It's time to stop being your own worst enemy.
Your inner critic? Everyone has one, but where does it come from?
The shame game starts in childhood when others tell us what's "wrong" with us.
As a toddler you spill milk on the floor (normal for a child learning coordination and small muscle control). Mom's having a bad day and shouts: "You idiot! You're such a klutz." She might even say, "Shame on you!"
What you hear in her words is the clear message — there's something "wrong" with you and you should be ashamed of the person you are.
The worst part is, soon, YOU take over shaming yourself, continually repeating the insults — delivering relentless blows to your own self-esteem.
Mentally, you tell yourself, "I am a stupid klutz," echoing Mom's put-downs. But now, it's in the first person.
I am ...
You've identified with this insult and that is how your inner critic is born and programmed. A pattern of negative self-talk literally installs itself in your brain, like laying down tracks in a recording studio. Put-downs embed in the neuronal pathways of your brain and replay over and over and over.
As a result, your "inner bully" now specializes in self put-downs, character assassination, self blaming and shaming. And now you're your own worst tormentor, the master of negative self-talk.
The inner critic's influence is far-reaching — crushing self-confidence, blocking creativity, and trapping us in deadening relationships and careers.
The inner critic keep us in abusive relationships (agreeing with the horrible names and abuse your partner hurls your way). It stops us from following our true heart's desire. An out-of-control "inner bully" pulls us down into depression, low energy, constant anxiety and (in extreme cases) addiction, along with other self-destructive behaviors.
We walk through our days with these toxic inner-messages broadcasting in the background 24-7, eating away at our self-esteem like termites chomping away at a house. And when the inner noise gets too loud, we often turn that shaming, critical voice outward ... using it to attack and chip away at others.
If we don't identify and disempower the inner critic, we remain its victim.
So, how do you deactivate that inner jerk who berates you all day long?
Good news, there IS hope. You can learn to dis-identify from those negative thoughts inside your head and step out of shame's dark shadow.
Here's a simple, but powerful writing process for shutting that "shame game" down. By writing down what your inner critic says, you expose it for what it is: a bully who has nothing but negative things to say about you, your dreams, goals and abilities.
There's nothing constructive about that negative, nagging voice, so DON'T let it fool you! It may tell you that name-calling and destructive criticism are for your own good. That's a lie. This is all just a function of your brain trying to keep you "safe" by keeping you tethered to what is familiar (even if that familiar thing is misery).
Trying new things, growing, stretching your self lead you into the unfamiliar, which your brain translates as "unsafe" and so it resists. Your inner critic might tell you it's only protecting you from worse harm or bigger disappointment. It, of course, blames you for the past and shames you in advance for things you haven't even done yet.
But don't listen. Let's call your inner critic's B.S. out and silence it for awhile.
When you start bullying yourself with your own thoughts, here's how you answer back:
- Get out some paper, a pen or set of colored markers. If you keep a journal, use it for this process.
- With your dominant hand, write down, in the second person, all the critical things you say to yourself. These are the put downs and judgments you make about yourself, your body, or any aspect of yourself (i.e you're so stupid, you're so fat, you'll never go anywhere in life).
- Next, read the put downs back to yourself. Let yourself feel the reaction in your gut that comes up when your inner bully puts you down.
- Put the pen in your non-dominant hand (the one you don't normally write with) and answer your inner critic back. Tell it off in no uncertain terms. Don't concern yourself with spelling, grammar or penmanship. Just let the words fly onto the page. It may feel awkward and slow (even foolish), but hang in there — keep writing!
- After you feel finished, read aloud the "answer back" you wrote with your non-dominant hand.
Yes, above I said this silences your inner critic "for awhile." That's because those negative shaming thoughts never fully go away (remember, those message mapped into your brain wiring), but you can take back control of your life when those negative thoughts appear.
Understand that your inner critic lives in your head, but you don't have to take anything it says personally. Decide to choose your own thoughts and actions (which may include finally leaving that bad job or relationship).
Instead of reacting to the "shame game" when those negative thoughts starts making a racket, sass back and blow off some of that steam that accumulated from years of self put-downs, as well as put-downs from others. Don't let them hijack your self-worth. Chose a new, positive thought about yourself and focus on that.