Relationship Diversity Podcast

Dismantling Your Debilitating Inner-Critic

February 29, 2024 Carrie Jeroslow Episode 89
Relationship Diversity Podcast
Dismantling Your Debilitating Inner-Critic
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Episode 089:
Dismantling Your Debilitating Inner-Critic


There's a voice inside us that can be both a relentless critic and an encouraging coach; it's a complex presence that I know all too intimately.  Join me as I share how this internal commentator has both driven me to succeed and left me second-guessing my every move. 

I hope to shed some light on this inner-critic, and help to recalibrate its inner dialogues, turning self-criticism into self-care. 

When embarking on a new journey into relationship diversity, this inner-voice can take rare form becoming judge and jury of our every move.  But if we can bring the inner critic into our awareness, create a little distance to see what it needs, and then shift it to become a voice that helps us grow and evolve, then we will embrace all of the beneficial aspects it has to offer.

This is Relationships Reimagined.

Join the conversation as we dive into a new paradigm of conscious, intentional and diverse relationships.

Episode 82: The Hidden Message Beneath Relationship Discomfort
 
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Please note: I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or social worker. I am not attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue, disease, or condition. The information provided in or through my podcast is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific circumstance.

Speaker 1:

The self-critic exposes itself in a few different ways. One, it can come out in blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong. Two, it can come out through blaming others for all of our pain and discomfort. And three, it can come out as being super critical of other people, whether it's our partners, our family, our children, coworkers or even people we don't even know, like people online. But these may be ways that our self-critic is wanting to be seen, wanting to be acknowledged, wanting to come into our conscious awareness. Welcome to the Relationship Diversity Podcast, where we celebrate, question and explore all aspects of relationship structure diversity from solaramary to monogamy to polyamory and everything in between, because every relationship is as unique as you are. We'll bust through societal programming to break open and dissect everything we thought we knew about relationships, to ask the challenging but transformational questions who am I and what do I really want in my relationships? I'm your guide, keri Jarislow, best-selling author, speaker, intuitive and coach. Join me as we reimagine all that our most intimate relationships can become.

Speaker 1:

Oh, my self-critic has been in rare form these days. Oh my gosh, I think for the last month, two months, it's been really relentless, and so I wanted to do an episode all about the inner critic and not so much for you, although I really hope that this would be helpful for you. But this is an exploration that I am going through within myself and have been for a while now. But if I'm really honest with myself, I think that this self-critic, this part of myself where I compare myself to others and then just bash myself with these inner thoughts, has been around since I was very young. I remember being in sixth grade, comparing myself to my friends and having this mental chatter, this mental dialogue that would say you're not as good as they are, or they're much better than you, or you're not good enough. And I think that in ways over my life, if I really look at how my life has played out since 12 years old, I think that there are parts of that inner critic that really has served me in my life. It pushed me to work through hard times. It pushed me to be resilient and show up. And even when I wanted to maybe bury my head under my blankets and not face the world, that inner critic helped me move through those times and helped me come out from under the covers and show up again and again. And so I've been on this exploration of what this inner critic is and how it serves me and how it hurts me, and I wanted to do an episode all about this, exploring it, sharing some of the things that I've gone through that have helped me, and I'm really hoping that these are helpful for you if you suffer from an very overactive inner critic, because if we have the tools to shift the inner dialogue from something that is judging and hurtful to something that is helpful, because I think that there is something really beautiful about that inner voice that says, ooh, maybe I could have done that better. Or oh, I'm inspired by that person, let me learn more so that I can grow and evolve in relationships and my career. When we feel like that inner critic is strangling us, wrestling us to the ground, and when we can take the gift that that voice is giving the opportunity, I would say, and shift it to something that would be more helpful.

Speaker 1:

Looking back at my own life, I've always been my biggest critic. I remember when I was a little girl and I would come home from school and, oh my gosh, I would spend hours and hours on my homework, making sure that I got the best grades that I could. Yes, my parents wanted me to do well. They wanted me to go to a good college and all of that and have a good career. But when I really look at where it came from, it always came from me. I was always the hardest on myself and I got a lot of praise for being such a hard worker. I remember my parents, my teachers and other adults would always compliment me on what a hard worker I was. I was the fourth child in my family. I had three older brothers and I remember the first day of a new year and if any of my brothers had those teachers, I would walk in and they would say, oh, your brothers are so smart, and so there was that added pressure of me not letting down anyone, any of the teachers, anyone in my family, my parents.

