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Self-Worth & Confidence

Time to Hug Your Inner Critic

By Ashley Paré - January 04, 2024

“Ashley, I think you’re being really hard on yourself” my EMDR therapist recently said to me. And she’s not the first. This is a common theme I hear from my therapists, healers, teachers, coaches, and friends. How many times have you told a colleague, friend, or family member to stop being so hard on themselves? How often have people told you to just give yourself a break? It can be so easy to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards others, yet we’re so hard on ourselves.

Do you find yourself working hard to earn your rest? Do you find that you end up “self-sabotaging” all of your good intentions? If so, keep reading because this one’s for you! I know how easy it is to fall into patterns of overworking, over pleasing, and motherhood guilt, while completely forgetting to reflect on and give myself the credit I deserve for more than managing the ups and downs of life. So, why is it so difficult to show yourself love and compassion?

Why do your inner critics, whip-crackers, and self-doubters steal your thunder, confidence, and worthiness when other people recognize your greatness and potential? Well, to boil it down, the answer is: to keep you “safe”. If you feel like you’re always “on”, looking over your shoulder, or preparing for the worst case scenario, it may be a sign your inner critic is running the show.

Your inner critic’s main job description is damage control. It hops on the scene any time it senses “danger” to prevent you from feeling your painful emotions from the past – in the future. The inner critic tries to motivate you to work harder, be perfect, push through, or not rock the boat in an attempt to avoid experiencing an old wound. At one point or another in your life or childhood, I imagine you were hurt, burned, let down, and/or rejected and your inner critic works hard to prevent you from reliving those feelings. Its intentions are actually good. If you’re a part of the Own Your Worth community, then I’m guessing one of your core wounds is not feeling good enough, am I right?

Does your inner critic do everything it can to prove to yourself and others – your boss especially – that you are good enough by working, achieving, and doing more- faster than everyone else? The “I’m not good enough” story, or pattern, can look something like this in your life:

You create a goal -> work hard -> prove you have earned the achievement -> wait and hope for recognition -> wait wait wait -> decide to take action and self-advocate for more…

And then boom! The inner critic comes in with a big red stop sign saying “this isn’t safe- you’re not good enough – don’t you dare go down the path of “asking” otherwise you’ll be hurt! What do you think you’re doing?!”And so the cycle repeats, leaving you overachieving and feeling under-recognized, not to mention stuck in your career, relationships and financially. So how do you survive the inner critic’s constant barrage of judgements?

The first step is awareness. When you begin to notice your inner critic is present, you can begin to shift the pattern. Your inner critic may be triggered when you:

negotiate for more,
ask for what we need,
tell someone “no”,
vulnerably put yourself out there on a date,
consider becoming a parent,
start a business,
try something new
rest, relax, or play (aka “not be productive”)
Here are the two paths you can take once you’re aware your inner critic is vying for your attention:

#1. Staying Busy – The unconscious way most of us cope in order to handle our inner critic is by avoiding the painful feelings by staying busy. We bury ourselves in work, pressure and/or overwhelm, and then blame ourselves when things go “wrong” in order to avoid pain, fear, or negative consequences. We end up judging our own needs, desires, and wishes; putting ourselves on the back burner.

We decide it’s safer to not need anything than to boldly ask for what we desire.

The alternative path is:

#2. Creating Space – If you’re willing to pause and make space to check in with your thoughts, your body, your emotions and your reactions, you can stop the cycle of the inner critic before you repeat your unconscious patterns. Do you feel you have to earn rest? If so, it’s a sure sign you’re not giving yourself a break, a breather, or a safe space to rest your head. And you so deserve that!

So, the next time you notice your inner critic attempting to keep you safe by amping up the fear, name it. Bring curiosity to it. Identify that a part of you is scared, but that doesn’t mean YOU are not worthy.

My inner critic is called Smashley. I can identify when she’s scared and running the show and I can have a conversation with her to let her know she’s safe. I help my clients identify and name their inner critics too in order to begin to bring awareness and separation to the parts of themselves that prevent them from living fully into their power.

It’s time to name and identify who your inner critic is and what she needs from you to feel safe so she can clock out and take a break.

Until you are ready to own our worth and consciously show your inner critic the love and compassion they need, they will continue to run the show. Afterall, they are working hard on your behalf to keep you safe, but they’re just working on the wrong things.

So go ahead, give yourself a big hug and take a nice deep breath. You’ve got this.