What To Tell Your Inner Critic
It's been awhile since I've written. I apologize that I've been off my rhythm of bi-monthly posts.
This Fall has been intense with a lot of firsts:
*First time speaking to 1,400 people (at Google)
*First time leading The Work Happiness Method—my 8-week virtual program for having a more satisfying work life
*First time planning a 1st birthday party for my first daughter!
I find that doing something new is often fertile ground for my inner critic to go crazy. Sound familiar?!
While I was experiencing a mild bout of anxiety with each of these, the straw that broke the camel's back and unleashed my latest inner-critic drama was planning my daughter's first birthday.
As I was going through Linor’s closet the day before her party, I realized that I didn't have a birthday outfit ready for her. I could have gotten her something cute and special in advance... but I didn't. Suddenly, that small momentary realization began to snowball into a crying fest on top of a mound of perfectly adorable onesies: Clearly, I was a terrible mom! Who doesn’t buy their daughter a fabulous new outfit for her first birthday party?!
In retrospect, I know I was being totally irrational. But rationality isn’t exactly something our inner critic is known for.
Once I was able to start thinking clearly again, I remembered Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism model—and I thought this was the perfect thing to share with you guys.
Here's how to climb your way out of the downward spiral of beating yourself up.
Recognizing the 3 P's of Pessimism: Personalization, Permanence, and Pervasiveness
1. This isn't PERSONAL
Inner critic: You suck as a mom.
What to say back: Oops! Inadvertent oversight but nothing that defines me as a mother. I adore my daughter with every ounce of my being. New outfit or not, Linor is going to have a wonderful birthday, filled with love and joy and laughter—and she will look adorable and precious in whatever she wears. Because that’s just who she is.
2. This isn't PERMANENT
Inner critic: OMG, this is so your M.O. You are always doing stuff like this! You will never really be a good mom.
What to say back: First of all, “always” and “never” are not true! That’s just my negative knee-jerk reaction talking. Second of all, nothing about this will alter the state of my daughter’s life. I had a crazy time-crunched month, but that doesn’t mean this is how things are always going to be. If I am guilty of anything, it’s of not seeking more help with the party planning and of realizing in advance that I am easily overwhelmed when dealing with new things all at the same time.
3. This isn't PERVASIVE
Inner critic: This will now affect every aspect of the entire party! Nice going, you loser-of-a-mom!
What to say back: No, this is just one isolated thing. Besides, just because everything isn't new and totally perfect about the party doesn't mean the whole thing is doomed! There is nothing infectious about one little oversight. Only if I want to punish myself can this have an effect on anything else at her birthday party.
Bottom line: Stop being so hard on yourself!
We all make mistakes, but very, very few can do serious damage... unless we allow them to.
I know it's hard to change your inner script— trust me, I know!—especially in those moments when our emotion joins forces with our self-doubt. So even if you can't silence your inner critic in that moment, take a breath as soon as you can and start looking for the bright side(s).
Anyone care to share experiences with your inner critic—and the strategies that helped you shut it off?
Til then, practice being kind to yourself. It’s the best antidote to inner criticism and negativity in general.