Speaker 1:

But I also think I really liked the praise that I got. I liked the attention that I got and it worked into my subconscious that I would get praise if I did a really good job. And in order to do a really good job I needed to work really hard and I needed to be hard on myself and push myself. I also really liked being good at things. I liked it better than being a novice, when I was just starting out with something regardless of whether it was like dance or gymnastics or a flute, which I actually was really bad at I hated feeling clunky and uncomfortable and things feeling new and different. I loved it when things started to feel more comfortable and I started to get better at things and I started to feel more proficient.

Speaker 1:

But I couldn't get there at the beginning, which is, of course, that's human nature. I do think that there are people who are naturals. They pick something up, they can do it really well in the beginning, but for most of us, we need to go through that clunky, uncomfortable process of not understanding or knowing how to do something at first and practicing and getting better at it, and so in that way, I think my inner critic works for me. My inner critic says you can do this better and pushes me to learn new skills, to keep working through the resistance. My inner critic becomes my inner motivator, pushing me to continually show up, even when it feels uncomfortable. So that is a great example of how my inner critic helps me. It also helps me when I'm feeling upset or down on myself, because maybe, let's say, I responded to someone with agitation my inner critic just comes in and says you could have done that better. But if I can shift it to an inner cheerleader that's telling me you're doing the best you can, yes, you could have done that better. Let's think about how you could have done it better for next time. Let's fess up and apologize if needed and let's take this as a learning opportunity. So that's when that inner critic becomes helpful.

Speaker 1:

But then there are times when my inner critic is relentless and the words are hurtful. That's when I hear you're not enough, you're not good enough, you're a failure. You always fuck things up, you're never going to make it, you suck. Those are the words that my inner critic says, and that is hurtful. That actually sends me back under the covers. Those words, those phrases can destabilize me for hours, days or weeks and I become completely unmotivated, unproductive, negative, testy, hopeless. I start to question everything. And when we look at the self critic through the lens of relationship diversity or really relationships in general, where there's all of this programming that says a relationship should look this way well, then that self critic keeps us locked up in this self-imposed prison where we judge ourselves saying I'm just not doing this well or I'm just not doing this right, but, like my explanation about being a novice and being really good at something, when we start to go into relationship diversity and looking at different ways, we are needing to dismantle so many scripts about relationships and still, in four years of being in a polyamorous relationship, I am still breaking down these little beliefs. That's very little, but are very foundational, and these are things that are really necessary when starting to explore relationship diversity.

Speaker 1:

Now, the experience that I prefer in relationship to my inner critic, of course, is beneficial. I want evolution. I want to continually grow. I want to move through discomfort in the best way possible, create this healthy balance of questioning myself and my beliefs with the intention to grow and show myself grace and compassion while I'm doing it. But honestly, I don't always get there and at the same time, I do believe it's possible to get there because I have been there, and so that's what I'm hoping we'll go into more here, and before I go more into what the inner critic is, I also want to say that the intention of this episode is not to silence your inner critic. Yes, I would love to have that moment in meditation where my mind is clear and I'm just present in the moment, I don't really think that's fully possible. So, instead of the intention being to silence the inner critic, I would like to offer tools to help create this relationship, this dynamic with your inner critic that will help you move into acceptance and shifting the hurtful aspects of the inner critic to the beneficial aspects and experience with the inner critic.

Speaker 1:

So let's start from the beginning and ask what is the self critic? Well, I think I've also heard about it as the inner critic, or that critical inner voice, which refers to this internalized voice or dialogue that runs in your mind and is oftentimes very harsh, judgmental, self-deprecating. In mindfulness practices, you may hear that inner dialogue referred to as the monkey mind because of its mental gymnastics and nonstop activity. The inner critic, though, is the monkey mind on steroids. It's those nonstop thoughts that are pointed inward, scrutinizing our thoughts and actions and abilities and frequently highlighting these perceived flaws, mistakes or shortcomings. This self critic manifests in this negative self-talk, impossibly high standards and, like I said, the thing that I deal with the most, which is comparison to others. It also can come through with internalized, unprocessed criticism from others. So if you always were criticized by your parents or a teacher, you may have internalized those without processing them and made them your own.

Speaker 1:

I think most people start out with the self critic being unconscious. It's just a dialogue that's running nonstop in our heads and many times we don't even know that it's there, we don't even know that it's something we can actually tune into. It's something that we can become more conscious of, and so when it runs unconsciously in our mind, we feel like a victim to it. If we can bring it to our awareness and really start to understand that, oh, this is something that started from maybe old, unresolved wounding, whatever that may be and then we take the time and the intention to actually befriend it and bring it into our awareness, to bring it more conscious, then we have the ability to do something with it.

