Self-esteem is a powerful, yet delicate, thing. It makes us feel good about ourselves and empowers us to reach for our dreams. However, it takes only one criticism or negative feedback to crush it down. Even worse, sometimes, we are that harsh critic. The saying goes, “you are your own worst critic,” and we agree; we tend to be the hardest on ourselves.
“You are not enough.”
Our inner critic can be triggered by a bully from long ago, a traumatic experience, or feelings of rejection. Regardless of the kind of the incident, what we remember is the pain, which leads us to telling ourselves: You are not (insert adjective here) enough. Just when we think of trying something new because we feel like it, a small whisper tells us not to do it because we are bound to fail anyway.
Society, in a way, plays a role in this. Now that we’re in the age where your real self seems to be what you show on social media, there’s an added pressure for us to be perfect and the most beautiful. When was the last selfie that you took? Did you spend minutes (or even hours) enhancing it with Photoshop edits and filters? Or did you eventually just decide to delete it because you found it ugly and not up to people’s (and your) “standards?” Either way, the fear of being judged and bashed is there.
During this quarantine period, a lot of us discovered new skills and hobbies that eventually turned into a side hustle or a business. But, for some of us, maybe that wasn’t the case. Maybe you had an idea, started making plans for it, but chickened out last minute because a voice in your head told you that you’re not skillful or smart enough to get it started and keep it running. Every decision doesn’t sound convincing and you find yourself second-guessing everything, so you end up dumping all your ideas and deciding not to push through. All because of that inner critic that asked you, “Why bother?”
Beat the bully because you are enough.
It’s a realization that doesn’t come to us easily, but it’s what’s true and constant: You are enough, especially for yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, the most beautiful, the most intelligent, and so on. How you are is already enough and you most definitely can do the things that you set your heart and mind to.
With those things said, yes, getting back at the bully in you and silencing your inner critic are possible. How? Here are a few tips that can help you get started on the path to positivity:
Identify the things your inner critic says. What thoughts often stop you from doing something new? Is it the thought that you’re not smart enough? That you’re bound to fail? Whatever those may be, dig deep and call them out.
Breathe. Our worst critic creeps up at the most unexpected time. When you feel it starting to cause trouble, take deep breaths and focus on them, so you can be distracted from the mental noise. While you’re doing this, you can also whisper self-affirming statements, like “I can do this,” to reinforce your confidence.
Say hello to nature. Nature is a friend and your ally in busting the negative thoughts in your head. There’s so much beauty outside that can bring positivity and take us from focusing inwardly to feeling awed and inspired by what we see. It doesn’t have to be a big trip to the mountains. It can be as simple as heading outside and watching the stars or sunset.
Renegotiate the demands. Once you feel calm and centered, circle back to your inner critic and identify its demands. Is it intelligence? Perfection? Otherworldly beauty? Whatever it is, pinpoint it and reconcile it with your perfect imperfection as you adjust your expectations from yourself. Take educator Parker Palmer’s advice: “Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself.”
The next time you feel that your inner critic is crushing you down, fight back with these simple, practical tips. The mental bully won’t go away overnight, but you can definitely take action and reduce its power over you. From us here at Ellana, remember that you are so enough, we are here for you, and always stay radiant!