HOW CAN YOU DEAL WITH YOUR INNER CRITIC?

Our inner critic is probably one of our worst enemies and yet we often hamper and pamper it and give it so much more space in our lives than it deserves. We beat ourselves up, we judge ourselves, compare ourselves to others. Why does it seem so challenging, so difficult to shut the inner critic out and silence it?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

The power of the inner critic differs for every individual and depends on many factors. It starts early in our childhood.

Were we accepted by the people around us as we are?

Were we encouraged and challenged?

Were we praised or blamed?

Were the good things taken for granted and the bad things overrated?

Were we constantly criticised and made to feel inadequate?

Were we strengthened and motivated?

Did we feel the need to always be better than others to be recognised or even loved?

I believe that this is the basis for the power that the inner critic has over us in our life.

But also in later life as we grow up, our inner critic is nourished again and again – today more than ever, especially through social media and the constant presence of any kind of media. We are shown an ideal at every turn that really no one can possibly live up to.

It is suggested to us that we are

not good enough not smart enough
not slim enough
not pretty enough
not lovable enough
simply not enough…

if we do not fit into a certain norm.

We react so much easier and stronger to negatives, often even finding it difficult to accept a kind word or a compliment. There is a quote from the film Pretty Woman that describes just that (from minute 1.18) so perfectly how we often feel.

But how can you deal and even silence your inner critic?

The first step to reduce the volume of the inner critic is to become aware of what it is trying to tell us. Unfortunately the messages the inner critic sends us are often inn our unconscious.

The beliefs of the inner critic that we have internalised since childhood often run unconsciously and it is not always easy to make ourselves aware of these. But if we do manage to recognise and grasp these recurring patterns and habits that we have been following almost religiously, we have the chance to reduce and even take away their power over us.

The Enneagram is an unbelievably great tool in quickly getting to the bottom of this.

What follows is possibly the most difficult part in silencing our inner critic. To get our of this spiral of negativity and self loathing and belittling ourselves, it is essential to rephrase what the inner critic is telling us and making ourselves aware what our strenghts and abilities are.

So instead of doubting ourselves we can have an inner dialog telling ourselves that we are

good enough and smart enough
in a perfect body
beautiful
lovable
simply enough…

and we are special and it is a good thing that we do not fit into a certain norm.

We are usually taught to overcome and work on our weaknesses an overcome these instead of strengthening our strengths – which is so much more fun and satisfying. The funny thing is that when you play on your strengths, is that you have a sense of achievement, which in turn strengthens your self-confidence and thus compensates for your possible weaknesses, making these less relevant. Unfortunately, the messages that our inner critic sends us very often run subconsciously. It is all the more important to bring them into our consciousness so that we can take away their power over us by rephrasing them.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
– Marilyn Monroe

I suppose we all have our inner critic and it can even be a good thing, something that encourages us to become better, to work on ourselves without belittling ourselves, allowing us to grow. It might sound like a contradiction to what I said before – to not work on your weaknesses or shortcomings – but both is possible in the end. If you imagine you inner critic like the angel and devil sitting on your shoulders and the dialog they might have, helping you decide if the message you are hearing is worth listening to or if there are arguments against it…

Knowing what you are up against is definitely a help in silencing your inner critic and perhaps you even manage to make him an ally.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
– Oscar Wilde

 

WHAT CHOICES DO WE HAVE IN LIFE?

So often we feel stuck in a rut and believe we have no CHOICES. We go about our routines, snuggle up in our comfort zone and see this as our only choice, as our destiny on how we should live our lives. This can be the result of our upbringing, of what we have been brainwashed into or simply what we believe is expected of us, just to name a few. We feel we keep going around in circles…

Is that really true or do we just use it as an excuse?

Most likely it is a bit of both. It is so much easier to put the blame on our childhood, the difficult circumstances or whatever, than take charge and with that take the responsibility for our own life and our actions.

I truly believe in CHOICES (even the bad ones)!

