5 Steps that Have Quieted My Inner Critic + Helped Me Become More Positive
I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase — “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” I grew up with this phrase. I was a pretty cautious kid — constantly rehearsing in my head the worst that could happen + preparing for it. I soon forgot about the *hope for the best* aspect of the phrase + just began to expect the worst — in everything. This caused me to often *suffer twice.* I’d suffer while I was worrying or rehearsing what was going to happen, in addition to suffering when something actually happened [which, BTW only happened 50% of the time] + I became determined to quiet my inner critic.
At age 18, I began to struggle with depression + anxiety [read more about that journey here!]. This amplified the negative thought spirals that I’d have in my head about everything + I began to develop an even stronger *inner critic* voice. I saw optimism as naivete + believed that I was safer being a skeptic of others + their actions… all in all, this lead me to years of counseling to help me rewire my brain to trust others. It’s something I still work on every single day! Here are 5 steps that have helped me quiet my inner critic + become more positive…
The first step for me to retrain my brain was simply becoming aware of my thoughts. Not judging them – just being aware of them. I began to notice the negative thoughts vs the positive thoughts. I began to correlate how I felt in my body when I had negative thoughts; tightness in my chest, a pit in my stomach, shortening of my breath. I’d also begin to test these thoughts – by asking myself a simple question, “Is this true?”. Many times, I’d quickly realize that no – this thought was not true [even though it felt so real + true!].
One of the best tools I learned for this was through doing a RAIN meditation — check out this one by Tara Brach.
After becoming aware + more objective of my thoughts; I began to discover one of the core beliefs around these negative thought spirals. Typically – I’d wind up at the same fear – over, and over, and over again. This fear that I could not handle whatever was about to happen. Everyone’s *core fear* behind their negative thought patterns is probably different — however when you discover what’s holding you back [which takes time, observation, + full awareness], you can then start to rewire your brain around that thought to quiet your inner critic. As soon as I began to focus on learning to trust myself + believing that I could handle whatever happened, I started to trust those around me more + believe in their good intentions rather than expect the worst from them.
I always hated this saying.. I felt like such a fake whenever I would say, “I’m grateful for X.” However, all of the research I had done about gratefulness practices pushed me to believe that these were very powerful – even if I wasn’t actually *feeling* grateful. I’ve been slowly developing a gratitude practice for the last 3 years… + I am just now starting to really feel the sensation of gratitude. It’s becoming more of a default now when something *bad* happens or I encounter a difficulty that I can learn to say “Well, at least I have X.” The gratitude practice helps prevent the downward spiral of negative thoughts that I would rehearse in my head.
Start small! Write 3 things your grateful for every night before bed. Try to have them be from that day [this helps them not all be the same!] + don’t overthink them. If you’re having trouble remembering to do this, try keeping them in a *note* in your phone + doing it when you set your alarm every night ; ).
This has been the newest + one of the biggest developments in my journey to rewire my brain to be more positive. I used to make a big deal out of everything [+ still, sometimes do]. I wanted everything to be absolutely perfect ++ when it wasn’t, it felt like the end of the world [I am definitely a recovering perfectionist]. One of the things I’ve been practicing is re-calibrating what exactly is a big deal. I’ve been asking myself… “Is this a big deal?” Typically, I find that when I let something go, I don’t even remember what it was a day later.
I believe that this can be so powerful to do with our bodies. Oftentimes, we analyze every inch on our body — finding all the little imperfections + don’t see the *whole picture.* We demand this perfection in our bodies that only we can see… I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent looking analyzing the *side boob* in a shirt or picking at the one lonely hair on my chin, rather than taking a step back from the mirror + asking myself — “Is this a big deal? Does this take away from what makes me, me?”
The final + most important aspect of rewiring my brain has been surrounding myself with people who are positive [or at least trying to be]. I am so grateful for SJ — she is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met ++ consistently reminds me to be positive. She never tells me, “Sarah, let’s look at this positive” [because honestly, that would piss me off], but just gently shares how she is seeing the situation or a small positive from her day that reminds me — “Yes, think positive. Believe in the good.”
I think as women loving our bodies completely + finding a *positive support group* is one of the hardest parts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with friends [+ am 100% guilty myself of it] ++ one of us will say a negative comment about our bodies + it just starts the spiral of all of us beating up on ourselves. Commit to surrounding yourself with people who are also rewiring their brains + training themselves to love their body more. Encourage your friends + family to also become aware of how these thought patterns are affecting them [because everyone has them] ++ to train themselves to be more positive with you : ).