"Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves." - Nathaniel Branden
Are you aware of your inner dialogue? Do you often hear a harsh voice in your head telling you not to try, that you will fail? Do you expect to be perfect and get things right first time? Is there a critic in your head that lectures you daily, going into detail about what you did not do well enough? Does it rigidly define everything that you should and should not do? Does it ever call you names?
Chances are that you have been saying more negative than positive things to yourself. Studies have in fact confirmed that we do 300-400 evaluations per day and the majority of it is negative. If your self-talk is unkind, causes you to feel down and erodes you of your spirit, then you can be said to be having some challenges with feeling good about yourself
We each have one inner critic, lurking in the back of our mind, waiting to emerge just when we’re about to take a step forward into something new, creative or wonderful. For some, this voice takes up full time residence, on guard 24/7, not letting anything get past it un-scrutinized.
Each time we make a negative judgment about any aspect of ourselves - such as our physical appearance, mental traits or emotional attitudes - the body-mind system (that is essentially positive emotional charge) goes immediately “on the alert,” since we’re telling it that there is something wrong or at fault.
At the same time, the system begins to search in its database of the past for something attuned with the error it has just been held responsible for. When, through this “scanning,” the information is found, it is “revived” and brought to the present as evidence that there is truly “something wrong with me.” Each time you silently and unconsciously tell yourself that there is something wrong with you; you raise the possibility of illness or unhappiness.
This negative self-judgment is a slow suicide.
We typically exaggerate the degree to which people notice us or think critically about our appearance. Mentally or intellectually, we know that people have better things to do than to make us the center of their attention. They’re often too preoccupied with their own lives to even pay us much notice.
Emotionally, though, our impression can be very different: We can feel that others not only focus their attention on us but also think less of us. This feeling of being judged negatively comes and goes. Sometimes it seems to live inside us like an intestinal worm feeding off our entrails. We tell ourselves we’re as worthy and good as anyone else. Yet our emotions often say otherwise. Our subjective impressions don’t correspond to objective reality. Why is that?
Many of us are encumbered with an emotional attachment to the feeling of being seen in a negative light.
This problem stems from an unresolved inner conflict. In our conscious mind, we want to be liked, admired, and respected. However, in our unconscious mind where our irrational emotions are rooted, we can expect to be seen in the opposite manner, as if we’re unworthy of being liked, admired, or respected.
As it happens, that’s exactly how our inner critic (superego) usually treats us - or how we allow it to treat us. This part of our psyche, by way of an inner voice or feeling, frequently alleges that we’re weak, unworthy, and foolish.
We all have our weaknesses and we all try to work on them. The art of falling in love with yourself includes learning to accept one’s shortcomings. Embrace the fact that some things - such as intelligence, natural talents, and temperament - are simply given and cannot be really changed. You should therefore focus on these aspects that can actually be improved.
For example, if you are constantly late on meetings, just tell yourself: "I do not like this thing about me, and I will try to change it, but I acknowledge that I do have such a feature."
Even though our unconscious expectation of being regarded negatively is irrational, it’s still a powerful attachment in our psyche. We “know” ourselves through that feeling. This means that, in part, we identify with ourselves through the feeling. It’s as if the negative feeling is an essential element of who we are. We won’t be able to recognize ourselves without this feeling. We feel lost, disoriented, and even panicky without the reassurance of our familiar identity.
Deep down, we remain emotionally unresolved with a sense of being unworthy, badly flawed, or just plain bad. Guilt and shame are usually associated with this painful sense of self.
When it comes to being seen in a negative light, we’re first in line to do it to ourselves. Our inner critic is a dependable backstabber, while our self–doubt keeps supplying it with knives. When we’re watchful, we can see this conflict in ourselves.
Self-talk can be most simply defined as what you say or think to yourself, either silently or aloud. Silent self - talk is commonly referred to as your thoughts, but it's actually a silent conversation that you hold in the privacy of your mind.
Among the most powerful influence on your character, personality, and attitude is what you say to yourself and what you belief. Every single moment of every day, you are either talking yourself into or out of success.
Self-criticism is a primal form of invalidation, and humans need validation at the most primal level in order to thrive.
Getting upset with yourself has devastating effects on your self-esteem. It creates enormous resentment, resistance, frustration, and jealousy that cause you to sabotage your own best efforts. It fills you with stress hormones and inhibits your creativity. It sucks the energy right out of you and it feels bad. Self-criticism is self-defeating.
