I am pretty certain that as moms we all have an inner critic lurking inside of us. Some of us hear from our critic more than others, like that horrible lullaby that gets stuck in your head, but you only remember three lines over and over and over again.
These Messages are Stressing Me Out!
It wouldn't be so bad except this lullaby is like death metal clanging away. It never has anything nice to say. Often it says things like “you are going to screw up your kids forever”, “you are too fat”, or “you are selfish and your husband will never understand you and how hard balancing it all can get”. We tend to listen to these messages without question. Over time our inner critic can cause us to feel stressed, depressed, unsure of ourselves or worse.
Where Does This Judgment Come From?
As moms, our inner critic has been there for a long time. It may have started with messages we received as a child from the female role models or authority figures in our lives. It most likely became worse when we began comparing ourselves to unrealistic moms on television and in magazines (that is if you have time to watch TV or read these days). It is probably even more pronounced now that social media is taking a huge toll on us since everything we do is being judged and we are constantly comparing ourselves to the other moms around us.
Intention: Good or Bad?
So, how do we begin to stop listening to our inner critic and teach it, like we teach our kids, to be a little nicer? Well, first of all, we need to understand the intention of our critic. As ironic as it may seem, our inner critic is there to protect us. The negative talk is kind of like the helicopter mom, annoying but actually there to keep us safe. Think about it... The earliest humans had no defenses, like claws or pointed teeth, so we had to depend on our advanced brains to keep us from being the next delicious meal. When being approached by a large scary predator, it would not have helped us to try and see the positive in the situation or challenge ourself to take a risk. Our inner self told us, “you are too weak and small to survive so get the heck out of there!” Fast forward to today, when faced with a scary situation, our inner critic is still trying to protect us. For example, when we need to do a presentation, our brain tries to protect us by telling us that maybe our presentation is not very good or that people will judge us etc. It says, play it safe, don’t take the risk. This does nothing for our self-esteem and does not help us to perform better.
What Do We Do Now?
Now how to we deal with this inner critic? Here are a few tips that might prove helpful:
First of all, we need to recognize our critic and what it is telling us. Sometimes these messages are so ingrained we don’t even notice them. We need to see them for what they are, a part of ourselves but not all of who we are. Second, it can help to give your internal critic a name. Preferably a name that is non-threatening or intimidating. I like to call mine Bob. Next, become friends with your inner critic. Maybe even thank it for it’s attempts to protect you... “Hi Bob, I appreciate what you are trying to do here, but I’m wondering if you might consider a different approach to things?” After this, tell your inner critic that you are choosing a different way to see the world. “So Bob, I know you think I look fat today but you need to stop judging me! My body is amazing and I am doing everything I can to keep it strong and healthy”. Basically tell your inner critic the opposite message and keep practicing this. Over time the message will become a more positive one.
Commit to It!
If you have had these negative thoughts for a long time, chances are you are going to have to commit to changing things. In order to re-write the messages, we have to practice the new messages regularly. We need to make a habit of noticing our inner critic, becoming it’s friend and making sure that it knows it cannot bully us any more. Tell it that from now on you will only listen to positive messages. We must commit to this because it is up to us to re-write our own story. No one, especially our inner critic, should write it for us.
P.S. “Bob, this blog is pretty good and the more I practice the better I will get!