I remember a day about a year ago that was particularly sucky. I got up at ungodly o’clock to get ready for work. I was elated that it was Friday and completely deflated when I realized that it was, in fact, only Tuesday. This was NOT the best way to start the day. For some reason, despite my best efforts to thwart it, my day began to go into a tailspin; a downward spiral from which recovery seemed difficult at best and impossible at worst.
What made it so awful?
Well, for reasons unbeknownst to my conscious mind, my brain decided to be hateful, nay, VISCIOUS, spouting negativity at me and trying its best to “help me” realize “what’s best” for me. The nasty inner-voice began pulling Band-Aids (or plasters for my friends across the pond) off emotional wounds that were trying to heal.
“Your art doesn’t matter to anyone but you, so why do you even bother?”
RRRRRRRRip goes a Band-Aid.
“Your art, your website…they’re a waste of time, energy and money. And don’t even get me started on that stupid blog of yours. Does anyone even read it? No one cares about what you have to say except your mother and that’s because she has to.”
RRiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip, rip. A bit of a scab came off with that one.
“What makes you think you’re so special? You’ll never be anything more than a failure. The only thing you succeed at is failing…too bad you don’t get paid for sucking because you’d be filthy f*cking rich.”
RIP! This one caused bleeding that bordered on hemorrhaging.
Ouch. Those hurt.
My thoughts should be my loving and supportive companion in life, championing me on…my biggest cheerleader. So why do they act more like the frenemie from hell? Why am I my own worst critic…and a viciously brutal critic at that? Why do my thoughts attack me?
As I have discussed before in Confessions of a Negative Nancy, I struggle with maintaining a positive mental attitude at times…some times, like that day last year, are more difficult than others. Now that I have laid my soul bare, I guess you can see I’m not kidding. That day I struggled. And I know I’m not alone in my struggle against those evil, negative thoughts. We all have our own inner-battles, fighting that loud and brutal voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough, not talented enough, not smart enough or not pretty enough…that we don’t deserve happiness, or nice things, or loving relationships, or a promotion. We tell ourselves we’re too fat, too thin, too boring, too old, too young, too this and too that. Some people’s thoughts even tell them they’re too awful to live. But let me put this question to you (assuming you are, like me, fighting an inner-battle of your own):
How many of these thoughts are genuinely and truly yours?
How many of them come from outside sources like a former teacher, your mother, your grandfather, an abusive ex, a “good” friend or the media? For many of us negative thoughts are a reflex; a knee-jerk response to stimuli that is so engrained that it has become automatic. These thoughts can also snowball with one negative thought leading to another leading to another until the negativity is overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable.
But do you want to know a secret?
Negative thoughts are cunning. They lie to you. They lie to you because they are afraid of change, or success, or health. They lie to you to because they think they are keeping you “safe.” But what they don’t want you to know is that they are wrong. They can be defeated or at least quieted. There is a way to stop them dead in their tracks and turn that dower mood into a better mood, and maybe even a great one.
What is this magic of which I speak?
Awareness. You must be aware of your inner-critic. Remember it thinks it’s there to help you, to protect you so be kind but firm when dealing with that voice…it is, after all, part of you. When you hear that voice start to chime in with its unwanted negative, fear-based “advice” and “wisdom” acknowledge it. Try something along the lines of:
“I hear you and thank you for trying to protect me.”
Ask what this voice is trying to protect you from. Rejection? Heartbreak? Ask where it comes from. Is it truly yours or something you learned from someone else? Your grandmother? A teacher? Then acknowledge and shift your focus. Close your eyes (unless your driving or chopping vegetables, in which case, for god’s sake keep your eyes open) take a slow deep breath to the count of 5. Inhale 1-2-3-4-5. Hold it 1-2-3-4-5. Slowly Exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. Now focus on your heart and think about things you love, things that bring you joy, things that make you smile. Shift your focus to the positive and allow yourself to feel love…love of yourself and the awesomeness that surrounds you. Yeah, I know it might sound really hokey and corny but just give it a try. You might be surprised…besides, it can’t hurt and it might help.
We can reprogram our thoughts. We can quiet that inner-critic. Yes it will still rear it’s ugly but well meaning head from time to time and yes there will be days that it will get the better of us. We’re only human after all. But keep at it. Keep trying. We might not be able to completely silence those voices but we can certainly get them under control. We can stop our inner critic from undermining us and preventing us from enjoying our lives to the fullest. We all deserve to be happy. And that’s a fact.
Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick
PS – If you want to learn more on the subject I highly recommend reading Louise L. Hay’s ”You Can Heal Your Life.*” She even has a workbook to go along with the book to help you work through the exercises and get more out of her teachings.