Biologically, criticism sends a danger signal to your nervous system that puts you into “fight or flight” mode just as effectively as a bear chasing you through the woods. While the situation with the bear will resolve itself rather quickly, emotional stress and trauma goes on and on.
During “flight or flight” mode, your body slows down cellular growth and repair, digestive and immunity functions, and higher cognitive processes in order to give priority to the mid-brain, glands, and muscles that help you run faster and climb higher to escape the bear. No wonder our shoulders hurt and our legs are restless when we can’t climb a tree to escape the danger!
Unless we turn the tables on our inner critic, we cling anxiously to a passive sense of who we are, even when doing so entails considerable suffering. We may also be physiologically entangled in this identity.
Many neuroscientists say that our sense of self emerges out of the staggering complexity of our brain’s component parts. So our identity, our sense of self, can be described as our brain’s “software”. That software is now outdated. It’s too prone to self-sabotage, and it can’t handle the modern world’s complexity. It needs upgrading, as occurs when inner conflicts are resolved. Typical conflicts consist of wanting to be admired while expecting to be belittled, or anxiously seeking approval or validation while painfully anticipating or experiencing disapproval or rejection.
Active feedback is an effective way to motivate change.
Self criticism is a primal form of invalidation, and humans need validation at the most primal level in order to thrive. Decision making, creative thinking, intuition, and higher comprehension are most efficient when the self feels good about itself.
Consider what it would feel like if you were to be nonjudgmental with yourself. This all-too-familiar voice pops up inside our heads to put us down for not living up to certain standards. It’s like some uninvited inner cop who is there just to tell us we are doing something wrong. But are we really? I don’t think so. Nonetheless, these voices are powerful and only do more harm than good.
What would it be like if you could not judge anything about yourself as good or bad? What if you had to accept all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions simply as legitimate and existing? Take some time to really think about this.
Self-criticism actually makes you sick, which you can't afford since you have cancer.
You can’t focus, relax, digest, sleep, or shift your energy as well as you can as when you feel good about yourself. That’s why choosing to feel good about yourself, no matter what, is the most important Practice you can undertake. It also requires the most courage!
Self-criticism interfere with your ability to find your life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as you would like to live. As you learn to detach from criticizing yourselves and the criticisms of others you become your own loving parent and mentor. You will elicit your own core values and key priorities to make your own unique contributions to life, making the most of opportunities you might otherwise would have missed.
You can’t focus, relax, digest, sleep, or shift your energy as well as you can as when you feel good about yourself. That’s why choosing to feel good about yourself, no matter what, is the most important Practice you can undertake. It also requires the most courage!
You must be able to validate yourself
If you want to thrive in a physical reality where people and things are constantly changing. Needing others to validate you is exhausting and it never works for very long. You have to see yourself as worthy of what you want, by virtue of who you are, before you can have what you want.
Use your courage to face your illness as an opportunity in crisis and not to avoid any painful experiences.
Look out for a mentor (Link Mentor Support ) who offers you encouragement and gentle challenges you to face fears and old believes, who inspires you to nurture yourself and your talents, who supports you to develop a positive attitude even in times of crisis. Instead of looking what is wrong with you or your life situation, look at what creates excitement for you when you get up in the morning. It is about creating your authentic life, not one lived just for others, but your unique way of contributing love to the world.
The more you listen to and respond to the inner critic the more powerful it becomes.
How many times have you missed out because you have believed its criticism? Or allowed it to make you afraid to try new experiences? Allowing that voice to go unchecked can lead to a devastating loss of self-esteem until you are trapped living a safe, boring and predictable life that you hate, and at the same time being terrified that others will someday " see through me to find out what I am really like." Does this sound familiar.
“When it seems that everything you do is wrong and everyone is against you, it is the most opportune time to wear your I-don’t-give-a-damn tutu and glide gleefully on the dance floor of “this is my life”
Getting upset with yourself has devastating effects on your self esteem. Keep a note of the quality of the self-talk in your mind - is it positive and uplifting or are you dragging yourself down?
When is your self-talk more likely to be negative/self-defeating? What impact is the self-defeating self-talk having on your life?
"I silence the critical voice within. I choose instead to speak to myself with kindness and love.
Are you your best friend or your own worst enemy? Be and talk kind to yourself.
Many of us are pretty tough on ourselves. We set ourselves such high standards, high that even a saint might have difficulty in reaching them! And each time our performance fails to reach these unrealistically high standards we mentally criticise ourselves - with harsh, aggressive self-talk.
