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How’s Your Inner Critic?

You know the voice. The one that tells you that you are too tall, too short, too overweight, you blew the test, interview, promotion, etc. The voice that says you are not enough, or the voice that says you will never amount to anything.

Ugh. That voice. I once read an article ( sorry I don’t recall the source) whereby a motivational speaker/ life coach went into a prison and talked with the inmates and enquired, how many of you were told you would never amount to anything? Every hand went up.

We all have an inner voice because we all got raised by someone, and often more than one person. Whether we got messages from parents, older siblings, teachers, coaches, extended family, all those messages whether they were accurate or not, got recorded in our memory.

Each of those messages, influenced us. Were we told we could do or become anything we wanted? Did we receive encouraging and accurate messages? Those messages help tame the inner critic.

If we were raised by or around people who never dealt with their own negative messaging, it is likely they passed that along. Some of those messages sounded like, “Why don’t you get A’s like your sister?” “Quit being so lazy” “You are not very smart” or “Why couldn’t you be more like your brother- he’s athletic.”

Even sadder is well intentioned parents who believe that their negative words will somehow be motivating to their child. “Quit being such a brat” or “If you would have put some effort in you might have won a place on the team.” Shaming is never motivating and only adds fuel to the inner critic.

All of these messages stay with us. In fact, as a counselor, I can share that many people spend a lifetime both listening to these messages and acting them out. Some spend their lives at great cost trying to overcome these messages.

Many people have learned to tune the inner critic out. However, for so many more, the inner critic voice is a constant unwanted companion. For some this leads to anxiety and or depression as we stay stuck listening to this voice.

I’ve known a man in his eighties who does not stop working and is just now learning that it is ok to pause, rest, recreate and enjoy life a bit more. His inner critic was his dad who said if you are not working all the time you are lazy.

The inner critic keeps us from choosing healthy mates, going for great jobs or promotions, or starting something creative or risky because we were told to play it safe our whole lives.

What about you? Is your inner critic leading the way? Does that voice get all of your power?

Today, we hope you will both identify that voice and begin to question it. Here’s a 4 step questioning process ( courtesy of Daniel Amen MD.) to help.

When you have a negative thought or message that you are aware of, ask yourself the following:

  1. IS IT TRUE? Is this voice in my head actually giving me a message that is accurate?

  2. CAN I KNOW WITH 100% CERTAINTY that this message I keep thinking Is true?

  3. WHEN I THINK ABOUT THIS THOUGHT, HOW DO I FEEL? And what do I notice in my body? Do I feel more sad, tense, angry, frustrated, when I think this thought? Do my muscles feel more tense? Does my breathing become more shallow?

  4. HOW WOULD I FEEL WITHOUT THIS THOUGHT? When I choose to nix that thought, or replace that thought with something more accurate, how might I feel?

Once you realize that the repetitive and negative thought message is often not true, and you realize how it is causing you to feel when you listen to it or dwell on it, then you can learn the habit of replacing thoughts and old messages with more accurate thoughts.

This takes tools, time and practice. For now, just increasing your awareness is a helpful beginning. You are so much more than those old negative messages that take up brain space. Today practice honoring you- show yourself some compassion by changing the voice of your inner critic.

If you have difficulty doing this on your own, please seek the help of a competent and caring mental health professional One resource is www.livewellkitsap.com/mind-your-health.

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