Many people, for whatever reason, have trouble turning off the critic. It runs its mouth all day never letting you get a moment of peace. From the moment you wake up in the morning until you close your eyes at night this critic sabotages your day.
Sometimes the root of this is childhood trauma, sometimes it’s chemical and other times it’s just how we’re used to living in the world–with someone hovering over us with a close eye. Eventually that someone becomes you. While you can’t always just decide to make the critic go back in its whole, there are some things you can do to calm down and relax your mind. I have a few of my own tools that I personally use, and I’d like to share them with you. I hope some of these tools bring you calm so you can live a happy life, and truly live life to the fullest.
1. Move. No matter what, I do something every day. If everyone in the world did Zumba, Latin or African dance every day–there would be no war in the world. I love these classes (offered by the YMCA) because in my interpretation these dance moves are a celebration of life–the movements accentuates the moves of a woman. You’re encouraged to shake and move your hips. You’re encouraged to embrace your femininity with “ladies styling” as they call it in latin dance class. With all the pressure to be thin, small and frail these classes encourage you to take up space and celebrate the womanly parts of yourself. While the weight room or the cardio machines are nice at times, it’s nice to get away from what can feel like an aggressive or testosterone driven environment. Go to those eccentric sounding dance classes at your gym–you won’t be sorry!
2. Learn to laugh. There’s nothing the critic likes less than when you learn to laugh in its face. Learn to laugh at what you’re judging about yourself. Make it light hearted. Say “so what.” Learn how to let it go. I’m X, honor it, embrace it, let it go. Learn to say so what, or “fuck it.”
3. When you look in the mirror, look at what you like most about yourself first.
With the insane pressure to look perfect, it’s easy to feel ashamed when you look in the mirror. See discussions on Project Enough here. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing something you don’t like, learn to choose one thing you DO like about yourself and look at that first. Examples include, “I have nice eyes” or “I have a nice nose” or “I am so strong looking”…you get the idea.
4. Learn to breathe. Getting oxygen into your body is very critical when you’re feeling down. If possible take five deep breaths into your belly. If possible do some meditation with guided visual imagery–imagine a beautiful beach or imagine laying underneath a tree in a forest. If it’s bad, let yourself cry. Call a friend. If you’re crying (yes adults cry too)–breathe too! Get all those toxins out of your system. Breathing gives you strength and takes away strength from the critic.
5. Learn to walk away from your laptop. If you’re feeling vulnerable you’re not in a good state to be faking your way through work. Sometimes one bad day–where the critic has a hold over you–can sabotage months of good work. If you’re feeling vulnerable you’re not going to respond to people in the way you would when your head is clear. Sometimes it’s important to just take a break from working. If you don’t have this option and you work in an office go take a walk around the office or even go into the bathroom and take a few breaths. This can be the difference between a flare up in the office or taking a few moments for yourself. You don’t want your colleagues to see you getting overly emotional at work–take space if you can and when you come back you’ll fully rested and clear.
6. Learn to ask for help. I always say this but learning to ask for help is one of the most important factors determining your success. You can’t always do everything on your own. Don’t let the critic win by being too proud. Calling a friend, a loved one or even a coach or therapist can be the most critical factor in your resilience. Don’t try to be the brave cowboy who does everything alone. That’s a myth. Successful people get a lot of help and they know where to get it. Ask for help. People will love you more for opening up to them. They’ll be happy to help you.
7. Know this too shall pass. Being sensitive is a business advantage. It makes you intuitive and empathetic and all the characteristics that can make you a charismatic leader. At the same time you need to learn to manage yourself. This will wash over you like a wave. You will feel better tomorrow. Figure out how to get yourself what you need to help quiet the critic. That way when it passes you’re ready to get back on the horse.