The words we speak to ourselves in our minds are often even more harsh and more harmful than the words of other people. Interestingly enough, I observe that many of my clients with cancer admit that they are their own worst critic instead of their own best friend.
There is a common source for this type of inner, self criticism. Psychologists say that it is directly linked to how we were talked to as children, that we “imitate the parenting we received, or the messages some unskillful teachers had made, inside our own heads, continuing the practice of praising, disciplining, etc.” What is often occurring here is that we are living according to other's rules. Over the years, and particularly during our childhood years, we acquire lots of standards or 'rules to live by' from our parents, brothers or sisters, teachers, religious mentors, etc.
And, once acquired, we often accept these rules as being 'the right way' of doing things. We don't subject them to on-going evaluation. One result of this is that mature adults are often trying to live fulfilling lives with the beliefs and standards of a 6-year old, not because we want to do this but because... we have never updated our standards to suit our adult lifestyle.
Any nurturing voice in one’s mind is usually drowned out by the critical ones. If fear is involved, such as about finances and the economy, self criticism can quickly spiral out of control with negative inner monologues.
For some people the inner critic is a constant companion of their personality.
One theory is that self - criticism is anger turned inward, when sufferers are filled with hostility but too afraid and insecure to let it out. Other theories hold that people who scold themselves are acting out guilt or shame or subconsciously shielding themselves against criticism from others: You can't tell me anything I don't already tell myself, in even harsher terms.
In her book Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting for You, Lynn Grabhorn describes this process very clearly:
“Self-condemnation, in whatever form, is a comfortable place to be when we don’t want to take any responsibility for our life. We can meditate, sing chants, use crystals and incenses, make special exercises, or make affirmations proclaiming our eternal divinity, but if we go on judging ourselves, inner power and liberation will be mere words. No wish or desire can be fulfilled if you are in a state of self-disapproval. Then you can expect no abundance, inner well-being or good health, and only a bit of joy.”
The Inner Critic and Perfectionism
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Self - Criticism and self Judgment is the most common type of self abuse.
No one is more critical of you than the voice in your head. If anyone else talked to you the way the Judge in your mind spoke to you, you would fight back, or walk away from them. We can’t stop what other people think and say about us, but we can change what we think and say about our self. However, this is easier said than done.
It creates enormous resentment, resistance, frustration, and jealousy that causes you to sabotage your own best efforts. It fills you with stress hormones and inhibits your creativity. It sucks the energy right out of you and it feels bad. Self criticism is self defeating.
Because you have been trapped in a negative mental state for so long, accepting, respecting and loving yourself is not something that comes easily. Even as you wish to break free from your inner critic, you had been facing problems knowing where to start. You find yourself drowning again and again in a whirl of self-pity, self-rejection and self-blame.
Loving yourself has to be a practice until the day that it becomes natural, just like breathing.
So it means that you may just need to start from understanding the basics of what it means to love yourself. Before going on to that, let’s look into the consequences of what happens when there is a lack or low level of love:
- You find it hard to believe in yourself.
- You criticize yourself constantly.
- You believe that you are unworthy.
- You are excessively hard on yourself, but find it easy to be lenient towards others.
- You have got low expectations for yourself.
- When you look in the mirror, all you can notice are your flaws, imperfections and faults.
- You neglect self-care for instance, not caring about your eating habits, not putting up a neat appearance and so on.
- You often operate out of a fear of rejection.
- You cannot function well in social groups.
- You downplay your gifts, talents and abilities.
- You have low self-confidence.
- You feel lonely over long periods of time.
- You suffer from bouts of depression or sudden and inexplicable bouts of sorrow.
- You constantly crave the approval of others.
- You dull pain and feelings of unworthiness through addictive behavior such as smoking, sex and shopping.
Get to know your inner critic
- In order to train your inner critic, you need to know how it operates.
- Give your inner critic a character description.
- What does it looks like?
- Is it a tall with a sharp tongue and with a whip in its hand, or perhaps a thick necked guard?
- What is its favorite message it repeats to you?
- Does it whisper or yell at you?
Sometimes the critic will use a tiny grain of truth and then exaggerate it until the fear that can be generated is enough to stop you in your tracks.
Write down what your critic says to you and then challenge how realistic it is. It's best if you can do this exercise with someone who loves and supports you. Then, get rid of the unsupportive thoughts you have been carrying around with you. You don't need them anymore. Instead write a list of positive things about yourself that are true - maybe you could ask the same person who challenged the critic for help with this.
