“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” –William Shakespeare
Take a moment to envision what your daily experience would be like if you were to truly see the strength, beauty, and talent that resides within you… and then to really believe in the authenticity of your inner strength and goodness. No matter how “successful” you may appear or feel at times, there may be some part of you that seems to almost be looking for opportunities to cut you down and remind you that you’re not nearly as “successful” as you believe: the inner critic.
The degree to which that inner critic has power over your self-efficacy, self-esteem, and willingness to take healthy risks is largely dependent on your willingness to internalize its derogatory and belittling messages. It is important to remember that many self-doubts and hurtful messages that come from your inner critic may have originated in early messages about your identity and self-worth from your parents or primary caregiver(s). For children who did not get basic early needs met – or had those needs met inconsistently/unreliably – it is not uncommon to develop early maladaptive schemas (EMS) that persist into adulthood.
Letting go of these invalidating messages is more than telling yourself to “think positively.” It is possible to silence the lies from your inner critic in a way that involves authentic belief in your inherent goodness and self-worth. For those who have developed early maladaptive schemas as children, it is not uncommon in adulthood for that critical voice to persist as a painful echo of messages from the past. There is no shame in internalizing messages received from parents or primary caregivers; this is a natural way in which basic core beliefs and identity are formed.
As an adult, you now have the wisdom and responsibility to begin to chart your own course in life based on your true values and authentic self. The choice to adopt a mindful stance toward the most critical and scathing voice in your mind includes developing genuine compassion for yourself and your experience. Part of silencing the inner voice of doubt, hate, and fear begins with truly recognizing that voice as a form of self-imposed imprisonment. Whatever has happened in the past, it is just that – the past.
Releasing the past does not mean ignoring it, discounting it, or pretending it was something that it simply was not. To do this would be a further invalidation of your own experience and yet another layer of self delusion. Ignorance of the past robs you of the opportunity to gain clarity, find peace, and create a brighter future. It did happen, whatever it was… but pain from the past is not alive in the present moment unless you continue to nurture it through rumination, self-sabotage, and mental cruelty toward yourself. None of these choices will enable you to be free. You can learn to mindfully step back from your thoughts and create the mental space to choose which beliefs you wish to accept or let go.
Let Go of Lies from Your Inner Critic
As you begin to read through the following self-critical thoughts, take a moment to pause and reflect on what emotions or physical sensations come up for you. If you notice yourself stepping into and believing the voice of your inner critic, slow down for a moment. Practice directing love, forgiveness, and compassion toward yourself instead.
(1) You are not worthy of love.
We are all worthy and deserving of love. It is often at those times when feeling the least worthy of love that you may be craving it the most. The beauty of love is its infinite supply – its abundance. When you believe yourself to be unworthy of love, you may find yourself denying its presence when it is actually all around you. Allowing love in and accepting your worthiness of being loved begins with loving yourself.
(2) You are not enough.
You are not alone in the feeling of not being “enough” in some way. Many people have developed beliefs throughout their lives about not being “enough” in some deeply fundamental and wounding way… smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, athletic enough, successful enough. When these messages have deep roots in early experiences with family members or important adult figures, it can be very difficult to break loose of how “real” and “true” these beliefs feel. We all share in the journey of actively moving toward our goals and dreams – this is part of being human. It is when you believe you will simply never be “enough” that the lies from your inner critic interfere with expressing your authentic self… which is more than “enough.”
(3) You do not deserve to be happy.
Much like love, happiness exists in abundance and flows from an endless stream. The belief that you do not deserve happiness has the potential to block out the joy of life that dances all around you. The longer you tightly grip this false belief, the longer happiness will continue to elude you. Reflect on the last time you felt happiness… perhaps you laughed while watching a movie, enjoyed a hug or kiss from a loved one, or felt a moment of gratitude. When you allow yourself to feel joy and take delight in the small precious moments of your life, the door opens a bit wider for happiness to enter. Resistance to happiness is a form of resistance to embracing life. Choose to invite happiness into your life.
(4) Your past dictates your future.
No matter what has happened in the past, it only determines your future to the extent that you will allow. The experiences of tragedy, failure, and sorrow are very real and not to be casually dismissed or glossed over. The point is to recognize that in this moment you are building your future – through the choices that you make and the ones you don’t make. It is up to you to find meaning in your life now. Learning from the past, allowing yourself to authentically grieve losses, and letting go of pain through forgiveness can enable you to step back into the driver’s seat of your life in the present. Life is an endless series of “nows.” When you dwell in the past you are not living your life. Take back ownership of your life and make one small step toward charting your own course in life.
Silence your inner critic once and for all by recognizing and embracing your fundamental self-worth. You are – and always have been – deserving of love, happiness, and a meaningful life. It is possible to open up to the present moment and let in joy, love, and hope for the future. Your life is happening right now… in this very moment. How will you choose to live it?
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Brock, F. (2012, July). Retrieved from http://tinybuddha.com/blog/self-confidence-7-lies-you-need-to-stop-telling-yourself/
Featured image: Mahalie & Tim in Vermont by Mahalie / CC BY-SA 2.0