You’re so fat! Look at the size of your thighs, your butt is huge… what is wrong with you? Why do you have to be so…so… so what?
There’s that voice that sits inside your head and tells you that there is something wrong with you. The inner critic. The part of you that tells you that in order to be liked by people, you have to be thinner, smarter, faster, stronger, and if you’re not, you’re worthless. Do you know how many people deal with that voice? Many. Probably at least half (or more) of the people you talk to daily.
The problem with the inner critic is that she won’t be silenced by obeying her, it just makes her stronger. When the you inside of you punishes you for being you… you’re in trouble ALL THE TIME.
So what to do when you live with a punisher inside your head?
Dismantle the critic.
Step One: Analyze the statement with writing. Write down the day, time, and the event that was happening right before your inner critic began yelling at you.
Step Two: When you hear the critic saying something to you, try to think about what her purpose is. What reason does she have to tell you she’s telling you? What is underneath the statement?
Example: It’s Thursday afternoon at 1pm, you are on your lunch break and are scrolling through Facebook and you see that one of your best friends from college just got engaged. You get a pit in your stomach and you start hearing yourself saying “you need to lose weight, you have to go on a diet, there’s something wrong with you…” you instantly throw your burrito in the garbage can and berate yourself for not getting a salad instead. What happened there? Maybe you saw that your friend was getting engaged and it reminded you that you’re not currently in a relationship and that you want to me. Maybe you felt scared that you’d never be in a relationship. Maybe your fear of being alone for the rest of your life made you decide to take it out on your body, that the only way you could remedy dying alone was by beating yourself up. Beating yourself up isn’t going to solve the fears that you have. Telling yourself that there is something wrong with you and that you need to diet isn’t going to make you not scared. It’s just going to add an abuser into the life of an already scared person. What do you really need?
Step Three: Replace your abuser with a kinder, gentler voice. Now that you know why you were so upset and abusing yourself, find the loving Mom inside of you, the one who holds you and wipes your tears and tells you that you matter, tells you that you are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. Because you do matter and you are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are.
Step Four: Disengage from the abusive voice. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. Think of it as an irritating noise in the background that you tune out, like construction outside your office, or a siren zooming by. You can hear it, but you don’t have to chase it. You can choose to ignore it.
Step Five: If the voice persists, tell yourself, “this is unhelpful and unneeded.” You might even picture a giant stop sign in your mind. Just tell the voice to stop. Tell the voice that there’s no room for it. This is part of cognitive behavioral therapy. In behavioral therapy, we have urges or desires but we learn not to act on them or to stop them before they take over. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we take the cognitions (or the thoughts) and we choose not to follow them and not to allow them to control us. The principle is that controlling the behavior of the thought will help to calm the difficult feelings that follow the thought. When you disengage with painful thoughts, painful feelings decrease. And when the painful feelings decrease, you begin to live your life in authenticity, in the way that you know is valuable for both yourself and the people around you.
You deserve to be treated with respect by yourself and by the people around you. But you can’t control the people around you, so let’s start with you. (Your next step is to disengage with toxic people. As long you are choosing not to treat yourself poorly, no one else should be able to make you feel like crap either.)