Coping with Our Inner Critic

Are You Your Own Bully?

When most of us think of the word “bully”, we can easily conjure up memories of that rough obnoxious kid at our school who terrorized the playgrounds, cafeteria, hallways and even lurked around in the bathrooms.

I bet you remember his/her name.

That mean kid who did mean things.

And while the image of that school bully is easy enough to imagine or remember, many of us are unaware of the bully that lives within us.

The bully in our heads.

Yep.

Our own worst critic ~ ourselves.

Many of us say meaner things to ourselves than we would ever consider saying to anyone else.

I’m an idiot!

I’m always messing up!

What is wrong with me?

Everyone is going to laugh at me

Everything bad always happens to me…

And while this language is pretty strong, research suggests that various levels of negative self-talk is common. Some of us can actually go round and round like a boxer in a ring beating ourselves up with harsh hurtful words about our slightest mistakes throughout an entire day.

Exhausting.

Why do we do this?

We learn at an early age that harsh language is a form of punishment for unwanted/imperfect behavior:

You were such a bad boy today. You’re so lazy. You remind me of your stupid ______.

Kids are impressionable.  If they hear negative messages about themselves repeatedly by their parents, relatives or significant others in their environment, they may eventually take these messages on as “truth” about their character. These messages can develop into beliefs that become the building blocks of how they conceptualize their lives. Children look to others to help them discover who they are and how they fit in.

What this all means is this:

If we’ve grown up with issues of low self-worth due to childhood experiences or other factors that have contributed to low self-esteem, we’re more likely going to spend more time listening to and being dictated by negative self-talk. Our own form of punishment for our own imperfect behavior.

Here’s the good news:

Negative self-talk can be redirected and become less intrusive when:

*We first acknowledge and become more aware that we’re allowing ourselves to be held hostage by our own internal enemy – our negative inner voice. When we do our best to identify the origin of this constant self-criticism (childhood? family? or other influential factors like trauma or anxiety) we gain clarity as to why we think so little of ourselves. We can seek out support, work from there, and decide that this habit of self-harassment is no longer acceptable and that our inner bully has got to go into permanent after school detention.

 

*We can then challenge our inner critic by answering back and questioning our negative inner voice. We can call out our inner bully by asking ourselves questions like the following:

Is what I’m saying about myself really true? Really?  Seriously?

Am I exaggerating?

What are the odds that this is as bad as I think?

Questions like these can help de-catastrophize and neutralize thoughts/feelings about whatever mistake has triggered our voice of negativity.

It’s also helpful to avoid absolute all or nothing terms like always, never and every time.

Words like these when used in a critical negative voice only exaggerate the feelings of self-criticism and judgment.

 

*From here we can begin to practice replacing negative words with more positive forgiving words and phrases when we’re stressed out about something we did like:

Even though I made this mistake today, I see what I did wrong and am going to try to change it (make it better).

Even though I was totally off today, I’ll try harder next time and see if that makes a difference.

Identify the error and then balance it out with self-compassion.

It’s about allowing ourselves to be human, flaws and all, yet continuing to strive for our best.

And yeah, maybe you have to fake it till you make it but with practice good habits can be created.

“So reason with it.  Tell it how strong you are. And remind it that kindness trumps criticism,” Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Aging Gracefully: Part II

The Cane Chronicles

Hilda

 

Last year I wrote a blog about aging gracefully.

I emphasized the need to accept our natural bodily changes with dignity, push our egos aside and celebrate the privilege of growing older.

And then it happened.

One morning about a month ago I could hardly get out of bed.

I assumed I was having an arthritic flare up in my left knee.  I had these flare ups a few times in the past. But not like this.  This was a bad one.

The doctor confirmed that it was arthritic inflammation. He gave me a cortisone shot and hoped that my knee would respond as well as it had in the past.

Nope.

Advil. Ice/Heat. Heat/Ice. Advil.

Repeat.

The recovery time was taking longer than I had hoped and I was becoming increasingly more frustrated with my self-imposed lock down on the couch.

 My ego held me hostage in a place of fear. I was longing for simple activities like just leaving the house to make a quick stop at the grocery store. But walking was a challenge.

 I was afraid to leave the house for fear that I would fall and maybe break a hip…yikes!  My balance was off and my thinking was self-defeating.

Life interrupted.

And then while icing and heating my knee on the couch one night, I read an article on “How to get through arthritic flare ups”. Apparently, I was following all the recommendations except the last one: “let go of any shame and self-judgment regarding the use of supportive devices that could assist in your mobility; i.e. canes, walkers, scooters, etc.” The article said that unless one was bedridden, it was important to stay mobile if only in short spurts.

Whaatt???!  Was it time to invest in a cane????

My ego went into full overload:

Ego: “What would people think if they saw me using a cane? Are people going to see me as an old lady? Am I getting old? If anyone asks, can I just lie and say I was involved in an adventurous activity that injured my knee (skydiving?)”

Me: “Get over yourself. No one would ever believe you jumped out of a plane for fun. Get a grip and stop playing the victim! You need help…don’t be afraid to ask for it!”

So even though my ego was still blathering in my ear, I mustered up the courage to hobble into my local CVS the next day and asked for the cane display aisle.

And within minutes I saw her.

She had an ordinary look but I could tell she was for me. When I placed my hand around the handle, I immediately felt a connection.

I felt supported and balanced by her.  She took the burden off my achy knee and was my ticket to mobility.

Freedom!!!

