Two weeks ago I had something exciting happen – I found a pickleball group to play with! Yay, happy dance.
My husband and I just recently moved to Nashville three months ago and it was one of my high priorities to find a fun group to play with. Mission accomplished! I’m loving it and I trust my body will at some point get adjusted to playing in the heat/humidity.
Even though I’m a pretty outgoing type and can yuck it up with most any stranger, I still felt some nervousness joining this established group of players. They’ve been very welcoming, and with new group dynamics, on the sidelines while not playing, the get-to-know-you questions start flowing. And there’s this one question that STILL causes me discomfort and self-doubt. I know it’s a lie and yet it still pops into my brain.
His question: What do you do for work?
My response: I’m a health coach
My inner critic shouts: Why did you say that…you don’t look the part; you shoulda said
you’re a life coach…I mean seriously, you’re still overweight so you know his first thought is ‘well you must not be very good at it or you don’t take your own advice’….
Inner critic doubles down: Hurry, you can still salvage this – tell him how you help people learn to meditate, better regulate their anxiety, set healthier boundaries, and yeah yeah yeah, you help them heal their relationship with food, weight and body image, go ahead and throw that in…
What’s the point of sharing this internal conversation
I have with myself and my inner critic except to
showcase I have a pretty mean one given it still
shouts these things at me even though I’ve been
successfully health coaching others for 7+ years and
I walk the walk?
To point out that we all have ways that we lie to ourselves thanks to that pesky inner critical voice and it’s harmful; not only that, it could be something you’ve been diligently working on for years (or even decades), but still have remnants of it show up from time to time and you wonder when it will ever just go away for good.
Honestly, for most of us, we won’t be able to permanently eliminate the inner critical lies from popping into our head, but we can gain control. We can learn how to better engage with it and not fall prey to the self-sabotaging aftereffects.
You may recognize the types of inner critical lies we say to ourselves, things like:
- I shouldn’t STILL be dealing with this issue after all the work I’ve done and knowledge I have; get it together already!
- If it was as important to me as I say it is, I wouldn’t lose my motivation; I’m such a loser.
- You know what they say, if it was meant to be it would have happened already. Just let it go, you’re never gonna get there.
- Everyone else seems to have figured this out, so what the hell is my problem?!
- It’s never too late, yeah right; the clock keeps ticking and I’m still here stuck as ever.
- If they only knew the real me, they’d wouldn’t be saying those nice things.
- Time is running out…you’ve had so many chances to get this right, if you don’t do it right this next time, it’s over and you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself you idiot!
- No wonder you have the life you have; you don’t deserve anything better.
- If you speak up, they’ll see you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about; I mean who are you to teach others about ______________?! Sit down and shut up already.
- I’ve done so much work and prepared in every way, but I’m still not ready. Maybe that one book…or that seminar I read about…then, after that I’ll be ready (mind you, you said that 5 books and 3 seminars ago)
- You’re the only one who thinks this way, you know that right?! Such a dork.
I could list more, but you get the idea.
If this is resonating with you, I suspect you could fill up a page with these kinds of lies your inner voice tells you, right?
Here’s the deal: this kind of inner critic commentary, or as Ethan Kross describes in his book Chatter, is as common as breathing. We all do it, some to a greater degree than others, but nobody is immune.
I know, in that moment, it feels very individual and like you’re the only one.
You’re not the only one
How do you stop these lies from popping into your head and taking over in those moments?
First, recognize it when it happens, write it down (yes literally, with pen/paper) and keep a running list. Think of it like a hit song playlist because most of them get played on repeat. Not the filtered or edited version of the inner critical voice – the real version filled with harsh, punishing language and those colorful curse words.
Seriously, seeing your inner voice on paper takes some of the sting off it and you really do begin to see and relate to it differently. Often, it’s so obviously not true you call BS on yourself right then and there.
Once you have a playlist written out, then it’s time to question the underlying assumptions inherent in them to see if there’s any actual truth to them or are they just fear based, knee-jerk reactions to uncomfortable situations?
To do this, you’ll want to utilize a combination of methods to get to the root of the lie(s). Each of which is intended to question the validity of the lie(s), gain greater perspective, and identify what situations trigger them.
- There are journal writing exercises that can help you get clarity. Contact me if you’d like some guidance which resource might be the right fit for you.
- There are distancing self-talk practices you can use like speaking to yourself in the third-person and the second person “you” to defuse the emotional intensity of your inner voice.
- Work with a coach, counselor or therapist to gain a different perspective and better guide your inquiry process.
- You can role play it with yourself. If your child or someone you deeply love were saying those things to themselves, how would you help them talk through it and identify the lie(s)?
- There are numerous research articles, podcasts, books, etc. that are helpful (including the book Chatter I mentioned previously, or the podcast Ten Percent Happier which is currently doing a series on Taming Your Anxiety where a lot of our inner critical lies sprout from).
- Learn how to tune into the sensations and signals your body sends you when your inner critic unloads on you – they serve as early warning signs and as you notice them sooner, you can often cut the lies off before they gather momentum.
- Reach out to a trusted friend who won’t inflame the situation nor just tell you what you want to hear. You know that kind of friend, the one who both listens deeply, knows how to offer empathy, plus offers perspective and solutions to consider.
When you practice engaging with your playlist of lies in the ways described above (and it’s not an exhaustive list), you become so much better prepared when those lies crop up in the future.
You’ll have more confidence and begin to respond differently.
You’ll start to see that the lie(s) are not fact, and you don’t have to breathe life into them, meaning, you can observe the lie pop into your brain, acknowledge it, then release it.
Circling back to my earlier example when someone from my new pickleball group asked me what I do for work, here’s how it used to pan out for me and how it does these days:
What I used to do when I believed the lie: after I uttered the words I’m a health coach – without giving the person an opportunity to say anything in response, I began to overexplain what kind of health coach I was, how if you only knew my story you’d see that I’ve come a long way in my own health journey and my overweight status isn’t representative of the positive impact I make with others or the breadth of health coaching I provide, and how I’m incredibly well studied, experienced and having numerous credentials/training that prove I’m really a health coach…
OMG that’s exhausting, right?! And the reaction of the other person was usually to change the subject sensing my defensive overexplaining or a wide-eyed geesh, ok, I get it, you’re a health coach.
What I do now and how I responded when asked at pickleball this week: I’m a health coach.
Yup, that’s it; the inner critical lie popped up in my head – I couldn’t stop that from happening, but I didn’t breathe life into it or give it any airtime. If a person asks follow up questions, I’m happy to answer them, but if not, there’s not much else to say because honestly, in the get-to-know-you depth of questions, there are so many more interesting things we can ask each other.
Btw, the gentleman that asked me the question didn’t have any follow up questions. I volleyed (some pickleball humor for ya LOL) and asked him the same question, to which he responded, “I’m a commercial real estate broker.”
And we went on to chat about other topics and playing some more pickleball.
It’s in those kinds of moments and what inspired today’s blog, that I fully realize how much more manageable and liberating life becomes when we stop believing the lies our inner voice shouts at us.
It’s not easy work to tame our inner critical voice and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s well worth the effort.
If you’d like to learn more about taming your inner critic, reach out to me for additional resources or let me help you.
I can’t say I have it all figured out and never-ever fall into self-doubt or get hooked by an inner critical lie, but when I imagine what kind of mental gymnastics I used to do and the rumination/overthinking that followed, wow, my life today is wildly better and healthier.
I want to help others shorten their learning curve and reduce the amount of time they let their inner critic lies hold them back from living a healthier and happier life.
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