If you struggle with any kind of self-criticism, today’s blog is for you.
I used to struggle with my own harsh inner voice. I was a perfectionist with impossibly high standards for myself, and would drive myself to exhaustion to get things “right.” I avoided making mistakes because I dreaded the shame I might feel as a result of disappointing someone else, and over-apologized for imperfections.
Internal torture, to be honest.
Learning to talk to myself in kinder ways has been a long, long process, which is why we’re focusing on loving up our inner critic in my membership program in February. One of my favorite quotes from Marshall Rosenberg was his liberating quip that “anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.” Every time that I stretch my comfort zone and take interpersonal, professional or personal risks, that has been one of my core mantras.
If you’re not in my membership (you can always join us) and just want some key tips to get you re-inspired, I’ve got you. Here are three foundational steps to take whenever you want to cultivate more loving, gentle self-talk:
1. Dis-identify from the voice of your inner critic.
Remember that this voice is not “who you are” but instead is a protective (but misguided) part of yourself that is trying to help you. It may help to think of this voice as the voice of what Terry Real calls your “adaptive child,” or what others have referred to as your survival-based self.
Your inner critic is not “you.” It developed as a result of your past experiences, early childhood conditioning, cultural and societal influences, and the internalized voices that you heard as a child. Left to run wild, this voice can be quite toxic to your well-being as it amplifies your self-doubt, insecurity, and lack of self-trust. Luckily, it can be reprogrammed, rewired and replaced.
2. Interrupt and redirect your internal critical voice.
First, don’t allow this part of yourself to hijack and overpower all other parts of yourself. When you hear this voice kicking in, get a pen and paper and write down everything you’re hearing, everything coming up in you. Getting it out of your head and onto paper is a helpful way to disidentify from it–to relocate it from inside of you to outside of you. Then you are in a better position to be able to look objectively at everything that may be welling up inside of you.
3. Replace it with loving, kind words.
Actively cultivate warm and loving feelings towards yourself by speaking to yourself in an accepting and tender way. Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a beloved, close friend, or a small child.
It might sound something like this:
“Sometimes I can be a messy, imperfect being who is just trying to figure things out …”
“It’s OK to get things wrong sometimes … I am learning”
“It’s OK to be unaware at times and to be waking up and learning as I go …”
“I didn’t know better at the time and was trying my best…”
“I am always learning and changing and growing, I get to be a work in progress…”
“I can love myself even when I feel disappointed in myself or in how things turned out…”
As we head into February, the month of love, let’s remember Oscar Wilde’s famous words, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Here’s to transforming the critical inner voices that keep us inhibited and stuck and instead developing a life-long romance with our most loving and authentic selves.
How do you speak to yourself in loving, kind ways? Leave me a comment; I’d love to know!