I named her Hilda.

She was the inner warrior I needed to give me the confidence to be out in public, flaws and all, and not care what I assumed others might think of me.

I was pleased at how much easier and less painful it was to walk around the grocery store with Hilda and was surprised with how much help I got from others. For the first time I can remember, I actually had a guy, who by the way called me Ma’am, (I have to let that go) run across the parking lot and asked if he could take my cart back to the store after I emptied out the groceries. At first, I hesitated, once again trying to do everything for myself, but then gave in, and said thank you and released the cart. It felt good to get some help.

Being a martyr can be exhausting.

Oh…and on a side note, I have to say that I found some other good uses for my cane.  I used it the other day as a pointer when I wanted to point something out in a distance to a neighbor…and…I killed a spider with it (RIP). I’m feeling very comfortable now with my aide.

So, what’s the message here?

 Let go of critical mind chatter when you need support. Push your egos aside.  Asking for help has no age limits.  It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humility and strength.

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Biological Clock

As we turn the pages of our calendar with each birthday, we’re reminded that another year has passed, we’re another year older and our bodies innately continue the rhythm of natural aging with or without our approval.

For most of us, each new year brings with it a list of goals we’d like to cross off our list within a specific period of time.

Our lists can be specific or assumed and start early in life. High schoolers usually have some type of graduation plan in place by age 18. By age 21 most young adults are trying to make career decisions in hopes to get started early on the “right” financial path for their future.

From there, the clock keeps ticking.

Marriage? Starting a family?

The biological clock.

For women who want children, the biological clock can feel like Cruella de Vil looming over your shoulder. Fertility can decline by a certain age and the pressure of getting married and having children by your 30’s – 40’s can feel like a race against time.

And then there are the empty nesters.

Those of us with no children at home who are either retired or are planning to retire soon.

For many of us in this midlife age group, we can find ourselves thinking more about who we are outside of our families and who we might be outside of our jobs when we’re ready to retire.  

Of course self-introspection can happen at any age or stage in our lives but those of us entering our 40’s, 50’s and beyond can often find ourselves in a time of transition.

Closing chapters in our lives and hopefully opening new doors.

More curious about what was and what can still be.

I call this the Wonder Years.

Some refer to this as a midlife crisis.

I prefer to see it as a reckoning…or an awakening.

An awareness of past disappointments, regrets or choices that could use healing or reframing. Maybe a time to renegotiate and make peace with the expectations of what we thought was supposed to have happened in our lives that didn’t. Gracefully letting go of what was not meant for us.

And maybe it’s about reshaping our roles and identities to fit new chapters in our lives with clearer visions of our own personal desires.

All great stuff!!!

And as we continue to explore what it is we really want and begin to realize that our mortality is real ( yikes ) many of us begin the list…

The Bucket List.

The biological clock for seniors. What some believe is the Holy Grail.

The magical list of all the things we’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have Time for and because we’re at that certain age it has to be done before Time runs out.

Eeek!!!  So much pressure.

And this pressure can include how to answer some of the questions people might ask about this infamous Bucket List.

What exotic plans do you have on your Bucket List?

What countries are you planning to visit?

What’s the wildest thing you have planned now that you’re retired?

 

Uhmmm…How do you answer these questions?  

Maybe all I want is a simpler life…maybe I just want to do more nature walks or more visits to the beach or just sit in my backyard with my second cup of coffee and wonder.

Boring?

Early in my retirement, I admit I used to feel judged and somewhat ashamed that my bucket list was so simple as compared to others…maybe not as Hollywood-ized and exciting as others wanted it to be. I even wondered if there was something called Bucket List Shaming which could be defined as the disappointment you feel from others when your list is simpler than what you think they had hoped it would be.

But I’ve long moved past these feelings of shame and am much more understanding that people can often ask well meaning but awkward questions. Maybe it’s just that we sometimes feel the need to impose our fantasies and expectations on others…opinions on what we think should be done at various milestones in our lives.

But why wait until retirement to start a bucket list?

Do what you love when you can.

Stop watching the clock.

As our lives shift, our lists may shift as well but don’t miss out on what you can be doing now because you’re waiting for circumstances to be lined up perfectly or for a certain age. This can keep you in a holding pattern while the clock ticks on.

As cliche-ish as this sounds make the most out of life NOW regardless of your age. Bring meaning, fulfillment and happiness to the time you do have.

Be You,

Do You,

For You.

And remember,

“Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.”

Thanks for reading,

Brunnie Getchell

M.Ed., Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Advanced Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Author of eBook, Finding Happiness Even Without a Fairy Tale Childhood

Dings and Dents of the Holidays

Everyday Simple Wisdom

So, the holidays are officially over.

I’m exhausted.

Shopping, planning, shopping, planning. Cooking, shopping, planning. Doing more, more and then more.

Do the holidays really require this much work or is it that we bring this on ourselves?

Many of us, myself included, are determined to have a Hallmark/Lifetime movie kind ofChristmasexperience. One in which we’re creating memories that are magical and inspirational that even Santa Claus and Unicorns would be proud of.

But then there’s the aftermath left behind. The dings and dents of holiday overindulgence.

Excess, excuses and self-imposed pressure.

I admit I am guilty of all three.

For example, I rationalized and redefined cheat day regarding my consumption of food so many times that gradually it became cheat week stretching it out to cheat month with no ending date as of yet.

My thoughts about food since Thanksgiving sounded something like this:

“It’s the…

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