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.

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One of our rituals was in the week before Christmas, we’d go shopping and each kiddo would choose a keepsake decoration for the tree. This would forever be their decoration. To make sure we’d remember who owned what (a year is a long time!) I wrote their name and year on the box. The idea is that when they leave home, they’ll have a collection of special decorations for their own tree, plump with throwbacks (‘Oh I remember when we bought this!).

Then of course there was Christmas morning. Santa would leave a note on the table and bootprints on the front path, which smelled remarkably like talcum powder. So magical the way the snow was under the boot and never melted, even in an Australian summer! But that’s the magic of Christmas, right?!

We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘neverending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (remembering reindeer groceries can be so hard sometimes!)

You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

What are your Christmas rituals? Let’s share ideas in the comments.♥️
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Because sales are the best, and Christmas is the best, and helping kiddos find their brave is the very best of all! So, to celebrate the end of the year (because truly, it's been a year hasn't it), and to help you settle brave hearts for next year, or night times, or separations, or, you know, all the things, we're taking 25% off books and plushies in the Hey Sigmund shop.

There's no need to enter a code. The books and bundles are already marked with their special sale prices. You'll find them all there - plushies, books, bundles - doing shopping cartwheels, beside themselves excited about helping your young ones feel bigger than anxiety, and shimmy on to brave. 
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It can feel as though the only way to strengthen them against their anxiety is to make sure they have nothing to worry about, but when their worries are real this might not happen quickly. 

Instead, we need to focus on helping them know that even though those worries are there, they will be okay. ‘Not worrying’ isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is. This will start with trust in you and your belief that they will be okay, and trust in your reaction if things don’t go to plan. Eventually, as they grow this will expand into trust in themselves and their own capacity to find their way through challenges to a place of hope and strength. 
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Strong steady breathing will reverse the fight or flight physiology that causes nausea, butterflies, or sick or sore tummies during anxiety. BUT telling an anxious brain to take a strong steady breath will potentially make anxiety worse unless strong steady breathing feels familiar. Practising during calm times will make it familiar. 

During anxiety we’re dealing with their amygdala, and it wants short shallow breathing to conserve oxygen. It doesn’t want strong steady breathing and will work hard to resist this. 

An anxious brain is a busy brain and it will be less able to do anything unfamiliar. A few minutes of strong steady breathing each day will set up a strong neural pathway to make strong breathing more automatic and accessible during anxiety. 

In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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Needs and behaviour can get tangled up and treated as one. When you can, separate the need from the behaviour. Give voice to the need - let it find a way to breathe - and redirect the behaviour. 

The need might always be clear, especially if it’s being smothered by angry shouting words. If we stifle the behaviour without acknowledging the need, the need stays hungry. Help usher it into the light by making it clear that you’re ready to receive it. Then wait. Wait for the big behaviour to ease, for bodies to calm, and angry voices to soften - but keep the way to you open. ‘You’re a great kid and I know you know that behaviour wasn’t okay. Talk to me about what’s happening for you.’

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