Recently I've been struggling a lot with my inner critic. Big life changes are a sure fire way to inspire doubt and negative self talk, wondering if I'm really capable of achieving my dreams and comparing myself to others on social media whose work I admire. The way we talk to ourselves is so entwined with the relentless thought process of our minds that we often conflate it with our authentic self and reality, when the two are entirely separate. A lot of the mindset work I've done over the last year has been about trying to quiet that egoic doubt that interrupts at times when we feel like we're on track, contemplate a new idea, accept a great opportunity, or when we take a leap of faith into uncertainty. Our ego hates anything unknown and will do everything it can to keep us safe and predictable, even when it might not be making us happy, because at least it's familiar. That voice stops us pursuing ambitions often for fear of failure or what others might think and we trap ourselves in feeling defined by the things we think about ourselves. The way we think about ourselves also impacts the world around us. My breathwork coach pointed out this week that when someone is aggressive and negative towards others it's only an indication that the way they talk to themselves is much worse. My therapist also often challenges my critical self talk asking me if I would say the same thing to a friend. Of course the answer is always never and yet we continue to be so outright nasty to ourselves, about our bodies, our ideas, our decisions, personality - everything! The Entrepreneur, former Chief Business Officer for Google and author of Solve for Happy, Mo Gawdat suggests naming your brain to differentiate your authentic self from it. He named his Becky and talks out loud to his mind, challenging any negative thought that it produces, asking if it's true and asking for it to provide evidence of its perceived belief. Obviously this might not be for everyone but we should definitely all be questioning the negative things that our mind tells us and never take anything as fact. I read once that we don't define ourselves by any other organ in our body so why should we define ourselves by our brains when in essence they are made of the same thing. It's very easy to articulate this all here but to actually practice what I preach is another thing and something that's a life's work. For me, doing things that get me out of my head are crucial to listen to my body and not my mind - being in nature, breathwork, swimming, yoga, baking and journaling to try and untangle the mess of negative thoughts and dissipate their charge. When someone has been living in their head for a long time and is completely disconnected from their body, tuning in to these intuitive signals can be incredibly difficult to start with, and it takes diligent practice. Our critical self talk patterns will all be unique to each of us and based on things our subconscious mind has learnt, so just becoming conscious of those patterns is a huge leap in the direction of living a life filled with more self compassion to get out of our own way. We all need to learn to give ourselves a break and comfort our weary minds like we would our best friend and often just voicing the things we're thinking with someone we trust and respect removes their power and creates a space for them to be rightly challenged. At the end of the day we're all doing the best we can!
Originally published in my newsletter in 2021