Speaker 1:

I think the self critic exposes itself in a few different ways. One, it can come out in blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong. Two, it can come out through blaming others for all of our pain and discomfort. And three, it can come up as being super critical of other people, whether it's our partners, our family, our children, coworkers or even people we don't even know, like people online. These may be ways that our self critic is wanting to be seen, wanting to be acknowledged, wanting to come into our conscious awareness.

Speaker 1:

And so with that, I want to get specific about ways that our inner voice can be beneficial. First, I think that it can elicit some much needed self reflection. Healthy self judgment allows us the time to evaluate our actions, behaviors and beliefs critically, leading to more personal growth and evolution and development. It can also be a motivation for improvement. When I said, that self critic turned into that self motivator. That happens when your constructive self criticism serves as a driving force for improvement. So when the self motivator approaches the self critic with compassion and kindness, we can acknowledge areas where we fall short and then inspire ourselves to grow, learn and better ourselves, even when it's challenging. And lastly, I think that that inner voice can help serve as an internal compass, helping us to recognize when our boundaries are being violated or signaling that we need to speak up and stand up for ourselves to protect ourselves and our well-being. And here are some ways that our self critic can be detrimental and hurt us when that pesky inner voice feels perfectionism I suffer from this, so I know this very well when that inner voice feels perfectionism is continually leading us to unrealistic expectations and then chronic feelings of inadequacy.

Speaker 1:

As we project these unattainable standards onto ourselves and to others, our self judgment can lead to self sabotage. So when I'm really down on myself, my confidence is low, myself esteem is low and ultimately that hurts my ability to connect authentically with others. It fosters this negative cycle of self talk that erodes my feeling of worthiness in relationships and, as I talked about before, it can also lead us right into that debilitating comparison trap. By constantly comparing ourselves to others, we become these victims of our self judgment. It wears down our self worth. It distorts our perception of reality and prevents us from embracing our unique qualities and contributions. We are unique and we have our own unique gifts to give to the world. So if we're comparing ourselves with others and our inner voice is continually getting down on us because we're not as good as someone else, then we're also dimming our own light, our own uniqueness. So here are some tools that I've come up with that's really helped me with my inner critic and help it become a beneficial inner voice.

Speaker 1:

So the first step and I think the most important is really just to get to know your inner critic, as you would a friend or new partner. This is what I was talking about, about bringing it to a more conscious space. Instead of it just being this annoying chatter or, worse than that, this detrimental chatter that brings you down. You actually get to know it, so you actually make your inner critic into another person. This personification process can create a little bit of a distance between you and your inner critic, and this allows you some needed perspective and information. We can't shift something we're not aware of, so knowledge and information is essential, because when we're conscious about something, then we have a choice.

Speaker 1:

So ask yourself these questions what is your inner critic sound like? What are the words and phrases that your inner critic says? Can you do some investigation to learn where your inner critic comes from? Is it from your own unhealthy expectations? Were you highly criticized from your parents? Could it have come from a teacher's expectations? Maybe you got a lot of praise doing a good job at something and you feel that striving for perfection is the only way to get the attention you need.

Speaker 1:

This process alone is huge, and I will say that it's important to do this from a perspective of a loving and compassionate friend. So if you're doing it from a place that you're judging it well, then that's just going to compound the self critic judgments and is not going to be good. So, as much as possible just like you would with a friend to come with compassion and acceptance to this process. So once you've played with that for a little bit, it's time to go even a little bit deeper, to getting to know this part of yourself, to begin investigating its motivations, it's triggers, it's wounds. When does your inner critic get most triggered? When you're feeling inadequate, not enough, when you're feeling unmotivated or lethargic.

Speaker 1:

I believe our inner critic is a part of us, just wants to be heard and acknowledged. Did your inner critic develop from positive attention you got at some point in your life? Did you receive more love, admiration and praise as a child? That's cemented unconscious belief that your worth is determined by what you do Instead of who you are. If your inner critic was to turn into your inner child, what are needs that went on met and that are needing to be acknowledged? Is there a way to get these unmet needs met without the harshness of the inner critic, which is, I think, a very important question because it leads to the next question is this inner chatter helpful or hurtful? There's nuances to this question and it isn't always clear, because sometimes, when that inner critic is leading us into our wounding with the intention of leading us through it to a space of healing, a lot of discomfort comes up. And discomfort, I believe, has its own gifts. I spoke about this in episode 82, which was the hidden message beneath relationship discomfort, and I'm going to link it in the show notes because if you are dealing with discomfort with your inner critic, go check that episode out. But just starting with the question is this helping me or hurting me? Is a really good place to start.

