Cut yourself some slack from constant self-criticism

by Kim Palmer, 6th November 2020

Lately, I’ve been letting my inner critic get the better of me. Despite a lot of really great things starting to come to fruition like finally securing investment in Clementine, my eldest son finally feeling like his little chirpy self again after a tough year, finally selling our house that we had been trying to sell for 4 years. These are all amazing things that I’m super thankful and proud of….but I’ve noticed lately I’m really beating myself up alot about a whole bunch of stuff.

I’ve been saying this a lot:

  • I wish I hadn’t done x
  • God that was a really bad decision
  • I know I could have done better at x
  • I should have known x
  • I’m saying sorry waaaaaay too much

It’s sort of just caught up with me and I think I’ve let it slide because of the backdrop of the year we are living in. But the truth is that it’s starting to take up space in my head and I need to break this cycle. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. This feeling of getting stuck in a rut with beating ourselves up for everything that we could and should do better. But enough is enough and I thought I would have a wee chat with my pal and psychologist Emily Hodge and see if she can help me get a bit of perspective. I thought I would share this with you all.

Hey Emily - I need your help. I’m stuck in a rut with beating myself up all the time for not being better at everything. It’s gotta stop. I need your help. What one thing can you suggest that might help me snap out of this rut I’m in???

Hey Kim - here are some thoughts for you:

If you’ve been through personal and professional changes which are coming to fruition, you’ll inevitably be in a place of reflection. We often do this when things feel a little calmer because we have some space to do so. But that can mean we’re left daydreaming about other outcomes, imagining what might have been and being able to feel our feelings more

It’s almost like you’ve been holding your breath, and if there are potentially more time and space to breathe now your body and brain will be expecting to breathe more easily yet it’s still holding onto things from the past that you haven’t necessarily released yet. This doesn’t have to be a problem - it happens as a natural part of change for us all - but if you allow the critical thoughts to take over you’ll spend all your time stuck in them. You already know this because that’s why you’re adding criticism and guilt on TOP OF the already critical thoughts

Your personal and professional changes are one thing. There is also global flux with the pandemic and UK lockdown right now, which is inevitably stirring up emotions for many people

Allow yourself to articulate is this: ‘I hate that I have these thoughts, it’s wasting time and I feel even worse BUT even though I’m looking back and being critical I’m really doing well anyway’

Acceptance of the criticism is vital to enable you to bring about compassion and peace to them, rather than trying to shove them down, wish they weren’t there and covering them up which often delays looking at them anyway

I would also advise that you allow yourself to feel into the criticism - it’s OK to feel crap for a bit! Yet by saying the phrase above, and versions of it, you’ll likely start to feel safer to allow any criticism in, because you know you’re not giving it too much time of day

Feeling into the criticism, safely, is important; so that we allow our full range of emotions from our experiences; we can’t be positive or buoyant all the time and knowing we go from sad to happy, frustrated to calm, worried to care free is an important part of letting go and living in acceptance of our full range of emotions and experiences

Ultimately, bringing compassion, kindness and generosity to ourselves when we experience regret or remorse is a powerful way to bring about a sense of peace and presence. The reality is this isn’t easy, and compassion itself is a practice to keep going and growing in ourselves to live with critical thoughts and not allow them to take over our day or life - so that we can truly celebrate the good things that happen too.

Ahhhhhh I actually feel such a huge sense of relief for a) sharing this with Emily - a problem shared is a problem halved and b) this has massively helped me get some perspective and be a bit kinder to myself and to slow down a bit. I’ve just come up with a mantra after reading Emily’s advice - slow down to speed up. I’ve been rushing around like a headless chicken and it’s time to take a step back, reflect, re-prioritise and then go. I feel much better. Big thanks to Emily Hodge! Please follow her on insta or check out her website

Kim x

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