“I’d give anything to lose these last five pounds. I wish I had my sister’s curly hair. I wonder what the best product for removing wrinkles is? I’m too much of an introvert.”
What do all of these thoughts have in common? If you guessed, being critical of oneself, then you’re right. It may not seem like it but anything from complaining about a body part to your behaviour to your self-worth is judging yourself.Now, I’m not about to suggest that you just “let it go” and get all Zen about things to the point that you’re not calling yourself out on some unhealthy behaviours, but when does self-criticism go too far?
Obsessing and Depressing
Recognising that you are focused on a part of yourself that you don’t like is important. It allows you to ask why. There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement. But if the reason you want to make a change is to be more like someone else rather than to genuinely improve yourself, then that’s a red flag. And if the answer is that you think you will be happier once you make that change, well that’s a red, hot meteor speeding in from outer space announcing that this is dangerous.
It’s one thing to see the latest Insta feed and wish that you looked like someone else or had their curves or hair or whatever. It’s quite another obsessing over, and even researching, how you can “be” like someone else, especially if you think it will make you happier. This can actually lead to a lot of negative thoughts and even depression.
Did you know that there is a difference between feeling happy and feeling content? It’s true. The neurotransmitters for both are quite different. Think about a time you’ve been joyful. You just got those boots on sale or you got a compliment on how you looked in a dress. That’s dopamine. Now, think about when you have felt satisfied. Like after a really great meal, a night out with friends or doing a good job on your presentation. That’s serotonin.
Different neurotransmitters, different feelings. Happy isn’t lasting. It isn’t meant to be. Happiness is a high; a fleeting emotion. Often sought by chasing external things instead of internal.
Feeling content is a good feeling that has mileage. The state of contentedness is one that doesn’t need a chaser. It is peaceful, positive and even keel. And did you notice? It’s usually after an experience!
The Inner Critic
Look, when your worst critic, ahem… YOU, is going after the way you look or behave, it doesn’t feel good. You want to get to that feel good place and fast. You want to be happy. And if you just make that change on how you look or behave, you will be, right?
Well, yes and no. You might be for a moment but as we just learned happiness isn’t meant to be long-lasting. Soon your inner critic will go after something else. She can be a real witch!
Ride the Wave
This is where paying attention to yourself will pay off. First, recognise when your inner critic is speaking. Being aware of this running monologue will allow you to shift it. Just say “Oh, that’s Regina and she’s just having one of her moments.”
You don’t have to own what Regina is saying!
Next, get comfortable with parts of yourself that aren’t your favourite.
Those crow’s feet come with the many funny moments that had you laughing uncontrollably with friends. Those curls of your sister’s require a whole lot of anti-frizz hair products and time (and she secretly wishes she had your straight hair!) Being quiet means you’re a good listener, not that you have nothing to say. The gray in your hair is a sign that you know a few things that the younger generations don’t know yet! You can also count the things you love about yourself if you find that you only see the things you don’t. And know that nobody is perfect.
Then, make a list of the experiences that make you feel content. They may be solitary or in a group. And if you do more of those when Regina starts to complain, that’ll shut her right up!
Gift yourself Grace
Comparison is the thief of happiness so you do you. Focus your energy on being the best you that you can be. And when you’re not feeling at your best, remember to be gentle and give yourself some grace.
Nicole Klett is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach located in the United States. She is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and has worked with hundreds of clients to reach their health goals. She is also a writer who enjoys topics that are related to self-care whether that be sharing tips for healthier eating or for the next book or movie to check out.