If I had to come up with a strategy to break down the strength of women in this world, I wouldn’t need weapons, soldiers or battle plans.
All I’d need to do is place women in our comparison driven and perfectionistic world and let them go to battle with themselves in their own minds.
They’d compare themselves to others around them, especially their perceived weaknesses to others strengths. They’d have zero tolerance for mistakes and operate off of a “get it perfect the first time” rule with steep punishment for having to try again or ask for help.
They’d give others the best of their kindness and withhold it from themselves.
Unfortunately, this is already happening.
Women are under attack- and the enemy is in our own minds.
I see evidence of it every day in my office as good strong women are crippled by depression and anxiety. Both of these mood disorders have a foundation in the highly critical and unforgiving society we live in.
I see it in our schools and with our young adults who are suffering from eating disorders, pornography addictions, substance abuse and suicide.
Inner criticism is an epidemic that touches every aspect of our lives.
Our inner critic calls us names, scolds us, revisits our failures over and over again and punishes us for making mistakes. And we silently and obediently listen.
After a while, that listening turns into believing.
You’ve heard the quote, “a house divided against itself falls”?
When we are critical and harsh with ourselves, we’re not on our own side. In spite of all our good efforts in what we do and say in the world around us and the great defenses we build against dangerous external threats, we, in fact, can become the enemy to ourselves when we allow the harsh critic in our head to take control in our life.
I’m cautious as I write this because even this statement can cause us to go in that harsh, critical direction-
“See, now I am letting the enemy win- I knew I was terrible at this!”
So, as you continue to read, tell that little critic to hang on just a second.
Where does this critical voice come from?
For many of us, it’s been around for as long as we can remember. For others, you may be able to pinpoint specific points where you noticed the critic show up in your head. I have found that unless parents are specific and intentional in teaching a child to have a growth mindset and be self-compassionate, our natural preset is to be harsh and critical with ourselves.
This is why:
Our brains are designed to notice the negative. It’s a survival function.
If we can notice the things that are wrong in the world around us, then we are more likely to recognize danger when it is present and thereby get to safety. Noticing the things that are wrong is called the negativity bias. It’s important for our survival but can wreak havoc on our emotional state if we’re not careful.
You’ve experienced this negativity bias if you’ve ever focused on:
*The time you lost your temper with your child compared to the full day you stayed calm and patient.
*The shape or size of a certain aspect of your body you would like to change rather than see your beautiful smile or the deep blue of your eyes.
*The thing that you wish you knew how to do rather than the gifts and talents that you already have competency in.
*The time you forgot to go to your friend’s baby shower or birthday party versus the countless times you have shown up to love and support her.
*The time you forgot to bring the cupcakes to school rather than your consistent and helpful nature in following through with most all of your commitments.
Your negativity bias is what your inner critic feeds on. She keeps track of the things that go wrong and then reminds you and reminds you and reminds you that you are messing up. She keeps records and comparison charts and has an incredibly selective memory. I stress “selective” because this voice only catalogs the things that are negative.
The purpose of the negativity bias is to protect you. Your inner critic is operating under the belief that if she points out your failings and shortcomings you will be better for it. However, research has shown that your inner critic is misguided.
Hyper-focusing on the negative actually lowers your ability to reach your goals and makes you feel worse about yourself.
Feeling bad about yourself is never useful. It shuts you down, makes you feel small and powerless and turns into a vicious cycle. It just doesn’t help in any way.
It may not feel like it, but you do have a choice whether to listen to your critical voice or not. Just knowing this choice exists is the beginning of being more self-compassionate.
You see, we absolutely must learn how to be patient with our imperfections and forgiving of our mistakes because:
Women are under attack by the critic in our own minds.
Self-compassion is the way we can put an end to this battle that’s stealing happiness from our lives. We can learn to be kind and accept ourselves.
Check out the Self Compassion pillar for help in becoming compassionate toward yourself. You’ll be so glad that you did!