I was walking out to my car the other day after work, and as I walked through the parking lot, an image of my director at work popped into my head like a movie and began berating me about my work so far in my new position. “You aren’t doing enough,” the director said, “You need to work a lot harder. The work is just not good enough.” This movie went on for a minute or two before I finally said stop.
One of my less than desirable mental tapes is hearing a supervisor or family member berating my latest action or choice. This used to happen quite often, and was very damaging to my confidence level. At the conclusion of the short film, I would mentally prepare scripts of how I would respond to such accusations, trying to defend myself in my own head like a wounded lamb succumbing to a wolf.
Now that I have done some personal growth, I can separate the pieces of the tirade and recognize these instances for what they really are: my inner critic’s voice shining a spotlight on my insecurities. By creating scripts to defend myself, I was inadvertently admitting to myself that the attacks were in fact facts, and that I was somehow less worthy. Here is how I learned to deal with my inner critic.
The first step is learning how to recognize your inner critic. You are hearing your inner critic when s/he:
Barges in mentally unprompted
Follows an accomplishment or action
Is focused on something you are already insecure about
Is not based on reality or a recent situation
For many of us, the inner critic takes the form of an authority figure or someone whose opinion we value. If we truly separate the messaging from the figure, we can often decipher what the real message is from the inner critic and deal accordingly. Since I am just a few months into this job, my built-in inadequacy complex automatically jumps to “You aren’t working hard enough. You need to work more hours. You need to accomplish more with less time.” My inner cr
itic’s attacks check off all of the boxes listed above. Because I recognize when she is speaking up, I can quickly stop her. I then reality check myself:
I am working hard.
My supervisor is happy with my work.
It is unreasonable for my life balance to work more and have less personal time.
I am doing the best I can do. If that isn’t acceptable to my supervisor then there would be a problem.
Instead of creating a counter argument, I am telling my own self why the attacks are unfounded, and then I leave it at that. No brooding, no overthinking, no anxiousness. The faster I stop the inner critic, the less damage she can do. I can walk away confident and secure. It may take several tries to finesse the process, but practice in any behavior makes it a habit.
Today’s society demands perfection, and we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect, inside and outside. The reality is that this expectation is not based on reality and is an unachievable goal. It is so important to recognize that you are one person, and it is impossible to be everything for everyone at all times. The more you try, the more you become exhausted, and the less well you are both mentally and physically.
My mom always tells me “You do the best that you can do and that is all you can do.” It is so true! If you give it your all then you should walk away content. Someone else’s discontent about it would be more reflective of their own opinions or values and not a reflection on you. Once you embrace the idea, it is positively freeing.