When I had our first child, I had every book about babies on my shelf—breastfeeding books, books on child development, parenting books—I devoured them like candy. I wanted to know All. The. Things.
Funny enough, as soon as I ended a book I often felt no more confident in my abilities to take care of this scary little newborn—in fact, the more information I consumed, the greater question I had in my abilities.
I was stuck in a cycle of self-doubt.
When we are stuck in self-doubt, when we are our harshest critic and deny ourselves compassion and tenderness, everyone loses. We are left weakened and unable to grab hold of what we most want—in my case, often an unachievable ideal of a perfect kid and parenting perfection.
When we face the fact that we are full of flaws and that these are in fact something to embrace, we move closer to the self-acceptance that breeds confidence and power. Brene Brown says we are wired for imperfection and struggle “but we are worthy of love and belonging.“ (The Gifts of Imperfection) We sometimes need to be that parent-to-self, encouraging and reminding ourselves that we are indeed worthy of that love, warts and all.
To begin, a few tips:
1. Our Inner Critic sometimes has a face--if not, put a face on it. Is it your 2nd grade teacher--the one that was mean and had warts on her eyelids? Is it the face of a parent, or grandparent, or that bully from middle school? Put a face on your Inner Critic. Choose to name that Inner Critic, something benign the better. (Mine was "Paul"--don't ask lol.)
2. Ask yourself, where is your Inner Critic/Paul/Mrs Warty-Eyelid showing up today? What are they saying to you? Does it have any truth or are they just harassing you with untruths? Is it somewhere in the middle?
3. Check in with yourself when you hear what they have to say. Does your pulse start to tick up a notch? Do your hands start to sweat? Does your mind start reeling? Do you feel numb?
4. How true, on a 1-5 scale, is their comment? If really true, is it ALWAYS true? If not true, then why do you think they're "saying" it?
5. List--in your head or on paper--five reasons the Inner Critic's comments are not true. Really go to town, even if you feel like it doesn't make sense, write it down anyway.
6. Highlight at least one of these positive affirmations and state it OUT LOUD to yourself today. Bonus points if you do it multiple times a day!
7. Say THANK YOU to Inner Critic/Paul/Mrs Warty-Eyelids. They are there to teach us lessons. They may have a seat at your metaphorical table--as long as they don't run the meetings--and with time and intention, they may actually quiet down or go on vacation.
By offering ourselves the grace, self-compassion and view our Inner Critic as a teaching tool, we can reclaim inner peace--or, at least, stop reading so many darn baby books and pick up a flash fiction book once in a while!