to your child, your best friend, your significant other. You know you mean it to them, why not to you?
Secondly, critical messages can be created or recorded by others within our childhood.
Those may need to be explored in therapy or acknowledged in journaling with a focus on asking yourself questions like: Is that still true?, Was it really ever true?, Is it ALWAYS true? If you are honest with yourself in this process you will find the answer is a big fat NO!
After gaining acceptance of this as the answer then comes time to re-record those old message with new honest, self-accepting and loving messages. Such as: “I am not always stupid actually I am pretty intelligent when it comes to —-“.
Finally, is your reality really real?
Quieting the inner critic begins with accepting true reality, self compassion and love. Perfection should not be the goal but through your efforts of humility, self-acceptance, and never ending grace you will be able to gain an inner peace and strength.
Melissa Tower, MA, LLP, CPC – www.melissa-tower.com
Understand that the origins of your negative thinking lie in a self-protection mechanism, the fight or flight response, serving to alert you to any potential danger. This is a normal part of our biology and survival instincts rooted in caveman times. We no longer face prehistoric dangers, and yet our mind continues to detect and alert us to any perceived threats to our safety. Today these threats are often emotional, and can FEEL more dangerous than they are.
2. Acceptance and Self Compassion
Once you know that this is a normal part of yourself, you can stop fighting it and work to accept it. Begin to realize that it is a part of everyone, a part of you that deserves compassion, and something that through awareness you can address.
3. Insight and awareness
Now that you know why this occurs and work to accept it, you can create space to identify what it is you are telling yourself and start to challenge that. Sometimes we have created a narrative about ourselves throughout life to criticize ourselves around, other times we are simply self-critical. Whatever the case, figure out what you are telling yourself, and where it is rooted, so that you can start to deconstruct and change it.
Once you identify your negative thought patterns and their origins, you can take action to challenge thoughts.
A few different suggestions for angles that you can take are listed below.
Use Positive Psychology to focus on the positive, identify your strengths, or do things that help you to feel good about yourself.
Use Self Expression to release the negativity and use it constructively, or share with others.
Use Thought related techniques including writing positive affirmations, reciting mantras, challenging negative self-talk.
Use Self-exploration to learn what you need to love yourself and accept yourself for who you are no matter what you learned in life or the experiences that you have.
It is crucial to love, honor and appreciate yourself in this lifetime and to find ways to let go of ego, self-criticism and judgment to increase satisfaction. There is no reason for us to criticize ourselves as we are all imperfectly perfect in our humanness, and destined for unique glory.
Lisa Resnick, LPC, LMHC, CHHC – www.Lisaresnicktherapy.com
Each of us has an internal critic.
We’ll call that internal critic the gremlin. Much has been written about the gremlin. Basically, the gremlin refers to recurring negative self talk. The gremlin can show up at the most inopportune times. It can show up as a mood buster, a fear monger, a naysayer, or a nag. The gremlin reminds us of past failures, warns us to play small, and threatens to remind us of all our perceived short comings and faults.
The gremlin can be very convincing.
After years of struggling with my own gremlins and helping others navigate their way through the maze of Gremlinville, I have become convinced that the best way to manage the gremlin is to become aware of its presence, become familiar with the various ways it shows up, and befriend it. YES!!!!!!!!!! befriend it.
I have come to think of my gremlin as a friend seeking to protect me. You may wonder how negative self talk is protective. Think of it this way–imagine the gremlin as a part of yourself that is overly concerned about one thing or another. Out of its concern for your well being it attempts to protect you from failing, being blind sided by an external critic, or from not noticing potential dangers. Consider it a friend on steroids who needs to be managed. I recall a mentor who suggested we thank the gremlin for sharing and then gently dismiss it after taking note of the concerns raised.
Gremlins chatter about many areas of one’s life. Sometimes the gremlin challenges whether you are smart enough, pretty enough, competent enough, loving enough, etc. Even though protective in intent, if left unchecked, the gremlin’s chatter can lower self esteem, and leave one feeling disempowered. For this reason the gremlin must be managed. You can do this.
Begin by listening carefully–what exactly is your gremlin whispering? Write it down.
Byron Katie recommends asking four questions about disturbing thoughts.
