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Self-insight for success > Stories and reflections > When Your Inner Critic Slam Dunks You

When Your Inner Critic Slam Dunks You

By Margie Elley-Brown

On a recent Saturday morning while having coffee with friends after our typical weekend cycle, the topic of alcohol consumption came up. One of our number – a medical person – began telling the group that even small amounts of alcohol could be detrimental to your health. One other group member asked why we didn’t know this? It got the group talking.

And it got me thinking.

I’d been out the night before and had consumed three small glasses of wine over the course of three hours. Not heavy drinking by any means. And my husband and I frequently enjoy a glass of wine with our dinner at night.

Dr Google

When I got home, I began to search the net – and what a blessing and a curse Dr Google is – for those statistics and warnings about consuming alcohol. I did find some evidence that light (12 standard drinks per week) and moderate (between 12 and 21 drinks per week) could be related to some health concerns.

But what I found more frequently were recommendations on how to live more healthily and lower the risk of health issues: eating more green vegetables; exercising regularly – at least three times per week; drinking coffee – up to five cups a day; eating less red meat; consuming less sugar; having a few brazil nuts each day; spending more time with friends; laughing at least several times per day.

The list goes on.

So there I was, giving myself a real attack of “the guilts” because I’d had a few tipples the night before.

Good Enough?

That week, I’d exercised every day, eaten healthily, spent time with friends and family, drunk my usual two to three lattes per day, laughed – possibly more than my quota – one family member warned me I might have actually laughed so much that I would be at risk of some other health problem.

Why is it, I found myself asking, that I was so quick to slam dunk myself and beat myself up because I’d drunk more than average on a Friday night?

Fear of contracting cancer or developing heart disease? Shame that I’d lacked the self-discipline to say no to my third glass when a colleague offered me one?

I began to wonder if my internal critic was just a bit too vigilant.

I realised I needed to dip back into the thinking contained in one of my favourite books – ‘Choose to be Happy’. Written by New Zealander, Wayne Froggatt, it’s a practical book based on the work of Arthur Ellis who developed Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). Froggatt applies his techniques to a wide range of common personal growth concerns including worry, fear, guilt, anger, perfectionism, disapproval and criticism.

Inner Critic

One of the core beliefs contained in the book that people upset themselves with is:

I absolutely MUST, under practically all conditions and at all times, perform well (or outstandingly well) and win the approval (or complete love) of significant others. If I fail in these important and sacred respects, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer.

When people hold onto this belief, when some challenging or adverse situation arises they feel anxious, and panic ridden, sometimes even worthless.

I realised my ‘inner therapist’ had been off duty and allowed my blaming ‘inner critic’ to turn up the volume and loudly intone its accusations, inducing me to experience feelings of guilt, anxiety and disapproval.

But I didn’t need to.

I needed to remind myself, to tell my inner critic – I wasn’t really such a BAD person after all.

But how easily that thinking can permeate all areas of our lives – work, leisure, sport, relationships, and that lifelong concern for women: image.

In my PhD research, I interviewed women across the age groups about their careers. In spite of being outwardly confident, successful and purposeful, these women had many doubts and inner struggles. They too beat themselves up. They often questioned their own ability, their readiness for a promotion, making comments such as:

I didn’t think I’d be brainy enough. I was a bit hesitant. It was not a comfortable, easy thing.  It’s embedded in me, the whole process of feeling I don’t know enough, I wouldn’t be good enough.

I’m not the only one who gives herself a hard time. Why is it that we try so hard to be perfect? 

I wrote in my journal: this month is ‘give myself a break month’ and I am determined to be a little kinder to myself. I wonder what your inner critic is beating you up about right now.

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