This explains why, in a break-up, instead of just feeling the sadness of losing someone important to us, we are so often determined to turn the rejection against ourselves. Our critical inner voice, which may have been quieted while we were basking in the affections of someone we cared for, is now there to coldly say “I told you so.” Just as our positive sense of self is there to lift us through dark times, our inner critic is there to drag us through the mud. Which side of ourselves we choose to go with can mean the difference between living a rich and fulfilling life and holding ourselves back from true happiness every step of the way.
To get through a rejection or any painful occurrence in our life — the loss of a job, the inconsistency of a friend, the disappointment of a family member — we need to stand up to our critical inner voice. We can do this by first identifying when this voice is creeping into our thinking. When does a thought like, “I really miss him” become “I will never meet anyone like him. No one will ever love me?” To help us catch on to this cruel internal dialogue without blindly believing every word it utters, it’s helpful to think of our thoughts in the third person. Would we ever let someone talk to us the way we are shouting at ourselves? Moreover, would we ever tolerate someone speaking to a friend of ours the way our critical inner voice speaks to us?
We have to catch on the moment our anger turns against us. When your thoughts switch from, “I hate her for leaving me” to “Of course she left me. I’m nobody,” you can bet that your inner critic is now at work. The more we listen to it and indulge in its doctrines, the weaker and worse we feel. When you sense that voice seeping in, take a moment to write down your thoughts in the third person. Use “you” instead of “me” statements (i.e. “Of course she left you. You’re nobody.”) Think about what this voice sounds like to you. Is it familiar? Where could it be coming from? Then, respond to that voice with the compassion of a friend. You may write statements like, “I am not worthless. I’m a good person and a good choice. I deserve to be loved.”
The more we can identify when we are turning against ourselves rather than just feeling the pain of difficult events, the better off we will be in the long run. We can learn to cleanly separate our current feelings from the old pain and insults we carry with us. We can learn to treat rejection as a loss of a person we valued without losing a sense of our own value.