We are all unique individuals. No two leaves are alike, nor two people. Not even identical twins!
Health and wellness affect each of us differently. This is the amalgamation of many different clients I have worked with and coached in my work as a weight loss and life balance coach.
I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t struggled with their self-esteem at some point in their life. As the saying goes, we’re often our own worst critics. I hear people tell me, ‘I’m not good enough’. ‘I can’t do it’. ‘I don’t deserve that’. Even from highly accomplished business owners as well as single Mums on a single income with benefits holding them afloat. It’s not just about our work lives. It shows up in every area of our lives.
As a health coach, I listen to clients every day from many different backgrounds, with vastly different expectations. Even, perhaps surprisingly from those who you might imagine have it all. The diamonds, (or rocks more like!) the fast cars, the private jets, what we might presume is an outward sign of extreme success including those who most of us would consider incredibly successful — struggling to combat the negative self-talk that holds them back. These people probably struggle more than most because even though they have achieved extreme wealth, success, and financial freedom, they still feel they don’t deserve it or are frustrated that they haven’t yet found the real meaning of life. Maybe their relationships are less than ideal, and they can’t have what they want to have the most. The need they feel is the most important in their lives.
We are not our thoughts
They are just a part of us. But they sound real to us. They feel real too. Nobody else can hear them, and if we don’t voice them, they sound totally rational.
The negative voice can be insistent and can really take a toll when it goes unchecked or unnoticed. Yet few of us are even aware, let alone know how to remedy the constant drain. If the chatter loop in your brain always seems to be playing the “I can’t” tune in your head, don’t stress. There are ways you can help yourself.
Here are some ways
Give that critical, ‘mean girls’ voice in your head a name. A psychologist I had over five years ago suggested I challenge the voice. Call her out. ‘There I see you, chattering, worrying, shaming, criticising. I can see you judging me’. It is a part of me, but it is not me. There is absolutely no problem whatsoever. It’s what minds do. It allows you to learn something very important about the thinking mind. And that is that it never stops. It’s always there. Chatting, evaluating, planning, worrying. When you notice that the mean voice has reared his/her ugly head, congratulate yourself for the noticing, and very gently wherever the mind has taken your attention, simply unhook it.
Whenever you notice that critical voice, your inner critic, make sure you question those thoughts. Identify your thoughts and be ultra-careful not to place too much weight on them.
Think of the real you like the filter. You have control. You have the choice to decide which thoughts to hold on to and which ones to let go.
It’s so important to separate yourself from negative, self-defeating thoughts.
You can’t choose all your thoughts, many are automatic.
It’s what our brain has evolved to do based on years of self-preservation, surviving in harsh conditions pre-industrialisation. What you can do is create a healthy separation of powers. Remember they are not you. They are a part of you. When you hear a self-critical statement pop into your head — that you’re not good enough, clever enough, knowledgeable enough, pretty enough, or not worth it — notice it.
“I hear you, monkey brain,” you might respond.
And then I want you to imagine someone for whom you feel a real sense of warmth. Think about what that person did for you that gave you a sense of warmth that you felt the power of their compassion. Just allow that sensation to fill you. Feel a sense of kindness. Feel a sense of love. Feel the sense of warmth.
Then visualise that person’s face in your mind. May you be healthy, peaceful, may you find kindness, appreciation, gratitude, may your life be rich and full and meaningful.
Then think about you, and the difficulties that you have had. The sadness that you have experienced. Hold that sense of warmth and say to yourself. May I be healthy. May I experience warmth. May I experience peace. May my life be rich and full and meaningful. Experience for yourself that sense of warmth and loving-kindness.
And then confirm that the thoughts you have in your head are not all facts nor the truth. Begin to ask questions and even counter the thoughts with opposing thoughts. Turn them on their head.
Are those events that happened outside of your control?
Were they your circumstances that turned out in a different way to how you feel would have been the best for you mistakes? Does this define you as a failure? Is it really the end of the world as you know it? Or is it a valuable lesson that you have learned from and can take a positive away from? Is it realistic seeing yourself as a perfect person who is out of reach? How does that make you feel?
- Did your husband/boss at work losing his temper mean you’re going to get divorced, or could he just be having a tough time at work? Or is something else going on that has nothing to do with you?
- Was the outburst from your client really about you or about her feelings of being pushed out of her comfort zone and her feelings of not measuring up to achieving her own goals and high standards fast enough?
- Did your neighbour ignore you when you passed in the street or does she need stronger glasses?
There’s always an alternative reason to find out why an event has happened.
Don’t jump to conclusions of the worst-case scenario.
Thoughts are just thoughts, but it’s easy to forget that when we simply accept them without question.
Try out a guided meditation or just take 5 minutes where you switch off all devices and experience complete quiet.
After experiencing a life-changing health trauma plus considerable childhood trauma, my identity was at an all-time low. My life’s plans were totally derailed. I blamed myself. I was a victim. I was stuck. I looked at what had happened to me, I blamed myself for getting cancer. I gave away my power by allowing the pain – not helped by my chronic pain (but that’s a whole other story) to write a misery memoir of who I was. I did not believe I deserved happiness. I believed I was a drain on society. I told myself I didn’t deserve to be a mother, that I wasn’t good enough. I had sinned in the past. (Catholic upbringing) and these were God’s ways of paying me back or punishing me.