She recommends you ask yourself:
1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Your answers to these questions can help you tame the gremlin and point you in the direction of taking control of your thoughts. Taming the gremlin is no easy task but it is so worth your effort. A tamed gremlin can be your friend, an untamed gremlin–not so much.
Pauline G. Everette, LMSW, PhD – www.everetteandassociates
Listen to one voice at a time and ask yourself; “Who said that to me?”
As a teenager the high school guidance counselor told me I wasn’t university material. As I challenged myself to start an undergraduate degree when I was turning thirty, her words kept playing over and over in my mind. One day I was fed up with having her with me and I told her to shut up. I was angry! I changed her words and started saying; “I’ll show you!” This gave me the determination to prove to my Self that I could achieve a degree.
Can you identify the source of your critical inner voices?
Ask yourself if you trust the opinion of the person who made the critical comment. Is their value system one you trust? Are the comments coming from advertisements?
Many critical comments are made by people who are jealous of others. They wrongly believe that if they put someone down they will stand taller. By being critical they feel empowered. Don’t give them your power!
Instead of saying; “I’m such a klutz for dropping the knife” say; “Oops I dropped the knife. I’d better wash it off.”
You have the power to change how you speak to your Self. Use your personal power to be your own cheerleader and treat your Self with the love and respect you desire. You’ll be amazed how different your emotional life will be.
Marilyn Belleghem, M.Ed. – www.mbcinc.ca
Imagine that you’re on the phone and your 2 year old comes up, yanks on your pants, and demands attention.
At first, you’re kind, and gently but firmly say, mommy’s on the phone right now. Be patient. Alas, 2 year olds aren’t patient, so he yanks harder, and starts hollering at the top of his lungs, which elicits a sharp sssshhhhhh! from you. Doesn’t work, does it?
Shushing the inner critic works just about as well.
And the harder you delay paying attention to it, the more it will yank, and yell, and sabotage your best efforts to maintain (or attempt to find) some self-acceptance.
There’s a good reason for this. We need the critic. Basically, the critic’s function is to give you a head’s up on group protocol. In a group meeting with serious investors, it advises you to choke back that slightly off-color joke you just learned. We need to get along with others, so the critic advises, and we consider.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t have a healthy, advisory critic helping us navigate the group dynamics we face on a daily basis.
Most of our inner critics are harsh, demanding, and even vicious, making our relationship with others and our selves ten times more difficult! There’s a huge difference between a coach who firmly confronts you after a game you’ve played badly, giving specifics and equally specific changes, while reassuring you that YOU are still on the team, and a coach that yells at you and attempts to convince you of your general unworthiness as a human being.
Oddly enough, the first step in silencing that voice is to listen to it.
Not believe. Listen. While you are listening, your one task is to ask yourself, what feeling am I hearing? Is it fear? anger? It is those stuck feelings that will lead you to the source(s) of the wound…the terror of being rejected, the anger of not being perfect. We weren’t born with these; we learned them somewhere along the way. We do not have to agree with the lesson, we can recognize our teachers as being misinformed, even ill, and we can move towards reeducation…you are doing this, now.
And in seeing our inner critic as a reflection of lessons poorly taught, and as deeply wounded, we can in our emerging self-awareness turn to it, as to that 2 year old, with compassion: I hear you, I hear your fear, your anger, your disgust. How painful it must be for you to carry these feelings. And I am going to help you let them go, while honoring the essence of your purpose: to help me be with others in the world.
Inga Larson, LCSW RMT – www.ingalarson.com
Each of us has a conscious brain that is aware of everything, it is aware of you, other people, the weather, the furniture, etc.
We have a subconscious brain that is only aware of ourselves, it doesn’t know others exist, it’s not aware of the weather, the furniture, or anything outside of your inner life. So when we talk, whether in our head or audibly out our mouth, no matter what we are talking about, our subconscious brain thinks we are talking about ourselves.
To successfully change your negative self-talk into a positive thinking pattern and to quiet the inner critic is first to be very aware of every thought you have and for every negative thought you have replace it with three positive thoughts about the same subject.
So if you are complaining about the driver in front of you… three positive things about that driver: 1. his hands are on the wheel; 2. he is wearing his seat belt; & 3. the car is working.
