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Overcoming Self-Criticism


“I’ll never be good enough!”

“I can’t do anything right!”

“No one likes me.”

“It’s always my fault.”

“I’m not smart enough/skinny enough/pretty enough.”

How many times have you told yourself one (or more) of these things? How often has such a statement stopped you from trying something new or made you feel discouraged and depressed?  Has your inner voice become an inner critic instead of a gentle guide—your own worst enemy residing in your head? Negative self-talk creates feelings of anger, frustration, hopelessness, doubt, fear, and irritation. If that negative self-talk takes over your thoughts, it can lead to debilitating depression and anxiety.

Overcoming this type of self-criticism is essential to a leading a full and productive life. Here are some things you can do to banish that harsh inner-critic and find the peace that comes from following your true inner voice.

First, you must identify the self-critic and recognize that it is different from your inner voice—or conscience—which motivates, prompts, and encourages you. Whenever you have a self-directed negative thought in your head, write it down.

Sometimes the criticism might be direct: I’m such a failure! I’m never going to get that promotion! I’m an idiot!

Other times it might be more subtle: I’m better off alone anyway. Why even bother trying?

Whatever it is, write it down. Then, for each negative thought you’ve written down, change the subject from the first person to the second person. So, next to the entry for I’m such a failure! write, You’re such a failure!

As you compile your list, think about how it would sound if you were to say these things to another person: your spouse, a friend, a child, a coworker? Chances are you’d never say anything so critical to another person. Why? Because these statements are never true—and they are cruel. As you begin to identify just how damaging your inner-critic is, you’ll prepare yourself to take the next step in banishing its voice.

That next step is to more realistically frame your negative thoughts. Think about what you would actually tell another person if you were in a position to offer helpful criticism. For example, if your child didn’t make the soccer team at school, you’d never tell him, “You’re a failure.” Instead, you’d probably say something like, “I’ll help you practice extra hard, and you can try out again next year.” Do the same thing with all your negative thoughts.

I’m such a failure! becomes, I make mistakes, but I work hard and excel at . . .

 I’m never going to get that promotion! becomes I didn’t get the promotion this time, but I can keep trying to improve and try again. I’m great at running meetings and organizing projects, but I should work on delegation.

 Reframing self-criticism can take some time to master, but the more you do it, the more likely it is to become a habit—and the less often negative thoughts will creep in.
The final step is to arm yourself with a set of tools to combat the self-criticism that still pops up. Here are three tools for combating negative thoughts as they occur:

1. Change the scenery. Rumination—running a scenario in your head over and over again—is both dangerous and futile. It doesn’t get you anywhere. If you find yourself repeatedly going over a failure or mistake, drop what you’re physically doing and do something else. Exercise is a great option, but so is a short walk, a few minutes sitting outside in the sun, calling a friend on the phone, or even taking on a project or something else you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Refuse to sit around and continue bashing yourself.

2. Think positive. If you find yourself thinking negatively, start a list—in a journal or notebook, on a sticky note, or even in a video you record on your phone—of positives. Write down the things you’ve accomplished today, even the small things like making the bed or getting to work on time or skipping the pastry at the coffee shop. Alternatively, make a list of the things you are good at. Include tangible talents, like playing an instrument or sport, and more intangible things, like having patience or empathy.

3. Make an affirmation. Sometimes you may not have time to stop and make a list or take a break and change the scenery. But you always have time to make simple affirmations. It might seem silly at first, but there is real power in stating positive affirmations out loud. And the more you do
it, the better you’ll feel. Using essential oils during your affirmations will increase the benefits by creating a pleasant and calming atmosphere to accompany your statements. You will also begin to associate the scent of the oils you use with positive thoughts and eventually be able to simply inhale a specific oil to remind you of those positive feelings.

Here are few to get you started.

Affirmation: My mind is alert and I am focused on my goals. I easily accomplish anything I set my mind on doing. My spirit is uplifted and I am filled with the energy for living. Oil Protocol: Inhale (or apply a drop to your wrists) Douglas fir or white fir while saying the affirmation out loud.

Affirmation: I am confident and capable. I am in charge of my destiny. I believe in myself and in my abilities. Oil Protocol: Inhale or diffuse clove oil while saying the affirmation out loud.

Affirmation: I love and accept myself as I am. I love my body. I am grateful to my body for providing my soul with a home on earth. I love moving my body and eating healthy foods that fuel my activities. Oil Protocol: Inhale (or apply a drop to your wrists) grapefruit oil while saying the affirmation out loud. Or, combine equal parts grapefruit and cassia and inhale while saying the affirmation out loud.

Have a wonderful week,
Rebecca Hintze

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