It took a toll on my life. My husband was an absolute saint with the patience of a mega saint.
After searching online and after having so many medical prescriptions written for my pain, and being offered Prozac, I finally decided to look and ask for an alternative route.
I joined a CBT group and I also worked 1-1 with a psychologist to help me learn to live with (not get over, because, like bereavement, you never get over losing your fertility and nearly dying). In truth, I was still in the five stages of grief. DABDA if you haven’t heard of stands for Denial Anger Bargaining Depression and Acceptance. I couldn’t just be better until I had covered each step and worked on myself. No one else could do it for me. A doctor couldn’t fix me. Medication couldn’t fix me. I had to heal myself in my brain and my body.
Once I was taught about the concepts of beliefs and thoughts, and how focusing on negative thoughts keeps us stuck, I was able to challenge myself.
I was the observer. I pretended I was on the phone with my bestie, Sandra. If she came to me with a problem, would I talk to her like that? Would I berate her? Would I tell her she deserved it? Would I tell her everything happens for a reason?
My mother bought me a little credit card-sized silver embossed book on compassion with poetry inside. If you can make it a practice to make self-care a part of your daily routine for no other reason than you need it, it improves how you feel.
You can put things in perspective. We are so much better off than the vast majority of people in the world. Hell, I know this when I lived in India, but I had forgotten.
Having a checklist of habits can really help keep things in perspective. Gratitude is a game-changer.
We get immune to the charity videos asking us to help the poor in war-torn countries or babies who die every day just from dirty water. But how would you feel if that was your relative? We are so lucky.
It’s not easy to keep up the inner critic observation. It’s not easy to implement and repeat the strategies that help us come to terms with life’s challenges. But I can honestly say if I hadn’t taken the giant leap to do something about it, I would still be stuck. This isn’t something that is shouted from the rooftops. Mental health and personal development still have a stigma attached to it. I am British after all. This doesn’t come naturally for everyone, though.
Maybe you’re jumping to conclusions, assigning the blame to yourself where it’s not appropriate, or catastrophising. Having a session with a professional and committing to your own personal journey of working on you and your personal development will help you identify all the blocks that are holding you back, standing in your way, and stopping you from having everything you really want to achieve in your life.
Write it down when it becomes overwhelming. When you read it back in black and white, you soon realise it looks totally ridiculous. It also helps if you wait 24 hours and then read it over. Then when you go over the writing in your notebook or diary, using a different coloured pen, reframe your experience from a negative experience into a positive one. Give yourself a fresh perspective.
For example, if I wrote “I tried to post an item on my website and I lost everything. I wasted two hours for nothing. How could I be so lame? I am so stupid. Why can’t I do tech. I should just give up. I’m too old. What am I trying to prove anyway? It’s too hard. My time has passed. It’s too late.
I might get my red felt tip pen out and write, I learned my lesson and now I know not to hit publish until I have copied and pasted my work into a blank word or notes document just in case I lose it. I also make sure I have work backed up in case the battery runs out.
If I wrote “I should not have eaten chocolate in front of the telly after dinner when I wasn’t even hungry. I told myself I wouldn’t eat chocolate, but I still did.” I might rewrite that as, “I didn’t do what I intended to do but today I have put all the chocolate away in the garage, which means it is out of sight and I will not feel like going outside, opening the garage, getting cold and searching for it later. I will set things up for success and reward myself with a pat on the back. Or buy myself something small (or read my favourite magazine). I am so proud of myself!”
Planning and putting ideas into practice is the basis of life change.
Habits take time to make permanent, but all you need to do is start and then simply put one foot in front of another. You could go down the road of getting a psychologist or having a course in CBT. However, my experience has taught me that coaching is so much better because it is results-driven. It focuses on what is possible not what is the problem. It is empowering, It is not simply about removing the pain. It is a collaborative process. A coach gives you control with their guidance and support. You get the accountability you need to go places (it’s not a medical model as is the case with therapy). However, if you are concerned as a disclaimer, I must state I am not medically trained. Please check with your doctor if you are at all concerned about your health.
For those who have never opted for or been interested in personal development. I used to love all the self-help books as a teenager, and I wrote a diary, but I was teased about it and stopped doing it for a long while. We can all be triggered or ‘be made to feel’ weak or needy. We are told to be adults and that we need to be able to ‘man up’ or get on with it. I was told to ‘chin up’ when I was a cry baby at boarding school and I was told I needed a ‘stiff upper lip’. But that doesn’t mean we know it all, we have everything sorted and we can’t ask for help when we need it. If you change nothing, nothing changes.
Awareness is key
You may need to feel the pain to take action. Things may need to get so bad that you can’t ignore them anymore. But know this. There is help out there. But like life, opportunities don’t magically appear on your plate. You have to go out, work hard and find them. Feeling better is a practice. Not perfect.
I am celebrating 15 years of surviving near death, ICU and cancer survivor so my offer is an
Learn to love yourself and overcome your Inner Critic session.