Speaker 1:

So, now that you've gotten super personal with that inner critic, here are some techniques that have helped me to shift my relationship with it, and these may seem small they did to me but I found that if you practice them over and over and you keep showing up that they compound and end up making a big difference. The first thing is to shift your focus by spending 30 seconds or longer in gratitude. 30 seconds, we all have 30 seconds. So find five things you're grateful for or one thing that you're grateful for, but taking about 30 seconds to close your eyes and sit in gratitude for those few little moments can really really work wonders. Next is to practice self-compassion, treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend. And, as I talked about before, I also would like to encourage compassion towards your inner critic. Showing compassion, because a lot of times that mental dialogue was formed to keep us safe, to keep us feeling okay with our world. And so what if you were to extend compassion to that harsh voice saying I see you, I hear you and it's okay? It's okay.

Speaker 1:

I also think the reframing process of negative thoughts and judgments is really helpful to replace those with affirmations where you affirm your worth and potential. I know it helps me when I put my hands over my heart, close my eyes and take a breath and tell myself I am worthy, I am worthy, I am unique and I love myself and it's okay. It also helps to acknowledge and celebrate my accomplishments, no matter how small they are. Maybe I've gotten everyone fed, the kids fed, they feel loved, they're warm in their beds, and that is a huge accomplishment, and so what I try to do most nights, or at least in the morning, is to look at my day and write down maybe two or three things that feel like accomplishments, and then I celebrate those. This motivates and inspires me. When I put my hands over my heart and close my eyes, it drops me into the present moment, which leads me to another tool that really helps me, which is mindfulness, through meditation or deep breathing or mindful movement.

Speaker 1:

Most of the time our chatter, I find, is either infiltrated with past recollections, past judgments about things that have happened or fears about the future. But when I really sit in the present moment and focus on my breath, I can come to more of a place of love and compassion for myself and for my inner critic. And lastly, I want to say something when all of these other things fail. What really helps me is to reach out to someone who I trust, who I feel has my back, who I feel is my support system. And when I struggle with that inner critic and it just won't let go and I've tried all of these things it can be really helpful to tell someone what I'm struggling with and get some thoughts and advice, and maybe sometimes just hear them tell me that there are parts of me that are really lovable and wonderful, and I know that that's seeking that kind of fulfillment outside of me, but sometimes it really helps me. And another belief that helps me is this awareness that it's not an overnight process, this whole relationship with my self critic. It is a continual journey that will likely follow me throughout my life. And I say that to you to bring awareness, because when I know that something is a journey and it's not like a one and done, then I think I can have more healthy, realistic expectations. And so I offer that thought to you that it is a continual journey, and to make peace with that, because we are always evolving. For as long as we will be here, we will be growing and evolving, and for me and I hope this for you it takes the pressure off of having to be in a certain place or having to be perfect, because there is no perfection and there is no magic finish line.

Speaker 1:

I love quick reference guides, so I'm going to summarize those tools that I just talked about on ways to move from a hurtful inner critic to a helpful inner voice. The first is to get intimate with your inner critic. The second is to understand its motivations, triggers and wounding. Then ask yourself is your inner critic being helpful or hurtful? The next is to shift your focus by embracing gratitude for 30 seconds. The next is to practice self compassion for yourself and your inner critic. The next one is to reframe negative inner chatter with affirmations of your worth and then celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Then practice mindfulness and meditation to bring you into the present moment and finally seek support from a trusted friend or someone who you know really cares about you. And one last thought. This has been challenging for me in the past, but when I am able to embrace this has also set me free, and that is to find humor in that pesky inner voice, giggling and saying oh hi, I see you, let's go have some fun and play. Giggling and bringing some humor can take a lot of the tension out of the process and diffuse the energy, bringing levity and fun. Put on a song that you love to dance to or sing to move the energy, and sometimes I find that that's all it really takes to give myself a new perspective. And with all of these things it helps to stay curious.

Speaker 1:

If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to the podcast. You being here and participating in the conversation about relationship diversity is what helps us create a space of inclusivity and acceptance together. The more comfortable and normal it is to acknowledge the vast and varied relating we all do. The faster we'll shift to a paradigm of conscious, intentional and diverse relationships. New episodes are released every Thursday. Stay connected with me through my YouTube channel, where I'll give you even more free resources and information all about relationship diversity. I'm super excited to go deeper into YouTube because I'll be able to connect and have conversations directly with you. You'll find the link in the show notes. Stay curious. Every relationship is as unique as you are.

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