How to Expose the Critic
You could try to give the inner critic an identity; you may recognize the critic as sounding like a parent, or a teacher. Remind yourself that the critic doesn't always tell the truth. The critic was born out of the desire to be safe and avoid rejection or feeling foolish. By listening to it now you are robbing yourself of the chance to discover so many things about yourself to the change to discover so many things about yourself and what you might enjoy.
Tips for Replacing Your Inner Critic
Training your inner critic is much like you train a young puppy– it must be done carefully and consistently.
It’s a sneaky little critter and will come waltzing in the back door, just as you shove it out the front. If you judge it or condemn it, it has you in its grip again because you are behaving just like it. The best way to stop your inner critic in its tracks is to notice it, listen to it and then move on and ignore it.
Once you’ve trained your inner critic, you’ll feel lighter and freer than ever before. You’ll have the courage and confidence to embark on any new adventure.
Create separation from your inner critic.
Once you have identified the voice and message of your inner critic, remind yourself that it is just a critical voice in your head. You might want to give it a name, then when you recognize that it isn’t you, it will be easier to distance from it and not take it personally.
Acknowledge your inner critic
What you resist persists, so resisting the inner critic will only strengthen it. Say hello to it when it arises, but don’t take it seriously. If you can find a way to be amused by its presence, it will lose all its power.
Ask your inner critic what it wants
Although the inner critic tends to hold people back, it can also be a support if approached appropriately. Either in your mind or on paper, ask the inner critic what it wants, why it is behaving this way, and any other questions that come to mind. Ask how it can best support you. It may just be on a rant, or you may be surprised to discover it has a hidden agenda of helping you to be stronger in some way.
Remember that you are bigger than your inner critic. When the inner critic is in full force, it can feel bigger than you, but this is just an illusion. Center within yourself as a way to connect to your higher self, and soon the inner critic will vanish out of sight.
Try some or all of the techniques and watch your inner critic diminish in power, while you feel more empowered.
What does your inner critic look, sound and behave like?
Replace the Critic
This requires persistence.
Habits are hard to break but it can be done.
- Place an affirmation card on your mirror (or somewhere where you'll see it every day) to remind yourself to be kind to yourself and others. Look for the positive in yourself and others around you. Tell the people around you the positive things you see, and you'll see their responses to you change; they will begin to respond to you in the same way as you are treating them.
- Take compliments well and believe that the people saying kind things to you mean what they say. If you can see the good in others, realise that they can see good in you too!
Do one thing each day that makes you feel good about yourself. That could be taking a long relaxing bath, meeting up with friends, or even just giving the dog a belly rub to see his leg wobble!
- Take the time to relax, be creative and remember to pat yourself on the back every time you try something new - even if it's just something small at first.
- Make a list of all the things you would like to achieve, the things you'd like to experience. What does you inner critic say about them and about you?
- Now imagine that you are listening to your best friend describing their dreams and that someone has leveled that criticism at them. What would you say to your friend?
Know Your Own Truth
- Make a list of all the positive things you know to be true about yourself. Get a friend or someone who supports you to help you with this is you find it difficult to start with.
- Make small changes at first that get you closer to living your ideal life. Be sure to congratulate yourself for your efforts no matter what the outcome. Then add these new truths to your list.
- Think back to times when you have felt confident, successful and supported. Recall these events and times in as much detail as possible. What did you see, hear and feel?
Try to apply the following exercise to eliminate negative self-talk.
The first step is to determine the number of negative statements you make to yourself during a day. Place two jars in your home and workspace - one filled with coins, the other empty. Every time you have a negative thought, transfer a coin into the empty jar. At the end of the day count the coins - are there more coins in the negative - thought jar than in the other one?
The next day list 28 negative things that you think about yourself - for example, "I'm not good with computers."
Take 28 index cards (one for each day of the next four weeks) and on each card write a positive version response to it - for example, "I can take a computing course if I want to."
At the start of each day take one card and put it where you will see it often. Whenever you see your card, read it to yourself five times.
At the end of the four-week period, repeat the first step. This time there should be fewer coins in your negative - thought jar.
Which door will you choose -
Your Critic or Your Champion?
In the process of creating art, I cycle through different stages of emotions, from elation, exuberance, despair, anger, frustration and determination. My inner critic is piping up, too. I hear the voice of my inner critic saying:
You’re not really an artist. Your work is not good enough and it never will be...
You don’t know how to do it... I hear the voice, take a deep sigh and plunge in. Then one day, while taking a walk, I remembered what Vincent van Gogh ones said:
If you hear a voice within you saying ‘‘you are not a painter,'' then by all means paint … and that voice will be silenced.” -
I also recalled a strategy; one of my meditation teachers taught me: Being loving to my inner voice and creating loving and kind affection.
