When we feel ‘stuck’ in our lives, we find it difficult to move forward and act on important goals. The primary reason we get stuck is because of our inner critic.
Our Inner Critic is the harpy in our heads who causes us to doubt our abilities and undermine our goals. It also likes to keep us living with thoughts and beliefs that are as familiar to us as a pair of old broken-in jeans…even when those thoughts and beliefs are negative. This is because our Inner Critic doesn’t necessarily equate safety with what is best for us growth-wise, it associates safety with behaviour that is familiar to us, regardless of the impacts. You can read my blog on negative self-talk here.
Suffice it say, that believing the self-defeating, self-limiting lies of our Inner Critic is why it can be so confusing when we do things that we know aren’t good for us like over-drinking, over-eating, over-shopping, over-thinking, or under-relaxing. But many of these habits are familiar to us and likely feel safe because they are coping strategies and self-soothing techniques that we consistently come back to. They can feel pleasurable in the moment, but then create negative emotions in us or negative dynamics in our relationships.
The first step to getting unstuck is recognizing that you have an inner critic who uses a specific language, a particular set of words and phrases, to limit what you believe is possible for your life, and thus, helps to ensure you stay stuck.
Here are four examples of words and phrases that many Inner Critics love to use:
1. “Never” or “Just” or “Should.”
These words are called ‘minimizers.’ Minimizers tend to diminish your achievements and undermine your personal value. Often an Inner Critic will use it in phrases such as, “I’ll never be able to solve this problem successfully,” or, “I’m just a homemaker, accountant, administrator…” (fill in the blank), or “I should be farther along than I am right now.”
2. “I can’t.”
This type of thinking results in procrastinationand/or inaction. It’sdefined as putting things off, worrying without acting, and includes over-complicating a situation to the point of inaction.
3. “I’ll keep going even when it hurts me.”
This strategy of the Inner Critic is all about ignoring warning signs of exhaustion. It also includes the less-talked-about reality of using pleasure in a denial-binge cycle (so work-work-work with no breaks all week, and then bingeing on a box of wine and 8 hours of Netflix in one Sunday). Learn more about self-sabotaging behaviours here.
4. “I have no power in this situation.”
This belief is reinforced when we are convinced we have very little personal power in a situation. It also means surrendering your own personal responsibility for change (ie. saying things like, “I won’t change until the other person changes first.”), and/or continuing with repetitive strategies that aren’t working for you.
In order to dispel these self-limiting beliefs, it is important to understand that our Inner Critic is using these kinds of words and phrases to exaggerate current reality. When we see the above four words and phrases we can be fairly certain that our Inner Critic is at work.
Why? Because our Inner Critic wants to keep us safe. And it equates safety with thoughts and beliefs that are most familiar to us. These thoughts and beliefs feel very true and real, and that is what gives these kinds of words traction.
But it’s important to note that because a thought or belief FEELS subjectively true, does not necessarily make it objectively true.
The above thoughts and beliefs can be examined for whether or not they are helping or hindering you in your forward momentum. And once you begin to pinpoint and understand these beliefs, you can begin to challenge and change them.