Hello, Deeply Conflicted Humans!
While we appear to treat ourselves with love, and pamper ourselves on the outside, internally, we beat ourselves up far worse than what our enemies would do to us.
You’ve also probably been the receiving end of the hostility belt out by your own inner critic. For some of you, it could even be an internal battle with which you have to fight, and win, every single day in order to stay functional.
Why do we beat up ourselves so badly inside, while we can take such meticulous care, sometimes to the point of obsession, of our body on the outside? What causes such inconsistency between our actions and the mind?
Actions Born Out of Fears
Although on the surface we may appear to love and respect ourselves, on further inspection, you may realize it is anything but love and acceptance. Instead, our actions could well stem from fears.
What are we afraid of? Plenty.
We are afraid of getting terminal illnesses; we’re afraid of not being able to afford the escalating hospital bill; we are afraid of disapproving looks from the people around us; we are afraid of losing out to our relatives, friends and neighbors; we are afraid of being disabled and having to rely on others for the rest of our lives, and so on.
This fear-based approach to life can easily infiltrate into the ways we manage other aspects of life as well. Career, relationship, kid-raising and more.
While it can be a powerful motivating force, when actions arise solely out of fear, we tend to become angry with ourselves, and become fiercely self-critical, when we fail to make the mark we’ve set.
I have realized in the last couple of days that achievements accomplished through fear are also destined to be fleeting as the very fear that fuels our motivation will come back larger each time it has been fed.
Success is, therefore, always in the next major project to be completed; happiness will always lie in the next thing to be possessed; the ideal weight will always be one pound lighter, and wealth will always be another zero after our net worth value. Enough is never quite enough.
This, of course, is the perfect reason why your inner critic is never stopping, since it will never run out of justifications to give you a good lash.
How to Deal with Your Inner Critic
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s ever possible to stop the scathing commentary from running completely. Trying to stop the incessant chattering is like trying to ask a person to turn off the brain. But, there’s no off button for the brain!
But, even though we have little control over the content of our mind, we can change the way we relate to them.
Believe it or not, what makes unrelenting self-criticism so powerful is you. We take every word coming from ourselves way too seriously. We accept and believe every single thing that we tell ourselves without questioning.
But the fact is, just because something comes out of our own head doesn’t make it any more truer than what we see on the TV, papers or the Internet.
The thoughts in our mind may not even be our own to begin with! The years of conditioning by our parents, friends, colleagues, media, the society we live in and our own limited experience have all collectively shaped our perspectives in life, both consciously and subconsciously. Our perspectives, in turn, affect the opinions we formed about ourselves and others.
You only need to be mindful of what your internal commentator is talking about to figure this out. If you’ve never analyzed what those judgements are about, you’ll be surprised that a lot of times they are distorted facts, half-truths and even complete lies.
When you’ve done this for enough times, you may even come to the stage when you stop identifying with the bulk of what your inner critic is trying to have you believe. That’s when most of the self-judgements start to have less effects on you and they will simply appear and disappear on their own without leaving much trace within.
I get tripped up all the time by my internal commentary when I’m not mindful enough to see through the condemnation that disguises itself as well-meaning advice. The mind can be crafty (be careful!) and will try to deliver its two-cent worth in other ways when its old tactics are no longer working.
But with sufficient mindfulness, which daily mindfulness meditation can help to cultivate, it’s possible to live in harmony with Mr. or Ms. Critical inside.
Try it the next time when another self-critical thought pops out. Listen carefully to what that voice is saying.
Because as caustic as it may sound, that’s also where the key to your freedom and inner peace can be found.
(By the way, I didn’t figure all of this out on my own. I have someone who speaks positively into my life on a daily basis. Without her, I’m not sure I would be making the strides I am to mindfulness and self-truth. We all need people to speak truth into our lives. My hope is that you, my friend, have such a person in your life.)