So many of us are so hard on ourselves. Maybe it’s because we are Type-A personalities. Maybe it’s because we are perfectionists. Maybe it’s because the current economic environment has us on edge. Whatever it is I find that setbacks of any kind can really impact my day. I will say that having a puppy is very helpful to my overall mood. But I deal with the constant negativity of my inner critic beating me down every day and I know that I’m not alone.
I have spent most of my life listening to the voice in my head that tells me what’s wrong with me, what I can’t do even if I try hard, and why things will never be any different. Sometimes I immediately regret something I’ve said or done, and I can’t stop replaying what happened in my head. Days later I’m still ruminating over what happened and what I should have done better, while hearing my inner voice tell me how I screwed things up yet again.
No matter how hard I try to give 100% at everything personally and professionally, real life seems to get in the way.
Take for example this week, I’ve been dealing with a stomach virus (I shouldn’t have eaten that takeout), a new French bulldog puppy who is a terror in addition to being cute (let’s just say housetraining isn’t going so great), packing up my apartment to move (why do I have so much stuff?) and helping my dad who is a widow and not the best when it comes to taking care of household things on his own (his fridge broke, and he’s having a meltdown). I also stubbed my toe (why am I so clumsy?). I also have my own business and there’s a lot that goes with being an entrepreneur (why are there not enough hours in the day?). Add on top of all of that the fact that my beloved first dog Charlie passed away in June, and I am still grieving him. Oh and of course there’s a global pandemic as well.
Your inner critic is the voice that whispers in your mind about how you’re not attractive enough, not smart or witty enough or perhaps that you’re unsuccessful in life. It’s also the voice that says you’re an imposter in your job and that everyone will eventually find out.
When you notice this voice starting to pipe up in your mind shut it down before it become a big snowball of negative thoughts that you’ll have a hard time stopping. When you’ve gotten the inner critic to quiet down, focus on all you have in your life. The list below helps me put my inner critic into perspective without sugar coating it because of course I have things on which I need to work. I hope it helps you too.
- Your thoughts aren’t always true. In fact, they’re often exaggeratedly negative. It’s important to examine the evidence before you believe your thoughts.
- Don’t compare yourself to others and their successes. You don’t know what they’re dealing with behind the scenes.
- People generally only post the happy times on social media. Everyone has problems and setbacks.
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel valued.
- Don’t apologize for being you. Don’t ruminate over things you would have, could have and should have done.
- A great way to stop the negative self-talk from replaying in your head is by getting active. Find an activity that will temporarily distract you from the negative tapes playing in your head. Go for a walk, call a friend to talk about a different subject, or tackle a project you’ve been putting off. But refuse to listen to your brain beat you up.
- Shut off that negative speak about you not deserving your job or not feeling good enough or smart enough or that they’ll find out you’re an imposter. You aren’t! No one knows everything about their job. If they did they wouldn’t be in it because it wouldn’t be a challenge. Fake it until you make it, and if you’re really insecure about something work harder than everyone else.
- Replace exaggeratedly negative thoughts with realistic statements. When you recognize that your negative thoughts aren’t completely true, try replacing your statements with something more realistic.
- Don’t make work your life. I’m finding without the commute time I’m working more than I’ve ever worked before in my life. Sometimes I’ll look up from my computer and see that it’s 9 PM. I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same way. I’ve been taking little breaks to work out and to walk my dog. When I’m not in Manhattan I’ve been spending a lot of time in Connecticut and even just taking my laptop and working outside has been a huge help in my overall mental health. So make time for you – whether it’s vegging out in front of the TV, cooking, working out or reading a book.
- Expect the unexpected. But don’t obsess about it. The only constant in life is change. Live your life now and let it unfold.
- Consider how bad it would be if your thoughts were true. Often the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as we fear. Reminding yourself that you can handle tough times increases your confidence. It will also decrease much of the dread and worrisome thoughts that can stand in your way.
- Accept that you will make mistakes. Be constructive and focus on what you can learn from them. Also apologize when you screw up. Everyone makes mistakes.
- Go for happy, not perfect. Your good enough is good enough. Perfect is overrated.
- Be grateful for those who spoke to you instead of about you.
- Be thankful that you get a new opportunity each day to live your life.
- Think of rejection as being redirected to something better for you.
- Lift up other women. Never be a mean girl.
- Focus on finding solutions, not ruminating on the problems.
- Do the worst first – meaning cross off the things on your list you don’t want to do and reward yourself when you complete them.
- Be comfortable in your own skin (and clothing size).
- Don’t let the fear of being wrong keep you from speaking up and being involved.
- Ask yourself what advice you’d give to a friend. It’s easier to be compassionate toward other people, rather than yourself. While you might call yourself an idiot for making a mistake, it’s unlikely you’d say that to a loved one. When you’re struggling with tough times or you’re doubting your ability to succeed, ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend who had this problem?” Then, offer yourself those kind, wise words.
- Learn what you don’t know.
- Give compliments often.
- Remember that it’s okay to say no to things you don’t want to do.
- Remind yourself you’re in control of how you view a situation.
- Let your intuition guide you. It often knows better than you do.
- Learn from everyone around you – generations younger and older.
- Listen to podcasts, read books and consume content created by people who have the mindset you’d like to adopt.
- Always keep going. No matter what’s happened to you – rejection personally or professionally – process what happened, learn what you can but don’t let the rejection stop you for too long. With a focus on what you still have (that many in the world don’t have), on what you can maybe do differently and with your attention on your opinion of yourself and what you actions you can take keep moving forward. Even if it’s by just taking one small step at first.
My most important advice for you is to stop caring as much about what others think of you. The only opinion that matters is yours. Everyone is on their own unique path and what’s good for them is not what’s necessarily right for you. It makes you less vulnerable to what others may think or say about you. It makes more things bounce off you. Instead of them dragging you down, cut them off. Of course you should always listen to trusted friends and colleagues and mentors with regard to constructive criticism. And really try to listen with an open mind.
Who you surround yourself is so important for your emotional well being. I was in an unhealthy relationship where my significant other would tell me all of the things that were terrible about me from his perspective and all of the things I did “wrong” on a daily basis. I walked on eggshells. I couldn’t be myself. I started to believe them as the truth. It took therapy for me to realize that just because he felt this way about me didn’t mean that it was reality. If you feel that you are in an unhealthy situation whether it is work related or a relationship, please get a trusted outside perspective.
So many situations are out of our control, but we do have choices about how we approach each day, the expectations we set for ourselves, how we speak to ourselves and the people with whom we surround ourselves. I’m finding the pandemic a great time to take stock of my life, what I want and who I want in it and I recommend you also do the same. Social distancing is hard but it puts it all into perspective. Now is the time to follow these principles and find a little more peace. Being kind to yourself and cutting yourself some slack is the most important thing you can do right now and always.
Please only surround yourself with people who lift you up and support you. And while you don’t want people who constantly tell you how great you are, you want people in your life who genuinely care about your well being. Trust your gut and your intuition in silence that harsh little inner voice.
Always mindful of the way you talk to yourself. We can be our own worst critics. Remind yourself of all of the positive things and people in your life and of what you have to be grateful. There’s a difference between telling yourself that you’re not good enough and reminding yourself that there’s room for improvement. Accept your flaws for what they are right now while committing to doing better in the future. Although it sounds a bit counterintuitive, you can do both simultaneously.
YOU have to be your own biggest cheerleader especially when times are tough. My close friend lost her husband at age 35 yet she is still one of the most positive people I know and she has now found love with someone else and has a baby. You can move on from the very worst things in the world and rebuild your life. Don’t let that negative voice in your head tell you that you can’t.