Many of us struggle with our inner bitch, you probably know yours quite well, she’s the negative voice that triggers self-doubt, self-loathing and seeks to undermine us just when we are about to do something big, something that takes us out of our comfort zone, always appearing at the worst possible time, just when we need self-confidence not insecurity.
Women typically have a louder inner critic than men, because we’re socialized to fit in rather than stand out; our inner critic causes us discomfort, embarrassment and sometimes pain.
Ironically, self-criticism is there to keep us safe, think about it in the fight or flight context, your brain is scanning the environment for danger and telling you when to fight or run. Your inner-critic senses you are out of your comfort zone, so it tells you to run, but you don’t want to run, you are about to do a presentation to 150 people! Shut the *f* up inner critic!
If self-criticism is so harmful why do we keep doing it? We’re so accustomed to the disparaging inner dialogue that we don’t even notice we’re doing it, let alone realize how it prevents us from shining, being successful and feeling good about ourselves. We also think that if we criticize ourselves and draw attention to our flaws others will give us a pass and not mention them, but did they even notice them in the first place?!
Fortunately you can give your inner critic the boot and stop the self-sabotage. Here are 3 easy steps.
Get to Know Your Inner Critic
Yes, seriously! This exercise works!
Although your self-critic causes pain, the first step is to get to know her better. Why is she there? What function does she serve? Identify her origins. Who in your life made you feel ashamed, unworthy or doubt yourself? Is your self-critic the voice of a parent who was trying to shape or control you? Or someone who purposefully held you back?
Go back in time and identify at least three people who undermined your self-worth. If you like to journal write about one critical horror story. How old were you, where did it take place, how did you feel? Bringing the story to light will help you ditch your inner bitch and reverse some of your negative core beliefs.
Once you’ve identified the origins of your self-critic give that self-critical voice a name. One of my clients called her voice “Peter” after a former boss who constantly told her she was doing everything wrong. Notice what tone of voice the inner critic uses and how you feel when she rears her hideous head.
Yes, you!! Self-compassion entails treating yourself the way you would treat a good friend – with kindness rather than judgment. It’s the complete antithesis of self-criticism. When we give ourselves compassion we generate positive emotions. We also release, oxytocin the hormone responsible for care and connection that calms us down and decreases anxiety and stress.
Once you’ve noticed what the critic sounds like (Step 1), soften the voice.
Instead of being critical try talking to yourself the way a BFF or sister would, perhaps with more acceptance, understanding and compassion. Become your own cheerleader. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Use affirmations— positive, strong statements that say something already is so, try using post-it notes and placing them inside your laptop, book or purse. When you notice you’re stressed or suffering rather than making it worse by beating yourself up, offer yourself encouragement and kindness
Don’t worry if your inner critic rears her head she loathes anything that boosts your self-worth. Just notice her nasty little blurts, write them down and use them to help you understand your inner critic so you can clear out your negativity closet.
Do Your Best
Doing your best completely shuts your inner critic down. When you do your best she can’t berate, judge or shame you. Your best will change from day-to-day and even moment-to-moment. Some days we wake up excited and ready to embrace life. Other days we feel like slipping under the covers and hiding from the world. Both are okay.
Regardless of how you feel, keep doing your best. Don’t push yourself (that’s what the critic wants you to do) beyond what feels right to you. You’ll exhaust yourself making it harder to reach your goals and maintain wellbeing. However, don’t do less than your best. When you don’t do your best you give your self-critic an opportunity to unleash blame, frustration, worry, shame, guilt and regret.
About Zoë Dodds
Life, Health, and Fitness Coach
Zoë has a passion for helping and empowering women to the best version of themselves.
With 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry, she delivers inspiration and wealth of knowledge to her clients, some of which she shares in her blog and weekly newsletters.
Originally from England, Zoë has lived in Seattle for 9 years with her husband, two grown-up children and a Labrador called Jordi.
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