Written by Stephanie Grunewald, PhD
Whether you compare yourself to others or set unrealistic expectations, your inner critic can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Consider Susie, your typical 30-something trying to make her mark professionally and personally. Unfortunately for Susie, she is her own worst enemy. She finds herself ignoring opportunities for promotion because she does not feel competent. She turns down offers to socialize with friends because she doesn’t feel she can compare to them. After years of negative self-talk, Susie has completely lost sight of who she is as a person. It is easy to be consumed with how you believe you should act or what you believe society expects. Often, social norms are internalized in ways that are unrealistic and unattainable. It’s time to silence your inner critic and to reflect on what actually matters to you!
We are often our own worst critic.
Many men and women can relate to the difficulties Susie is experiencing. We convince ourselves that we are not good enough, not as good as others, or that we must accomplish more to be deemed worthy. This constant need to prove ourselves and push to be better, or possibly someone we are not, often leads to feeling dissatisfied. It results in low self-esteem and can lead to depression or anxiety. Such harsh self-evaluations and criticisms can diminish your overall quality of life.
Luckily, you can take charge. There are steps you can begin taking today to learn how to silence your inner critic and embrace your authentic self.
Three tips to silence your inner critic:
1. Treat yourself the way you treat others.
Reflecting on how we treat family and friends is often most enlightening. Think of the last negative comment you made toward yourself. Perhaps you called yourself an idiot or deemed yourself a failure after making an error. How often would you speak this way to anyone else? The problem is that we have stopped caring about ourselves the way we care about others. Before you belittle yourself, stop and ask yourself how would I respond if I were speaking to my mother or my partner?
Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.
~ Brené Brown
2. Acknowledge your positive attributes.
Many people feel they are being narcissistic or egotistical if they acknowledge that they have skills and strengths. However, failure to acknowledge these attributes leads to an overwhelming sense of negativity. It is important to balance your thinking. No one is good at everything just as no one is bad at everything. Take a moment to reflect on what you do well. You are unique and a vital step toward authenticity is embracing what makes you, you: both the good and the bad.
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
~ Dr. Seuss
I encourage clients to think of one positive thing about themselves each evening before bed. Then, the next morning, I encourage them to say that positive statement to themselves in the mirror. It can feel awkward at first but it is transformative to literally watch yourself learn how to accept a compliment.
3. Reflect on what you learned.
Whether you feel you made a mistake or caught yourself being particularly negative, take a moment to reflect on what happened and what you could do differently. I am always amazed how quickly clients gloss over positives while placing heavy emphasis on the negatives. While it is important to assess both, it is critical that you use each opportunity as a chance for growth.
Take Susie for example; after realizing she was her own barrier to a potential promotion, she reflected on what she was feeling at that moment. Susie sought assistance in how she could overcome the fear of failure in order to open the doors to endless possibilities. Often, we see ourselves as deficient when we actually aren’t. Taking a moment to reflect can help lead to a more balanced perspective in future situations.
You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.
~ Maya Angelou
Taking steps toward valuing yourself can be difficult. Over the years, we become programmed to focus solely on the negative or to allow the negative to overshadow and outweigh any positives. It is important that you be patient with the transition from self-critic to self-advocate. Embrace you!
We are here and ready to help you uncover your best self! Contact us now to schedule an appointment with Restorative Counseling.