Just because we get reminded time and time again that we are our own worst critic, doesn’t mean we stop being so hard on ourselves.
Many of us still waste massive amounts of energy and time praying at the altar of our own lack of worth. Ironically, the more creative we are, the more different ways we can imagine ourselves failing to look, act or be perfect.
Self-criticism can be paralyzing and very difficult to stop, even when you realize how much it drains you. But there are some simple things you can do to break the habit of spiraling into self-judgment and criticism.
Here are 5 Ways to Soften Your Inner Critic and Stop Losing Energy:
When we get stuck in our heads, our breathing becomes more shallow and we trigger into our sympathetic nervous system response, or “fight or flight” mode. When we are in this mode, our heart rate increases and our decisions are made from a place of fear and anxiety as our adrenal glands power up to fuel a quick escape. From this place it is pretty much impossible to see the big picture and make wise decisions which will support us in the long run.
You can step out of the spiraling by breathing deeply into your belly, bringing your awareness to the sensations in your body. Rooted more deeply in the experience of your whole body/heart/mind, you are less likely to fall under the sway of persistent damaging thought patterns.
Once your breath has deepened and you are feeling your body:
2. Recognize your self-doubting as a bad habit that can be replaced with a good habit.
Thinking about something over and over wears a kind of groove in your consciousness. Just like a cart-wheel in an old dirt road, any extra thought-energy you have will find it’s way into that groove and get stuck there, depleting your energy even further. Sometimes the first step in shedding self-doubt is just choosing to drop a self-defeating thought when you notice it and actively deciding to focus on something else. Choosing more productive thoughts will start to create a new groove as your default.
This can be difficult when you are stretched too thin. Multi-tasking—especially when it is unstructured—keeps your nervous system in a constant state of anticipation and anxiety. Trying to keep track of both what you doing in the moment as well as a long list of “to-dos” is exhausting and leaves your worried mind open to any errant thought that might come along. Even if the over-doing is just too much physical activity.
But you can make your mind less welcoming to negative-thinking when you:
3. Schedule your day.
It can be super helpful to create a rhythm for your day that you can comfortably follow. Wake up and go to sleep, eat your meals, and exercise at about the same times each day. Fit your work into the spaces between taking care of your normal, healthy human needs. Make sure there is some down-time in there.
When you have regularity in your routine, your nervous system expends much less energy anticipating the next thing. This sense of natural flow leaves less space for doubting; you just move forward because the flow carries you forward. There is a reason kids thrive on regularity—it instills in them a deep sense of trust in what they can expect from the world.
Fear and doubt often grow from a sense that there is not enough to go around. You can help yourself feel more nourished and connected when you:
4. Eat warm, moist food.
I know it may sound unconnected, but it is pretty well-documented these days that our mind and thought-patterns are pretty deeply influenced by what goes on in our gut. Dry, processed food contributes to a feeling of dryness and instability in our body.
When we eat warm, moist food—especially if it is home-cooked—it helps us to feel grounded and fulfilled. When we feel grounded, we are less likely to spin off into worlds of worry. Think about starting your day with hot cereal, eggs or even soup! This becomes especially important in the fall and winter when the cold, dry weather can leave us feeling cold and contracted inside.
These 4 approaches to dealing with your little inner critic voice might not make it disappear entirely. In fact, it might learn to specialize in rearing it’s head especially at the moments you start to expand beyond your comfort zone. But when it tries to distract you with it’s drama, that is the signal for you to:
5. Lean in and carry on.
Even when you are not sure what you are doing, moving forward with commitment will help you avoid self-doubt inertia. You can always make small adjustments as you go. And the truth is we usually learn a whole lot more from our failures than our successes anyway. When the inevitable mis-step happens, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on. After all, your path may be twisty-turny as all get-out, but it is the only real path for you. So you might as well get on with it.