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.

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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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For our children, we start building the foundations for adolescence in their earliest years - the relationship we’ll have with them, who they are going to be, how they are going to be. One of the things we’ll want to build is their capacity to know their own minds and be brave enough to use it. This isn’t easy, even for adults, so the more practice we give them, the more they’ll be able to access their strong, brave, beautiful minds when they need to - when we aren’t there.

This means letting them have a say when we can, asking their opinions, and letting them disagree.

When kids and teens argue, they’re communicating. We need to listen, but the need won’t always be obvious. When littles argue because it’s spaghetti for dinner and ‘I hate spaghetti so much’ (even though last week and the 5 years before last week, spaghetti was their favourite), they might be expressing a need for sleep, power and influence, or independence. All are valid. When your teen argues because they want to do something you’ve said no to, the need might be to preserve their felt sense of inclusion with their tribe, or independence from you. Again, all valid. 

Of course, a valid need doesn’t mean it will always be met. Sometimes our needs might need to take priority to theirs, such as our need to keep them safe, or for them to learn that they can still be okay if everything doesn’t go their way, or that sometimes people will have conflicting needs that need to take priority. What’s important is letting them know we hear them and we get it.

It’s going to take time for kids to learn how to argue and express themselves respectfully. In the meantime, the words might be clumsy, loud, angry. This is when we need to hold on to ourselves, meet them where they are, let them know we hear them, and step into our leadership presence. We might give them what they need because it makes sense and because there isn’t enough reason not to. Sometimes, after giving them space to be heard we’ll need to stand our ground. Other times we might solve the problem collaboratively: This is what you want. This is what I want. Let’s talk about how we can we both get what we need.♥️
Anxiety will always tilt our focus to the risks, often at the expense of the very real rewards. It does this to keep us safe. We’re more likely to run into trouble if we miss the potential risks than if we miss the potential gains. 

This means that anxiety will swell just as much in reaction to a real life-threat, as it will to the things that might cause heartache (feels awful, but not life-threatening), but which will more likely come with great rewards. Wholehearted living means actively shifting our awareness to what we have to gain by taking a safe risk. 

Sometimes staying safe will be the exactly right thing to do, but sometimes we need to fight for that important or meaningful thing by hushing the noise of anxiety and moving bravely forward. 

When children or teens are on the edge of brave, but anxiety is pushing them back, ask, ‘But what would it be like if you could?’ ♥️

#parenting #parent #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #positiveparenting #heywarrior #heyawesome
Except I don’t do hungry me or tired me or intolerant me, as, you know … intolerably. Most of the time. Sometimes.
Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’

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