Learning How to Cope With Your Inner Critic

Today, I'm pulling back the curtains to tell you more about my journey of dethroning my Inner Critic.

We've all heard the saying, "We teach that which we most need to learn." And that's definitely true to for me. Even though I had a relatively normal childhood, I can remember frequently feeling a lot of anxiety growing up. I felt like at any moment I would be judged, criticized or rejected by a friend or a teacher. 

I never felt this from my parents, but the outside world seemed somewhat daunting and dangerous. In the first grade, I had social anxiety so bad that my mother came to school to sit with me during lunch for the first two weeks of school. I was a shy kid that didn't feel comfortable sleeping at other kids' houses. I also spent a lot of time worrying about my parents' relationship. 

My parents had a somewhat rocky relationship and the environment in my home could be a bit unpredictable as I never knew when the next screaming match would ensue between them. So, in order to save their marriage, my parents set out to discover what was causing so much conflict between them. 

This when they discovered self-awareness and learned that the key to their relationship was examining their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors that kept them stuck. So, at nine years old, my parents were talking to me about taking personal responsibility for my thoughts and beliefs. 

These were great concepts in theory. But the reality was that I continued to live with the nagging idea that I just wasn't good enough. This nagging inner feeling stayed with me through middle school, where I frequently wore a resting bitch face to keep people from getting too close. It followed me through high school when I would often compare myself to other people with better grades or looks. 

When I went off to college, I was sick of myself. I was tired of constantly feeling that no matter what my life looked like, it just wasn't good enough. I couldn't stand my own mind any longer. But (luckily) I knew that the key to overcoming this was understanding my own mind. 

When I was 19, I enrolled in a week-long program in upstate New York about how our thoughts and beliefs keep us from living the lives we want. Part of the program was a ropes course. I will never forget standing on that platform and being told I had to jump off a cliff into an 80-foot drop! 

The rule of the day was that you HAD to do the ropes. It didn't matter if it took you three hours to get through it...you weren't getting out of it. So I was all strapped into my safety gear, standing on a platform the size of a dinner plate and terrified to jump off a mountain into thin air. My legs seriously wouldn't move. 

I was crying and yelling, "I can't do this!" And all the ropes instructor kept saying was, "Thank you. Please step off." I stood there for what felt like forever...and then I heard a voice in my head that I will never forget.

It said, "Who gives a shit if you're scared?"

As I stood there shaking, I kept hearing that sentence over and over in my head. Finally, I faced the fear and all that went with it. I felt the tears streaming down my face. My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. And then I jumped off the dinner plate. 

And that is where my journey of dethroning my Inner Critic officially began. 

I came home from that experience feeling like a different person. It was then that I realized all my fears of being judged, rejected, and feeling like I wasn't good enough had nothing to do with the life I wanted to live. In that moment on the mountain, I broke the habit of listening to my Inner Critic voice and thinking it was me. 

I didn't know then that the voice I heard was from my Inner Critic. But what I did know was that I was no longer willing to take guidance or direction from her. She was the voice that was keeping me stuck and keeping me from talking to new people. She was keeping that resting bitch face permanently glued on. I began to experiment with hearing that voice, understanding exactly what it said, why it said it...and no longer taking guidance from it. 

After that, my entire college experience shifted. I began to push myself outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis. I talked to new people. I enrolled in a U.S. history class even though I was scared I would appear completely dumb. After college, I moved to New Orleans to attend graduate school without knowing a soul. 

What I can tell you is that for the last almost 30 years, my journey has been all over the map. Breaking the habit of listening to my Inner Critic has been like being on a roller coaster. It takes effort because it's so uncomfortable to continuously examine all the thoughts and beliefs that are so conditioned in my mind. 

Through several decades, my marriage, raising my three children and building my business as a therapist, coach, and entrepreneur have all taken me down to the most painful parts of my soul. They've all served as mirrors for me. 

I've had to face the emotional pain that came from years of feeling like I wasn't good enough or waiting on my accomplishments to make me feel good enough has led me on a wild ride. I've discovered that I'm 100% responsible for the presence or absence of love, compassion, and acceptance within myself. That was a doozy of a lesson that my Inner Critic fought tooth and nail!

The biggest emotional pain within all of us reopens from our relationships. Sustaining a 22-year connected partnership with my husband has not always been a bed of roses. My Inner Critic has expectations for my husband and children should act. Dethroning her means understanding that when I am upset, disappointed or angry, it stems from the story she whipped up in my childhood.

When I separate myself from those automatic Inner Critic thoughts, I can recognize where I have to let go of my own attachments and expectations instead of trying to fix and control other people. 

The relationships I have with my three children has drudged up my Inner Critic in ways nothing else in my life has! As I watch my children go through their lives having their own experiences, the conditioned fear and worry from my Inner Critic kicks into high gear! Learning I have to let go of my Inner Critic's urge to control, manage or fix their lives has been one of the most challenging life lessons that I've experienced so far. 

If I want to have a peaceful, loving and connected relationship with my children I cannot let my Inner Critic's fear of the "what ifs" control my mind. Instead, I have to consciously choose "what is". 

I've also had to learn the hard way that my expectations are the death of me emotionally and spiritually. I have to continually examine where my expectations are and where they're triggering my deeper core pain of not being good enough. I had to come to the realization that the thoughts and feelings that I'm not good enough are never, ever leaving me. They are just a part of my Inner Critic's old computer programming. 

It is up to me whether I allow myself to go down the familiar rabbit hole when the machinery has kicked in. I now know when I feel the familiar (and painful) emotion of something not meeting my expectation of the way it's supposed to be, I have the choice to let go of the habitual meaning that I am assigning.  

My power lies in managing my mind, which determines how I respond. Examining my thoughts daily is the most powerful tool I have to keep my Inner Critic from taking over my mind. It's why I start my day in mediation with a mantra that I took from the amazing book "The Big Leap" by Gay Hendricks. It is, "I expand in abundance, success, and love over fear. I choose my own worth. I choose trust. And I choose abundance." 

This is not the mind that I was born with! I have to choose this path daily. Each moment becomes a choice to either blindly go down the path of lack or choose the path of abundance. 

 

In order to truly change your life, you need to be willing to think differently from how you feel.

That's why I collected some of my favorite resources and trainings to create an owner's manual for your mind. Want access? Tell us where to send your log-in details! 

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