If you are looking in the mirror and say you don’t like what you see….three positive things about yourself could be: 1. you can see; 2. you can talk; & 3. you can hear.
The three positive statements don’t have to be miraculous things they just have to be positive. All we want is the positive thoughts to settle on your subconscious brain. Because remember, everything you think and say your subconscious brain thinks you are saying about you. Mastering this Thought Changing Exercise will lead to a happier life, can lift depression, and calm anxiety. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” This is the reason why.
Gail L. Van Amberg, MA, LPC. CAADC – www.glvinnovations.ws
Society today tells us over and over, do more, make more, be more.
Whether it’s more exercise, money, parenting, or planning for retirement, we hear over and over that what we are doing is just not enough.
We will never be enough to our partner, as a wife, a mother, a husband, or a friend.
Slowly over time that inner critic begins to creep up reminding us that no matter how hard we try in life, there will always be more. More of something we could be doing, saying, or saving. But, so often we fail to look at how we’re contributing to that inner critic.
We often, usually without notice start to believe that critic and begin finding all kinds of evidence in our lives to confirm that we do indeed need to do more, and we are in fact not enough.
Whether it’s silently comparing salaries with friends and family, whether it’s feeling discouraged when you buy the next size up in jeans, or when you spend all your time thinking “if only I had that hair, money, car, or family” you are feeding that inner critic.
Usually, what feeds that critic more than anything else is fear.
Fear is a powerful emotion that can propel us into new adventures, new experiences, or in the opposite sense can cripple and suspend us from growing and reaching our full potential. Sometimes it’s best in those times of comparison, discouragement, or hopelessness to really assess what is the fear underneath? Is it a fear of being unworthy, is it a fear of not being enough or of failing? Maybe you feel unloveable or terrified of the known? Whatever fear it is, it’s time to look at it and really decide if this is a fear you want to live with the rest of your life. Or, are you ready to let it go.
After you’ve identified the fear that fuels that inner critic find a way to address it, whether it’s talking about it with a good friend, seeking a counselor, through prayer, or journaling.
By recognizing the real fear underneath, over time that critic will begin to lose it’s power and voice. Facing our fears is one of the hardest, most vulnerable things we can do, but also the very thing that can give us the most freedom and remind us that no matter what, we are enough.
Kristy Koser, LPC, LPCC – www.aporiacounseling.com
Silencing your inner critic is a lifelong work, especially if you have unresolved “stuff” to work through, or you’re not quite sure where your critic is coming from.
When you have some sort of clarity on this, silencing your critic will begin with valuing, loving, and caring for yourself. After all, if you don’t, who will? You must be the first partaker of what you wish to receive from someone else.
Don’t let your inner critic destroy or get the best of you!
You want to be valued, loved, and cared for by someone else, right? Well, what does that mean to you? What does it look like, and how will you feel when you’re the recipient of it? How will you know that someone really values, loves, and/or cares for you? When you’re able to describe this, then you can decide how to silence your inner critic when he/she starts to speak.
For example: if your inner critic tells you that “nobody loves you”, you can silence that voice by saying, “I love you”.
That’s like throwing a monkey wrench in that flow of thinking. Your inner critic cannot tell you that nobody loves you when you know that you love you, and shows and expresses it on a regular basis; it will shut that voice right up.
Use this same example to help silence your inner critic in other areas of things said to you. Be proactive and ready for your critic to speak by preparing ahead and using the familiar language that usually comes up; you’ll silence them every time.
Barbara Ann Williams, LPC, MS – www.barbaraannwilliams.com
This is a very complex problem and is directly connected to childhood.
There is no blame involved because parents learn to parent from how they were parented. Something most parents do not know is that children learn from what they see and overhear in everyday in interactions between mom and dad. Most important, children absorb and experience the emotion that is present almost all the time in their environment. Parents also are likely to be unaware that their child’s brain, from birth to eleven years of age is like a sponge with “effortless” learning and a strong instinct for survival. The part of the brain that can consider options, create a plan, and make decisions does not does not fully form until age 25.
So, what does all this have to do with our inner critic?
