I have a long history of beating myself up.
When I was in kindergarten, I went home crying.
Because I didn’t get all the buttons as rewards for things I could do.
Counting to 100 and tying my shoes.
And it wasn’t that I was competitive with everyone else, I don’t think.
It’s just that I wanted to do everything *right.*
I didn’t want to make mistakes.
I wanted 100% on everything.
I wanted to do well.
You could say I’ve always had a harsh inner critic.
Can you relate?
You might be like me if you’ve said any of the following to yourself:
I can't believe I sent that email with a typo.
I'm feeling "behind" in my career.
Why can't I get my act together and do my taxes early?
Negative thoughts can feel like background music to your life. You’re not even aware you’re listening to them.
For many years, my instinct was to beat myself up whenever I made a mistake.
And then, when I realized that wasn't the way to go, I'd beat myself up for beating myself up. Ugh! A vicious cycle.
Whenever I’m hard on myself, it just makes me feel worse.
Plus, it doesn't work!
It’s like the athlete who makes a mistake and then gets in her head about it and makes more mistakes – a domino effect.
So over the past couple years, I’ve tried a different approach whenever I’ve messed up.
I've been nicer to myself when I make a mistake, instead of super harsh.
So when you make a mistake, notice if you’re starting to beat yourself up.
Name it. Label it. Bring your attention to it with kind awareness.
Say something like this to yourself instead:
“That’s my inner critic.”
“Wow, I’m being hard on myself.”
“Is that a perfectionism thought?”
“Do I need to be THIS hard on myself?”
Even as I write this, I'm super skeptical.
Don't you need to take mistakes seriously and get in your own face about it?
True story -- after I wrote this, I checked an email I sent and it had TWO typos. Not one. TWO. Ugh.
I'm someone who reads emails over and over again, so this was particularly painful.
My inner critic desperately wanted to come out. It was ready and willing to put up a fight!
Also, my inner critic is like a gremlin that's been fed after midnight. So it's kind of intense.
But, instead of beating myself up, I took a breath. I realized I was about to go down my "inner-meanie" spiral.
And I said, "Okay, you're being hard on yourself."
I didn't try to STOP the thought.
Can I be real with you? I didn't think this would work.
It's one thing for me to write an email to you about my inner critic. It's quite another when a real LIVE mistake happens in my life.
But, I noticed the inner critic voice. I took a breath. I tried my best to relax my body. And I moved on with my day.
And guess what? I let it go. Am I stoked that I sent an email with a typo? Nope.
But, I had compassion for myself. I didn't obsess about it. And I got other stuff done throughout the day.
When you notice an inner critic in your head - Pause. Take a breath. Notice the thought. Breathe again.
I’m so not perfect at this.
You might find me being hard on myself on some days and that's okay.
Progress, not perfection.
But, when you let the thoughts come up with curiosity and gentleness, you meet yourself with loving awareness.
Be patient with yourself.
Breathe when you notice your inner critic.
Do whatever feels good for you.
Release what you don't need.
Simple, yet powerful.
I'm all about baby steps that are actually a really big deal.
How do you handle your inner critic voice?
Say something nice to yourself? Ignore it? Give yourself 10 minutes to stress out? Talk to someone?
Comment below and let me know! I love hearing from you!
Bye-bye inner critic.... :)
From my heart to yours,
Devon McLeod, LCSW
PS "Letting go of your inner critic can feel uncomfortable but it's in the discomfort that the new patterns are born." - Athena Laz
Have a beautiful week! <3