Learning to Silence your inner critic so you can truly love & accept yourself
Too fat. Too skinny. Too thick. Too thin. Too tall. Too short. Too flat chested. Too busty. Too flabby. Too bulky. Not smart enough. Not good enough. Too assertive. Too opinionated. Too carefree. Too loud. Too quiet. Too confident. Too shy. Out of all the women I know, I could probably count the ones who don't struggle with body image and/or negative self talk on one hand. And I say that with a lot of uncertainty, because you never really know what's going on inside someone's head and what demons they may be fighting in silence.
Not only is all of this mentally exhausting, but all of the self doubt and criticism increases or cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which leaves us physically exhausted too.
Thankfully there is a better way, kinder, gentler way to talk to yourself.
We live in a society that has developed a very strict and narrow definition of beauty and success making it nearly impossible for anyone to fall within it's boundaries. Where does that leave the rest of us (most of us)? Somewhere on the outside, trying to measure up and feeling like failures when we don't. Beating ourselves up and putting ourselves down about our so called "imperfections" when we should be celebrating them, because they are the unique traits and qualities that make us the beautiful beings that we are.
Sure, it’s healthy to have role models and to strive to be and do better, no one wants to be complacent. Personal growth is essential to moving forward and becoming the best version of ourselves, it takes strength, courage and bravery to recognize the need for change and go after it, but growth is just as much about self love and acceptance as it is about self improvement.
become the best version of You
Becoming the best version of yourself doesn't mean there is something wrong with who you are today, to the contrary, it means uncovering your true essence, peeling back all the layers and allowing yourself to BE without definition, without judgement, without comparison and most of all without the need to fit into the strict and narrow box constructed by society, telling you what you should look like to be beautiful, what you should have accomplished by a certain age to be successful and how you should behave in your role as mother, wife, daughter, woman to be considered good enough.
Dialogue with your inner voice
I've struggle with negative self talk and body image, many times in my life and I still do from time to time. The negative inner voices are triggered by stress, when I feel like I've lost control and when I feel like I'm not living up to the incredibly high standards I've set for myself based on how I (and or others/society) have defined myself. Sometimes those inner voices just pop up out of nowhere even when I'm having a great day.
It's easy to hear the voice and accept it as truth, letting it take over and dictate how you go about your day and how you feel about yourself, which only gives it strength, volume and power. From my personal experience, the best way to silence the voice is to acknowledge it, recognize it as an invader and separate yourself from it. Put it in the second person and when you hear it say mean, awful, and terrible things, respond to it from a place of kindness and compassion. Have a dialogue with it, and write it all down if you have to.
For me, it sounds something like this, get ready to witness a very personal dialogue between me and my inner voice:
Inner voice: You really need to lose that excess weight you've been carrying since having a baby.
You: Yeah, I guess I could lose a few pounds and I'd like to, but frankly, it hasn't been a priority. I've been focused on getting healthy of mind, body and spirit and losing weight hasn't been on my radar. I'm just happy and proud to be out of the post partum stress bubble that engulfed me for so long. Besides, I don't have much to lose anyways.
Inner voice: but it's been 3 years, it's time to make it a priority. You're flabby, and out of shape and you look puffy and awful.
You: Yes, I do need to start making more time to take better care of myself, physically, mentally and emotionally. I need to get moving, get more exercise and do more yoga. I know it will make be feel better about myself and my body if I do. But I love my body for all that it has given me and done for me and I don't look awful. Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes and just because my shape and size look different than they used to look or different from that of a cover model, it doesn't mean I look awful.
Inner voice: then why do you cringe whenever you see a photo of yourself, hmmm?
You: That's a great question. I guess I'm just comparing myself to how I used to look, or to how others look and allowing that to dictate how I see myself. But it's really silly and serves no purpose. Thanks for allowing me to see that.
Inner voice: well, ok then. I think I'll be going now.
You: Ok, it was nice chatting with you.
It may seem silly, but it works. For some reason, that nasty voice loves a good fight, so the more you resist it, the more powerful it will feel and the more strength it will gain. What you resist persists after all. Recognizing the negative voices and patterns and learning to silence them is far more productive in building strength and resilience.
Avoid Triggering your inner critic
The negative inner voice will always be there, ready to pounce every chance it gets. It has a huge ego and loves to win. Preempt it by developing good habits and when possible, avoiding actions and situations that you know can trigger it. The key is to identify those triggers. If you're not sure what those triggers are for you, the next time your inner voice comes around, make note of it and the things that happened that day or the previous day and keep doing that until you see a trend. Keeping a daily journal really helps with this.
For me, stress causes me to feel bloated, draws attention to my body and triggers that awful inner voice that says "you look awful, lose weight already blah blah blah". It also causes me to procrastinate and spend too much time on social media, comparing my reality to the perfectly curated galleries I follow, even though I know better than that. Of course, the inner voice doesn't just attack my body image. It goes after all the things!
"You're such a bad mom and selfish person, how could you let Amal watch Peppa Pig, just so you could have a half hour to unwind"
"You're a terrible daughter, how could you move to Italy and have a baby so far away from your mother who is now missing out on her granddaughter's life"
"You're such a fraud. Who are you to give people advice when you still struggle" (aka imposter syndrome).
The inner voice wants to tear us down any way it can, it wants you to feel like a victim of all your circumstances. Don't let it.
Once you've identified your triggers, make every effort to avoid them or learn to deal with them in a positive way. When I feel stress coming on, I now make an extra effort to eat more mindfully and intuitively, so that I don't experience the bloat and discomfort that triggers my negative body image, but if it still happens, I don't beat myself up about it anymore. I acknowledge that I am human, and I do my best to silence that inner voice in a kind and compassionate way (remember that dialogue above). I also limit my social media time or aim to use it mindfully, with consciousness that it's a gallery of beautiful images and moments and not always a reflection of everyday life. I lean into some of the amazing movements and hashtags and feel a little less alone. If that doesn't work, I avoid it for a few days. It will always be there when I come back to it after all.
It's not an overnight fix, and I'm not saying you'll never hear that ugly inner voice again. It takes time and persistence, to make any change, and this is no different. You CAN and you WILL learn to silence that negative talk, build a positive body image, and love and accept yourself as you are. Aim for progress, not perfection. Start with small actions every day to treat yourself and your body with love and kindness because you are worthy.
What does your inner voice tell you and how do you silence it? Share your stories with me and the community. Leave a comment below or hop over to Instagram to post your story and tag @holisticniss #nourishlivepamper #innervoicediaries so I can find you.