Probably like you, I can be my own worst critic. I’ve gotten a lot better and am still improving, but I used to judge myself pretty harshly for just about everything. I wasn’t always aware of how often my self-criticism was looping in my head and how much it was influencing my daily existence and encounters with others. I would judge myself after I spoke – especially if it was in a group of people I wasn’t familiar with or a classroom setting – I think that those are some of the scariest and most vulnerable times to speak up. No matter how much we may deny it, (at some point(s) in our lives), we all need connection with other humans – we want to be liked, we want to be accepted, we want to be valued and we want to be validated, we want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. When we feel like we haven’t gotten one or some of those things, we tend to look inward and blame ourselves, criticize ourselves or beat ourselves up for what we said, how we acted, what we didn’t do or say, etc. Our inner critic is fueled and having a big party – for some of us, it’s a little scarier and that inner critic is on a rampage and beating the shit out of ourselves. This critic, on the loose, has hijacked our minds and if we don’t actively do something, we’re going to be held hostage by our own thoughts which can wreak havoc on our self-esteem and self-confidence, our physical and mental health, our relationships, our careers, etc.
So I’m sure, by now, you are wondering what you can do to stop this. Whether you realize it or not, you have the power within you to shift your focus – changing your thoughts will change your reality. As Wayne Dyer says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Chances are, if you’re stuck in a continuous negative internal dialogue that loops throughout the day, you need a dynamic shift because your experiences are reflecting your thoughts and vice versa and if you don’t actively make a shift in your thoughts and experiences you’re in danger of remaining stuck in the cycle. The most important part of making this shift is that you must be intentional and know what you want. You have to take charge of your own reality. What do you want? Do you want to learn and grow into your potential? If so (yes, I am directing you that way), I would start with a gratitude journal. Not everyone agrees with me, but I’m big on getting an old school journal and hand-writing, at least, 3 things you are authentically grateful for everyday – you can do it on computer if you’re that opposed to writing, but I would heavily suggest creating a folder and keeping all of your gratitude journals together. You need to bring your awareness and your focus onto what is good and what is working. Like the saying goes – you get more of what you focus on. Next, decide how you want to think about yourself. Do you want to feel proud of yourself, secure and confident? If so, what would have to happen in order for you to feel that way. After that, create a chart and check in with your thoughts 3-5 times per day (write them down especially after a potentially triggering situation) – this will help build the muscle of mindfulness. We tend to fall into old patterns of reactivity when we lack mindfulness and self- awareness. This is your life. Take charge of it. It is your birthright to create a peaceful, self-loving, compassionate and nurturing existence. Like everything else, it takes energy and persistence.
Keep in mind, this is a journey – not a destination. The goal is build a muscle so you can interfere with that inner critic when it pops up. No matter how good you get at deciding what you want, that inner critic can still pop up – it’s the muscle of self-awareness and mindfulness that will defeat the negativity.