We all have an inner critic. Some of us have developed healthy ways of dealing with its voice, and some of us listen to it because we don’t know there’s an alternative.
For me, it says things like:
“Geez, can’t you just get out of bed already? You’re so freakin’ lazy. Come on.”
“Wow, you’ve never screwed up this bad before. You must be hitting rock bottom.”
“You are so stupid. Why didn’t you prepare for this? Duh.”
“HEY YOU. GET IT TOGETHER. You idiot, you’re letting things slip through the cracks.”
Yesterday morning, I missed an appointment that had been on my calendar for almost a month. I straight up forgot it was there, and I was laying in my bed scrolling through Pinterest when I got the “hey, where are you?” call. Immediately, all of the thoughts I just just listed out above actually went through my head– verbatim.
Those thoughts are not harmless.
Here’s a few descriptors of how those words felt: Harsh. Condescending. Unfiltered. Un-loving.Un-compassionate. Unkind.
Truly, I’ve been listening to my inner critic an awful lot lately. I let it tell me my worth, which is why I’ve been depressed and unmotivated for several weeks now. I let it dictate my schedule and social interactions, which is why I don’t seem to leave my apartment unless I absolutely have to. I let it piece together my identity for me, which is why I’ve experienced more moments of self-loathing than ever.
Could I say those things to another human being without having a hugely negative impact on our relationship? HA. No way.
More importantly, would someone who loved me ever say those things about me?
Nope. Hence the problem– I have a hard time loving myself. Having compassion toward myself. Being kind to myself.
This morning after dragging myself out of bed (literally, I had to grip a piece of furniture for a moment to keep myself from going back), I sat for a moment in my apathy and the harsh voice went nuts. Then, something clicked, and I decided I didn’t want to feel like a worthless blob all day.
I made myself eat breakfast and have a glass of water. I wanted some coffee but didn’t want to take the time to grind the beans, wash the pot, blah blah blah, so I made a cup of tea instead. I grabbed my journal.
Now, I know based on experience that my self-compassion level is generally low. Last fall, when I took a class based on the teachings of my fave Brené Brown, one of the group leaders told us about a website based entirely on self-compassion. On more than one occasion, it has served as a great guide for those moments when my inner critic sends me into a spiral and I end up feeling like I’m drowning in complete self-hatred.
It’s easy to remember, too: it’s just self-compassion.org.
I know it’s a little out there, but the one that’s helped me so much is the “Self-Compassion Break,” which is essentially a short, guided meditation to remind you to love yourself.
As a side note, when I think of having to stop and force myself to love myself, this is the mental picture I get:
The one I did this morning was a writing exercise because, as you probably know if you’ve ever met me, I’m a writer. When I stopped to consider what had really put me in the pit this morning, it was my own negative thoughts, so I chose to do this one: Changing your critical self-talk.
The whole point of this post was just to tell you that your self-talk and the way you relate to yourself is SO incredibly important to the way you live your life. I know it sounds a little new-age-y, but if you aren’t aware of how you relate to yourself, and how you talk to yourself, you could really lose yourself and your identity if you let your inner critic take over.
More importantly, if your self-criticism is the guiding voice that you live your life by, you’ll miss the absolute truth of what God says about you.
Listen, I’m not here to give you a hunky dory solution for feeling bad about yourself. I’m not here to send you some fluff about improving your self esteem so you’ll feel happy. I’m here to tell you that the way you choose to relate to yourself has direct eternal results.
If you’re too busy telling yourself you suck when you mess something up, you’ll miss the opportunity to bask in the grace God has for you.
If you’re hung up convincing yourself that you’re hopelessly flawed, you’ll forget that the Creator of the Universe made you in HIS image, and he’s given you some good qualities to share with the world, therefore you’re not 100% flawed.
If you listen to that inner critic, pretty soon it’ll drown out the voice of the Lord, telling you that there’s hope and joy and peace in His presence.
So take a minute. Be still. Quiet your mind. And un-hate yourself so you can feel God’s love for you.
Here are a few resources that inspired this post:
- A website full of research and exercises, created by Dr. Kristin Neff: self-compassion.org
- A message entitled “Psalm 12: God’s Words, Man’s Words,” on the importance of words from Dr. Michael Easley, Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN
If this article resonated with you, please subscribe to my blog via email or let me know you liked it. I’d be honored to hear your story and continue sharing mine with you.