When Your Inner Critic Keeps You From Happiness

When Your Inner Critic Keeps You From Happiness

How often have you allowed stress to affect your happiness by placing unrealistic demands on yourself resulting in negative self-talk? Does this sound like you? I used to fall victim to this exact practice regularly and, at times, I still succumb to negativity and destructive behaviors that prevent me from achieving everything I am capable of.

Here’s the reality. We all have certain strengths and weaknesses, but when we stop focusing on the strengths and start to have unrealistic expectations from the weaknesses, we are destined to fail before even getting started.

For instance, I like to juggle many things at once. My brain has always been wired that way and I have always been really good at managing a lot of balls in the air at one time. However, while my strength is in getting those balls in the air, my weakness is following through on the details of each ball.

I find that my own personal pursuit of happiness is affected when I begin to have high and unrealistic expectations around things I don’t do well – like managing all those details.

To offer an example, many people can agree that a full inbox can often times be a destroyer of happiness and a significant contributor to stress in life. My inbox keeps getting longer the more time I spend trying to perfect my responses. The longer my inbox got, the more stress in my life grew, and the louder my negative self-talk became. As a result, I was locked into a vicious cycle of constantly struggling with a very distorted image of myself.

These negative thoughts can often be traced back to childhood. I learned this thinking pattern as a child who was constantly verbally and emotionally abused. The more time my father spent screaming at me the worse my own self-image became. I began to falsely believe that happiness was something that can be given and taken away. The regular abuse was a stressor that kept me focused on my weaknesses rather than my strengths.

Growing up, this tendency made it very difficult for me to acknowledge my own accomplishments. In grade school, as I received honors for my grades, I began to shy further away from the spotlight. I learned a behavior that said if I got straight A’s I will be required to go in front of the class, so I better stop getting straight A’s.

Similar to my inbox, my relationship with my father put me into a position where happiness felt like it could be taken away. The longer my inbox, the more negative attention I would get from clients and it would, in turn, validate the failures in my life.

In the end, the greatest gift I could have given myself as a child was to learn that happiness is a choice and that focusing on my strengths and accepting my weaknesses would have been the best self-care practice I could have engaged in.

I have learned through the practice of mindfulness, gratitude, and spirituality a new path to maximizing my own awareness and happiness. I have started putting negative voices in my mind to bed and learning to accept and focus on my strengths. Now when my emails are getting out of control, I simply respond or archive. I’m taking small steps to executing my goals, such as focusing on simply reducing the size of my inbox to as few emails as possible. Allowing things to linger for weeks while you await the perfect response is not healthy. Just like with many things in life, clearing those old messages is one of the healthiest things you can teach yourself to do.


About the Author: Michael Weinberger

Michael WeinbergerMichael Weinberger is a dynamic and inspiring speaker frequently asked to speak on topics including Mindfulness, Coping with Mental Illness, and Addiction. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1994 and has learned how to not only cope, but to thrive while living with his illness. Michael teaches individuals how to adjust their mindset to be mindful and grateful for everything in their life. Michael is the founder and creator of A Plan For Living, a digital mindfulness manager and wellness platform. Everyone has problems and Michael’s approach helps people apply gratitude, spirituality and mindfulness to their daily lives.

[irp posts=”1810″ name=”How to Be Mindfully Self-ish – And Why It’s SO Important.”]

4 Comments

jan

Thank you for your insights. My story shares many similarities with yours. I have been battling since I was a teenager. I am now 60 & and I am realizing that I create much of my sense of failure by expecting far too much from myself. I,too, was always able to juggle a lot of balls but I am setting myself up for a crash every time I don’t succeed. Things like following an exercise or healthy eating program are very difficult to adhere to as my moods bounce so much. I practice mindfulness, take my meds, go to mental health support programs but I keep falling back into pattern of not able to maintain consistency. Your article was helpful.
I am not the same person I was several years ago and it is time to embrace who I am now.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
.
.
.
#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
.
.
#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This