Know Your Inner Critic
Most people believe and feed an inner critic who points out faults and flaws, dwells on the negative, and is often downright abusive. This can lead to procrastination, inactivity or avoidance. It affects your emotions, your self-esteem, confidence, courage and joy of life. And most of all it diminishes your trust in your own strengths and abilities.
- Being overly critical and dissatisfied with yourself.
- Often based on unrealistic and unreasonable expectations about who you should be and how you should act.
- Judging yourself negatively.
- Comparing yourself to others who seem superior in some way.
- Being full of self-condemnation.
- Taunting yourself – Not capable, experienced or good enough …
- Diminishing yourself – It’s only me; I know it’s not very good …
- Finding it hard to make decisions.
- Avoiding new challenges.
- Needing reassurance from others.
- Results from a sense of failure, guilt or regret.
- Reprimanding yourself: How did I get into this situation? I should have known better…
- Indifference or denial of your own needs.
- Discouraging or ignoring your aspirations and dreams.
Self-Rejection, Self-Loathing or Self-Hate
- Ranging from vague feelings of low self-worth to severe self-hatred.
- Expressed in extreme ways – destructive and dangerous behaviours, self-harm, suicide.
- Associating with negative people who drag you down.
- Sabotaging chances at living a fulfilling life.
- This is not about having done something wrong and being ashamed of it.
- It is the sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with you as a person -worthless to the core – If people saw the real me, they would reject me. I am not okay as I am.
- It is the (warped) ’knowledge’ that in your very essence you are flawed.
You may not be aware of that kind of shame. It may not even appear as a problem. But hidden shame affects your life in every possible way. It is the master of toxic self-evaluation and poisons everything you do. You connect with people who (also) do not value you. You tolerate disrespect, humiliation, neglect and abuse. After all, you do not deserve better. You keep yourself small because shame causes you to hide your light. Success, joy, love would create unbearable dissonance with the negative self-beliefs underlying shame so you sabotage yourself in every possible way. But worst of all, it blinds you to the beautiful soul you are in your essence.
Change Your Self-talk
It is important never to beat yourself up, even if you have done something inappropriate, made a mistake or look like a fool. Instead, replace merciless censorship with a nurturing voice: I can do this; It’s okay to slip up sometimes; I did my best. Have a look at the two different ways below:
Follow the steps below to change your negative self-talk:
- Notice when you are being self-critical. Get a clear sense of how you talk to yourself – abusive or nurturing?
- Challenge the self-critical voice. Question the harshness of your thoughts and your extreme censoring, demeaning and exaggerating. Are you actually correct in what you are thinking? Are you really that bad? Where did you learn to think about yourself in that way? Who made you believe it?
- Reframe the comments made by your inner critic. Replace them with new realistic and more positive ways of thinking about yourself. If you find this difficult, imagine what a compassionate friend would say to you in this situation. You may also need to do deeper work on your beliefs.
Acknowledge the Real You
The following strategy of ‘Acknowledgments’ is potentially very uncomfortable but also very powerful. Acknowledgements are different to affirmations. They are statements that acknowledge something you did well that day. If you are not used to look at yourself in such a positive way, just finding something might seem really hard. Also, you have to overcome the idea that giving yourself credit is the same as being self-satisfied and conceited. It is not! You are not praising yourself without justification or puffing yourself up as superior. You are simply looking at yourself realistically and formulating a sentence about something positive you did:
- Every day reflect on how the day went.
- For whatever you did, thought, felt or noticed that day, formulate three acknowledgements in the present tense: Today I acknowledge myself for doing …; I acknowledge myself for overcoming …; I acknowledge myself for taking …; I acknowledge myself for not …; etc etc.
Doing this exercise may feel as if you are doing something forbidden, wrong or odd. This is normal if you are not used to acknowledging positive things about yourself. But don’t give up. The strategy is very effective if you take it seriously and persist. With practice, it can disable poisonous attitudes you hold about yourself and teach you a realistic and accepting evaluation of yourself. You will realize that you are not so deficient after all and whoever made you believe it imposed their own destructive agenda on you.
What is your own self-evaluation? Is it kind and rational, or dark and almost abusive? How does your own inner critic sabotage your best efforts? What can you do to re-claim your power?