Who is your biggest critic? Someone at work? A relative?
How much do you allow them to criticise you before you tell them where to shove their opinions and “helpful advice”?
You might find that much of the time your biggest critic is yourself – the inner thoughts of nagging doubt that convince you that you can’t achieve anything before you’ve even tried, and that the things you do manage to achieve are pointless/worthless anyway. Getting that particular critic to go away is a lot more complicated than telling another person where to go.
I can’t actually think of a time in my adult life where I didn’t have that monkey on my back, making me doubt everything I do. Often, times that others spend celebrating change, I find myself examining my (lack of) achievements and feeling like a bit of a loser.
This issue is something I’ve always been aware of, but until recently I didn’t think I could, and didn’t know how to go about, changing. If you criticise yourself and undermine yourself on a constant basis, it holds you back. Constantly telling yourself that you don’t measure up reinforces poor self esteem, and makes all of the twisty thoughts you might experience due to a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety seem like they are actually true.
In turn this makes self esteem worse, and your inner critic gets louder, eventually convincing you not to bother trying things because you will probably fail. Inevitably this has consequences like failing to reach your true potential, and not feeling like you are able to chase your dreams.
So what can you do about it?
You’ve heard of doing unto others as you would have done onto yourself? The same applies in reverse. If you tell yourself something negative about yourself, immediately try to identify two positive things about yourself and tell yourself them until you believe them. Imagine hearing a friend saying something bad about themselves – I doubt you’d stand there and agree with them.
Don’t buy into the idea that you don’t do anything of worth – stand back and think about the things you do that have a positive impact on other people. That could be something as simple as making someone a coffee in work without being asked, to trying to cheer up a friend. Would a terrible, worthless person do those things? No… But you did…
Try positive affirmation – the only reason you buy into the negativity you feed yourself is because you repeat it regularly. If you tell anyone anything for long enough, they will believe it, no matter whether it is true or not. History is littered with examples of this – racism, sexism, social injustices etc. It’s only when we challenge those beliefs by replacing them with more realistic ones, that the true picture really comes to light. So if you can give it a go, tell yourself you are a good person on a daily basis. See how long it takes to believe that instead!
Try to take stock at the end of each day and write down five things that have been positive for you – that could be making the time to make and eat something healthy, going for a walk, overcoming a work related worry. This again reinforces the positivity rather than negativity.
If you find that something is really nagging away at you, try identifying a situation where that inner critic made you squirm. Write it down and then imagine you were in court. Write down any evidence supporting your inner criticism, and then write down evidence suggesting that this might not be the case. Next think about how much of that evidence would actually be accepted as irrefutable in a court. Often the weight of evidence goes against the inner critical thought, and supports the fact that, actually, you’re not the terrible failure that you thought you were.
If you have something in your life that you want to change, try to think about it in a positive manner – for example, you might want to give up smoking. A negative thought process might mean that all you can think of is being more stressed and struggling with withdrawal. A more positive way to see it is that you are doing something to treat your body better, improve your life expectancy, feel healthier, be around for longer for your children, taste food better, have more cash… See the difference?
As is always the case, if you don’t feel like you can tackle this alone, never be afraid to ask for help – look into local services such as counselling or other talking therapies. Often these can be found online, or accessed by the GP. You don’t sound stupid, and you are worth it.
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