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

Unexpected Kindness from Strangers

Over the span of our lives, we have all borne witness to the devastation that natural disasters and other mass related deaths can leave behind.

Due to the availability of today’s social media, we’ve been able to watch many of these tragedies unfold from the comforts of our living room. We’re able to listen to and catalog just about every harrowing detail of each publicized tragedy. Many of us find solace in the acts of kindness from strangers that seem to emerge during these distressing catastrophic events.

While it always inspires me to hear stories about the innate goodness of others who lend a helping hand during a crisis, I am also amazed by the kindness that so many people offer for the smaller, less critical, everyday things in life. Graciously letting someone cut ahead of you in line or offering to help carry someone’s groceries who seems to be struggling is simple kindness without expectation…just because.

In my corner of the Universe, I recently had some acts of kindness come my way from strangers during a very non-critical, utterly ordinary, yet frustrating time.

Here’s what happened:

I ordered a chair online.  The day of its expected delivery it was pouring rain.  I made a point of being home all day perched at my living room window so I could see when my chair was delivered. I didn’t want my chair to spend any unnecessary time out in the elements. As it got closer to 5:00pm I became concerned.

No chair.

I then checked my email and noticed that FedEx sent a confirmation that my chair had already been delivered to my front door hours ago…whaatt???!!  I threw open the door and walked up and down my walkway several times to make sure that somehow, I didn’t miss a 60lb box that had been delivered.

It wasn’t there ☹.

I even drove around the neighborhood for a while hoping it was sitting on someone’s front stoop. Nope.

I then called Wayfair (the online company that I ordered the chair from) and spent what seemed like an eternity with the nicest representative I’ll never meet. Her name was Corinne.  Corinne listened very patiently to my frustration and helped me process two major possibilities: my chair was either delivered to the wrong address and the recipients decided not to call and report it or my chair was lost and abandoned out there somewhere.

We kibitzed about the moral compass of anyone who would keep a purchase that did not belong to them and also how hard it was to accept the error of a delivery guy who continued to claim that he delivered my chair to the right address. Corinne and I shared stories about how hard it can be sometimes to let go and move on.  She understood.  She got me.

A new chair was then ordered (no charge to me) and was due to arrive within two weeks.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my original chair was somehow nearby. On a hunch, I called the realtor who’s in charge of the new condo complex next to me and asked if my chair had been delivered there by any chance.

And it was.

It was waiting patiently for me on the porch of their front office. Delivered to the wrong address. The realtor hadn’t been there all week and was not aware it was there until I called.

I happily walked over and was greeted warmly by a crew of workers who endearingly call themselves the “Dirt Crew”. Without any hesitation, they offered to load my chair into the back of their truck and drive it over since there was no way I could get it over to my house by myself.

They would not take any money for their time or efforts.  Just an act of kindness for a stranger.

I cancelled the order for my new chair and was told it had already traveled to Arizona and was on its way to Massachusetts.  I felt badly that it might have been catching some nice rays in such a warm place ( Maria daSilva’s comment )

but my loyalty was to my original chair…

So, why did I write a blog about a lost chair?

Simply because the kindness of Corinne and the Dirt Crew are great examples of the innate goodness that ordinary people can offer in ordinary ways and make a big difference.

The kindness from strangers is not usually planned out.  It can arrive in unexpected forms with no way to pay them back but with a heartfelt thank you.  Spontaneous generosity of someone’s time and effort toward a stranger speaks volumes of their character and their heart…their response to someone’s vulnerability.

 

I’ll end with a big thank you to all the Corinnes and Dirt Crew helpers out there!

 

Thank You 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