I said to myself, “What if you adopt an affectionate perspective? Like a good friend who absolutely loves and believes in you.” So I tried it and spoke to myself: " I understand why you’re scared. It’s okay. You can do it.” And it worked. I immediately felt lighter and more relaxed. Now, when I’m irritable or impatient I ask that voice for help.
This voice is my inner champion.
It’s the opposite of my inner critic, and it thinks I'm the most amazing creator in the world. This part of me completely believes that I can make whatever you want. This immediately conjures up a feeling of tenderness and compassion. It’s like pushing a love button – the word ‘affectionate’ almost instantly changes my mood and pushes those negative emotions and fears aside.
Words carry power. And when dealing with our inner critic, we need strategies that work. I have used the same strategy throughout my cancer journey when I felt disheartened, despair, insecure about my progress or choice of treatment.
Today, tune in to your champion. Offer yourself affectionate awareness. When you have 15 minutes, take a pen and befriend your champion. Try this:
Interview your champion
- Write a character sketch: her looks, tastes, beliefs, name…
- Choose a word that triggers your love button, or use affectionate
- Remember that your champion can be as vocal as your critic - but much more helpful. Listen to it when it encourages you to keep going. Pay attention when she reminds you that your efforts are worth it even if you don’t see results right away.
Try this exercise now. Don't just nod and surf away. Get your pen or open a document on your computer and spend a few minutes with your champion. She's waiting for you to let her help you!
What word invites your champion to the scene? How often do you listen to her input?
Say ‘no’ to your gremlin
Next time you hear your own judgmental thoughts telling you that you’re no good, imagine a little gremlin sitting on your left shoulder. What does it look like? What color is it? Maybe you can imagine it in some way that makes you smile.
Whenever you notice negative self-talk, imagine the gremlin sitting there and say to it firmly, “Not now!” Then carefully wipe it off your shoulder. (To others it’ll look as if you’re brushing lint off your clothes.)
In the following there are some ways to help you to expand your circle of confidence:
- Find role models
The way human beings develop and grow is through following role models. It’s useful to find a role model you want to follow. Keep in mind that if someone is successful in one particular area, it doesn’t make them a saint! Read what they have to say. Your main focus need to be: “He/she did it, and I can do it too!” Remember that all successful people were unknown and unimportant at some point in their life.
- Use affirmations
Affirmations are great tools to change the way we see ourselves. Put stickers on your mirror and in unexpected places, saying “I am getting stronger every day!” Make sure that what you say is believable. “I am the greatest!” may have worked for Cassius Clay, but it may not work for you. Personally, I prefer affirmations that honor growth, like “I am becoming more … every day!”
- Choose baby steps
If you have a grand goal it may seem overwhelming. But every grand goal can be chucked down into small segments. It doesn’t matter how small your steps are, all that matters is that you put one foot in front of the other.
- Eliminate negative self-talk
Everyone of us has a lot more negative self-talk going on then we think we have. Here’s an experiment to prove my point. Get yourself wide a rubber band that fits comfortably around your wrist. Now change that rubber band to the other wrist every time you notice negative self-talk. I was surprised – in the first hour of wearing the wristband, it flew from side to side! And I thought I’m a pretty positive person… You try and see how you go.
- Get up when you fall
- We all fall down at times. In fact, failure is a built-in factor of success. Getting up after a fall is crucial. Here’s a story about falling and getting up:
When we widen our circle of confidence, we tend to stumble and fall along the way. Just think back to when you learned to ride a bike. Maybe you were a genius at riding a bike. I wasn’t. But I was determined to learn – mainly to get even with my older brother!
- Celebrate achievements
Have you ever been successful? I don’t mean the kind of big successes that others applaud. I mean simple successes. Like, have you ever made a tasty meal? Or have you ever been able to mend something that was broken? Was there a time that you achieved something that seemed impossible to you?
Did you find it difficult to come up with your successes? I’m sure that if I had asked you about your failures, you would been able to reel them off easily. It’s quite strange how we tend to store memories of failures so well, and tend to forget about successes.
My suggestion is to make a conscious effort to call to mind times when things went well for you. The more you remember what went well, the better you will do in the future.
- Associate with positive people
Confidence is infectious! If you hang out with people who are positive and can see your potential, it helps you to see your own potential.
The interesting thing is that when our confidence grows in one area, it also infects other areas. It’s like a confidence virus!