Am I the only one who has regular battles with her inner critic?
Sunday was not a good day for me. As I was working on some things for the virtual retreats, I got into playing the comparison game, questioning the value of what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, and so forth.
This happens to all of us, of course. We get down on ourselves, down on our work, down on life. Sometimes we can see why we're getting into a funk. Other times it seems to hit us out of nowhere. This was one of those "didn't see it coming" kind of things.
Ideally, I'd like to avoid feeling this way, but over the years, I've come to realize that questioning my work and how I'm doing it is just part of the process. Some of it is Resistance, I know. Some is just being human. What's most important is how I deal with it.
Three Steps for Fighting Your Inner Critic
1. Recognize what's going on.
At first, as negative thoughts started to invade my brain like some kind of alien species, I kept pushing them aside, refusing to acknowledge them. But they would not be denied, so I was forced to accept that they were there.
This is the first step in the process--realize that you're heading into negative thinking. Or that you're already deep into it. You have to take the little step back that lets you say "Ah--I see what's happening here. The critic has arrived!"
2. Follow the feelings and listen to the messages of your inner critic.
Once I saw what was going on--that I was in the grips of some major inner critic stuff--I allowed myself to go with the feelings and to "hear" what I was telling myself.
- "Who are you to think you can help people with these issues?"
- "No one is interested in this stuff."
- "Other people do this so much better than you do."
- "This is all a waste of time."
As a result of all this negative crap I was heaping on myself, I, of course, was starting to FEEL like crap. Instead of feeling energized and inspired by the work (as I usually do) I was discouraged and demotivated. I started thinking "what's the point?" and all my enthusiasm began to drain away.
Not only that, I started globalizing, moving from "this isn't going to work," into "nothing is working." Which is a really bad place to be, and honestly, happened WAY too quickly for my liking!
3. Fight back.
At this point in my life, these ongoing battles with my inner critic are old hat. I'm not going to lie. I'm kind of sick of them, but I recognize that this is just one of those things that goes on in my mind. Gotta deal with it.
So these are some of the strategies I use when this happens.
- Write it out. Journaling what I'm thinking and feeling often has the effect of draining away the negativity. Seeing the words on the page can be like poison being purged from my body. Writing is kind of my "go to" when it comes to dealing with the inner critic. So that's where I started, but it didn't give me the relief I was looking for.
- Talk to someone. My husband/business partner could tell immediately that something was up, so started asking me "what's wrong?" Often my response is to say "nothing" and just try to deal with it myself, but I've been trying to be better at asking for help, so I told him what I was thinking/feeling. We explored some of the issues and brainstormed some ideas and I felt a little better--but not completely because we were focused on solutions and I still had a barrel of bad feeling floating around inside.
- Distraction. Since I can be the queen of rumination when I get on the negativity train, I often will try distraction--doing something else that is completely different and that will immerse me in some other world. This is where Netflix can be my friend. Reading a book or playing an Xbox game can also work for me. Basically we're looking for something that is engaging enough that it pulls you out of your own head.
- Get some sleep. One word--naps. Sleep can be one of the best ways to disrupt the critic. Usually when you wake up, the critic has left the building. Or at least is only whispering to you.
- Accept that you're having a bad day. The final tool in my battle with the inner critic is just accepting that I'm having a bad day. When all else fails, I remind myself that this too shall pass and when I wake up in the morning, I can start again. Which is exactly what happened. I went to bed and when I woke up yesterday morning, I was ready to go again.
Of course, sometimes the inner critic keeps it up for days and weeks. Then we're talking a different kind of battle, which is the topic of another post. But for most of us, dealing with the critic is a periodic battle, rather than a long-term war. The more we develop our capacity to deal with it, the less power the critic has in our lives.
How do you deal with your inner critic? What strategies/tips work for you?
Fall will be here before you know it--a perfect time before year's end to start thinking about what's next in your career. Click here for more info on the Career Clarity Virtual Retreat.