I have made countless (and I really mean it) bad CHOICES in my life but just as many good and even some great ones. One CHOICE was to NOT be a victim. I had a challenging (but not all too shabby) childhood with ups and downs (like most of us). The greatest deliberate CHOICE I made when I was seven years old, was not to be like my parents when I grow up. I can say with absolute certainty that I didn’t and I have two amazing children to prove it. I have made some very bad CHOICES trusting the wrong people in my life but I must admit that it has made me the person I am today, and even if I find it more difficult to trust others, I still made the CHOICE to rather get hurt than to run around mistrusting everyone. And yes, I am one of those people who learn the hard way. When I realized that I do have CHOICES, that I do not have to follow the same pattern (sounds easier in theory than it actually is and I constantly struggle with those patterns) it was nevertheless very liberating. This is where the Ennegram was a great helper and still is.

I speak quite a bit about comfort zones in but I do not mind repeating myself once in a while (am I boring you?). These zones are so very often all but comfortable, they are wrong, painful and at times even toxic. So why do we stay in them and even snuggle up in them, carrying them like a trophy?

  1. We know what to expect
  2. We feel safe within the known
  3. We feel we have no choices
  4. We are creatures of habit
  5. We are terrified of the unknown outside of these zones

So what are options or possibilites to get out of this rut?

  1. We can embrace the unknown – takes some courage and one or the other leap of faith
  2. Really think about what could realistically happen if we change someting (start small)
  3. Analyse what other scenarios could be and what the concequences of different choises entail
  4. Write down your daily habits and take a critical look at what is really beneficial for you and your wellbeing
  5. Overcome your fear of the unknown and become a little more adventurous by dipping your toe outside your comfort zone (most of the time the anticipated catasprohe will not occur)

I realise it sounds so simple in theory and know all too well how unbelievalbly difficult and challenging it is, or can be, in reality. Sometimes we need help and support from the outside, when we ourselves often have a tunnel vision on things and the emotions keep bubbling to the surface at all times. We need someone with an outside and non-emotional view and no agenda to show us other ways to approach certain situations with a fresh perspective. This can be a good friend, a relative, a coach or a therapist or whoever. We all need help once in a while to show us that we really do have CHOICES and to help us make the right one or at least better ones. Someone to help us make more of the good CHOICES that help us to make our lives better, richer, more satisfying and in the end happier.

Just think about the CHOICES you have made in your life so far; which ones were forced by the circumstances of your life, which were made deliberately and which ones made intuitively. As long as you realise that you have choices in your life, you are on the right track. Start small and practice…

HOW MUCH BAGGAGE ARE WE SCHLEPPING AROUND?

We all have our baggage and it usually does not get less with age… So how do we deal with all that baggage we have collected thoughout our life?

There are several options as to what we can do:

  1. We leave it on the baggage carousel hoping that someone will come and take it away and destroy it – good luck!
  2. We take it off the carousel and schlepp it around with us, hoping it will somehow take care of itself – spoiler alert, it usually doesn’t!
  3. We take it off the carousel and start sorting it out step by step and get rid of as much of it as possible.

Option a. is usually a bad idea. Since when does some knight in shining armour come along to solve all our problems? Ignoring our baggage will only ensure that we are stuck and will not move forward in our life, making ourself feel like a hamster in a wheel – going absolutely nowhere… Sometimes ignorance can be bliss but rarely when it comes to our own life.

Option b. is not much better than option a. – although slightly less naive. When we keep schlepping the same old baggage with us it will at some point weigh us down and make us utterly miserable. We may even carry it as a trophy, justifying failure, self-pity and even bad behavior. We follow a pattern and even make ourself comfortable, snuggling into our access baggage. The trouble is that at a certain point the load of baggage becomes so enormous that it threatens to overwhelm and smother us. The worst part though is that we tend to unload this baggage on others as we are so easily triggered. This may result in missed chances or broken relationships. Don’t ever let it get that far. I know what I am talking about…

 

At a certain point I went for option c. For so many years I carried my sad stories around with me, victimizing and justifying myself. At a certain point I even bored myself to death with it and was ashamed that I had used them as excuses for such a lot of things. I got over it (well most of it), I worked through it (hell yes, it’s painful), I got help where I could not cope alone (it was sometimes humiliating, which in retroperspective was just in my head).