Those first years of learning, when children do not “understand” what is “really”happening, they absorb everything, without question. Parents often say and do things without realizing it is affecting their kids. Actually, the behaviors and statements made in the presence of children fill the “unconscious” brain and shape the child’s perception of how the whole world is supposed to work and remains embedded in their brains forever.
So, the inner critic is not YOU!
It is one or both of your parents (primary care giver). Once we reach puberty we continue to base our understanding of how we are “supposed” to be by observing of our peers, from middle school to college and beyond. Our self-perception is largely based on what we think other people think about us. This is really good news!
Your inner critic is NOT YOU!
As adults who no longer have to depend parents or peers for survival, are free to discover the real “you/me”. I advise clients to “turn down the volume” on these inner critics and list all the positives you have to offer.
Then see how you feel about yourself.
Keep exploring who you are and deciding what you want to change or keep. One more important piece of information: when people do and say things, our subsequent feelings are based on the “personal meaning” we attach to what was said or done, not the intended meaning. It is always good to check out what he/she actually meant. See, it is complicated.
Dr. Morgain Hall – www.drmorgainhall.com
One of the things many of us often take for granted is how changeable our thought patterns are.
It’s easy for our thoughts to get stuck in ruts, and often those ruts are negative. “I’m so fat,” “Everyone else is smarter than me,” “I’m a crummy parent.” These sorts of thoughts can begin to feel automatic. But they don’t have to be.
Just as we move and challenge our arms and legs when we try to get into good physical shape, we can also move and change our thoughts to improve our mental health. Choosing one thought to change at a time is a good place to start. Say, for example you want to change the thought “I’m not as good as the people around me.”
Try the following steps:
1. Create an alternate thought to replace the old one. Something like: “My life is just as important as everyone else’s.”
2. Each time the old, negative thought pops up, say (either out loud or to yourself) the new, more positive thought. This may be a bit time-consuming at first. You may find that you have to repeat the old thought over and over again. But don’t give up, with time, the new thought will become more automatic.
3. As you notice the old, negative thought decreasing in frequency over a period of time, pick a new thought to tackle. Repeat.
Dr. Stephanie Smith – www.drstephaniesmith.com
If you have an inner critic – that voice that tells you you’re not perfect, that something bad might happen, that you don’t have what it takes to meet a particular challenge – then you’re actually pretty fortunate.
A trusty internal GPS system that keeps you safe and sound with annoying albeit often helpful advice, your inner critic is expressly designed to navigate you safely and soundly through life. Those without an inner critic – sociopaths and narcissists and others who take no responsibility for their own behavior and act insensitively and recklessly – are at considerably more risk of making wrong turns and costly mistakes.
To get along with your inner critic, you must recognize that it means well and is actually in your corner, intent on protecting you from danger.
Problem is your inner critic is working overtime, pointing out possible problems when there are none. High alert messages – you can’t survive that! you’re not capable enough! — made sense back in primitive times when we lived amid very real hazards like wild predators and deadly germs. Your inner critic doesn’t understand that we no longer hang out in caves without antibiotics, and so patience is required whenever those silent but shrill caveats erupt inside your head.
Patience begins with understanding that your inner critic can get hysterical at times, embellishing and generalizing out of a fierce need to warn you.
So before you react to an overblown criticism like “You’re a disgusting pig for eating too much” or “You’re going to end up living on the street because you totally blew that job interview,” unpack the exaggerated criticism to get to the real grain of truth, if there is one. Maybe you did overindulge in dessert or perhaps you weren’t exactly your best self in this or that situation, but it’s not the end of the world. Act on whatever valuable points your inner critic brings up — maybe your should eat less sweets or brush up on your interview skills — and leave the rest behind.
The thing about your inner critic is that it’s not going anywhere, so you might as well embrace it.
Just like a bratty little kid tugging for your attention, it will only become more insistent if you try to shut it up or ignore it. Be clear with your inner critic that you appreciate the hard work it does for you and will carefully consider all its caveats before dismissing anything. Firmly emphasize with your inner critic that you are the boss, and that you will decide what actions to take. Your inner critic will relax when you demonstrate consistently that you are capable more often than not of making smart decisions for yourself.
Dr. Amy Wood – www.amywoodpsyd.com
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