What really helped me make that decision many years ago was actually the discovery of the Enneagram. It enabled me to take action and take my baggage off the belt and start looking through it, taking a step back and approaching it without the nagging emotions connected. At first this might be overwhelming but I just took out one piece at a time and definded if I need to work on it or with it or if it can just be filed under “experience”. I made the decision to not use my baggage as an excuse for the things that have gone wrong in my life anymore.

Does this process ever end?

I think not, at least not as long as we actually live a life. We will always have things that stay with us forever but I believe it is important to try and not let them out on others. And if we do, help them understand why we are reacting the way we do. We all have things in our lives that trigger reactions – the good and the ugly ones. It can be a song, a scent, the way something is said that can set you off. If we expect understanding, help others understand us… Just see it as work in progress.

The baggage that yoweu are schlepping around with us is usually not all negative and I believe it is important to concentrate on the good and understand and work through the ugly. Understand ourself a little better and the most important part is to be (sometimes brutally) honest with ourself.

Just don’t let the ugly define your life and who you are… You do have a choice (even if you cannot always see it right away)!

You

are

much

stronger

than

you

think!

WHAT IS A HEALTHY WAY TO COMMUNICATE?

There is one thing in our everyday lives that is probably the most important. In my practice I speak a lot about the importance of healthy communication. But what on earth does that even mean?

 

Essentially it can mean something very different to everyone, depending on what type you are on the Enneagram and what your preferences in communication are… Frustrating, isn’t it? But it’s true, we all have different ways of communicating and expressing ourselves. I have even started to write about it and hope to finish it sometime…

How to get men to talk

or

How men and women can communicate

People who know me personally know that I really love to talk and I will be the first to admit that no everything coming out of my mouth is gold. But I do have a huge amount of empathy and I am genuinely interested in people – which is a great help in my work as an iEQ9 Enneagram Practitioner.

As I really like things to be as simple as possible I would like to give a short guideline or some ‘rules’ if you like, for a healthy way to communicate. I must state that I did not come up with these but I would like to give you my short and simple interpretation of them. I am talking about the 4 ‘M’s’

Message – what is said

Matter – does it matter

Method – how is the message delivered

Moment – is it the right moment

Let’s begin with the Message: ever so often we get caught up in what we want to say. We sort of know what it is but have no real idea how to verbalise it. So why not either write it down first or even say it out loud – no worries, talking to yourself is alright als long as you don’t expect a reply. Start worrying though when you start hearing replies  – several times.

This brings us to the second ‘M’, Matter. This may actually be the most important one. We are more often than not, stuck in our heads. So when you know what the message is to be then it is great to dive in a bit deeper and check the facts. Is your message of real relevance? How much of what you want to say is happening in the real world and how much is just taking place in your own head. When you have sorted that out and have found that it does matter (does it really, perhaps check again to be sure), then proceed to the next ‘M’.

Method: how a message is delivered has a great influence on the outcome of a conversation. It can be the difference between a constructive conversation or an enormous fight (or anything in between). You most likely know the person you want to talk to and finding the right approach is key. Some people need the full monty, honest and even brutal and others might need some more sugar coating. We usually know quite well how we can trigger people we know well but we should avoid abusing this knowledge to manipulate someone. At the end of the day, whether sugar coated or not, being honest and fair is usually the best way to go.

Only one ‘M’ to go now, the Moment. Timing is everything! I know how hard it is to hold back when you feel you have a pressing matter you want to desperately talk about. But really consider the options. If you say it in the absolute wrong moment it may all be in vain. Is there ever a perfect moment?  No, hardly ever! There are really bad moments though and you should try to avoid those – for example when your partner comes home from work after a really bad day and is in a foul spirit. Chances of a fight are very high. On the other hand, when you find that good (or at least better) moment, you may actually be able to resolve your issue.

I know this all may be nothing new, it may not be fancy or even innovative, but sometimes it helps to be reminded of a possible approach to communicating in a constructive and healthy way…

Be creative…