written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C
Today’s post is about making peace with your inner critic. You know, that little voice inside that says meaner things to you than you would ever say to anyone else. That voice that immobilizes you sometimes into inaction, emotional instability and self-doubt.
First lets lay the framework to help think about this issue from a different angle than you may be used to. Think about when you go to a restaurant. If it is a restaurant you have never been to, what do you do? Maybe take a peek at the menu? Ask your friend or a server what they recommend? Think about the multitude of internal suggestions that can come up just from looking at a menu. First you might ask yourself what you are in the mood for. Then you might look at the prices and have a conversation with yourself about that. Then you might think about the nutritional value of the meal you are thinking of. You might remember a time you had a meal like the one you are considering on the menu and were happy, or unhappy with the way it tasted. Really, there is almost an endless number of ways our minds can go simply by sitting down and looking at a menu. And, if this is true for most of us about ordering a meal, just imagine the number of internal conversations that go on about parenting!
To simplify things, I am going to call the different internal suggestions you receive parts. The part of you that does the budgeting for your family asks about the price of the meal. The part of you that asks about the nutritional value, we could call the health conscious part (or it could be your inner critic depending on the tone). Another part would be the memory bearer for a specific occasion when you had a similar meal, etc. We all have parts. All of us. When I say we have parts I do not mean that we are all suffering from multiple personalities, rather I am stating that we all have learned experiences that come to mind in relation to each situation we encounter throughout the day. There are some “parts” that we all have and one of them is the inner critic.
When it comes to the inner critic, most of us try to do what we have been told to do with bullies… ignore, stand proud, pretend they don’t exist, etc. but we all know that doesn’t really work with bullies most of the time and with an inner critic it can be even worse! You can’t get away from your inner critic. It’s you! Oftentimes, ignoring it only makes it like your children when you are on the phone, louder and louder until you are forced to take notice. Instead, let’s look at making peace with the inner critic.
I know it’s hard to believe, but most often, when we look inside to the purpose of the messages we get from an inner critic it has something to do with protecting us from a sad, mad, or disappointed feeling. It may have something to do with protecting us from criticism, anxiety or upset. For a moment, reflect upon what the purpose of a particular message that you get from your inner critic that you would like to change.
If possible, take a minute to put aside all of the criticisms you have about the delivery of the message and practice looking for the helpfulness of it. Believe it or not, the true intent of the underlying messages from the inner critic tend to be something like:
- I never want you to feel that hurt/disappointed/angry/used again.
- I don’t want people to treat you badly.
- You deserve better.
- Stay alert and attuned to what you are doing/ what is happening.
- Trust your instincts.
- Be true to yourself.
The packaging of that message tends to sound like:
- What’s wrong with you?
- How could you be so stupid?
- Don’t do that anymore, you’re just going to get hurt.
- How could you have trusted that person?
- What a mess you have made of your life.
Remember that the underlying message or your critic is a loving one, it is the packaging of the message that hurts. This understanding sets the groundwork of the conversation that you can have to help turn your inner critic into a loving inner guide.
To get in touch with an inner critic and begin the process of trying to turn it into a helpful voice, there is a process I would suggest. Before you go through the process, I recommend you read through it to get an understanding of the intention of the exercise. In this exercise, you will get in touch with your inner critic and have a conversation with him or her about changing the tone of the conversations you have. If you have difficulty doing this exercise, please do not push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Take this idea to a therapist that is familiar with Internal Family Systems work (IFS) and they will guide you through it. Some people will feel more comfortable making this a writing exercise. That is fine, however, make sure that you are taking a moment to breathe first and that you have tuned into your inner world.
Getting in touch with your inner critic:
Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet grounded to the floor. Relax your shoulders, and take a few deep breaths. If it feels right to you, you can close your eyes.
Determine a particular message that your critic sends your way. For most of us, it won’t take long for a thought to pop into our head that reminds us of something critical we have said toward ourselves.
Continuing to breathe in and out, gently look inside your mind and ask yourself what the purpose is of this message. Find the loving message that is underneath the criticism. It may help to think of a particular time your inner critic said the message to you. When you think about what the circumstances are when you receive the message, it helps you to identify what the message was about.
Take a moment to absorb the loving message hidden in the criticism.
Do your best to thank you inner critic for sending you that loving message.
Ask your inner critic if next time they want to give you that message, they could try to give it to you in a way that is easier for you to hear.
Communicate to your inner critic the way you might like to hear the message next time.
Promise your inner critic that rather than ignoring the loving message, you will take note of it, you will acknowledge the message, but that ultimately you will need to take everything into account and decide what is best.
Ask your inner critic if there is anything you need to do for it to trust you more, so it can take some time off from all it’s hard work.
When you are done with this exercise. Reflect on what, if anything, that your inner critic said you would need to do to earn more trust. If your inner critic suggested something, reflect on whether that thing is do-able for you.
While I have been talking about the inner critic in the singular, many of us have multiple inner critics. One or more may have the voice of a parent or early caregiver. Another may have the voice of a shamed earlier version of you that did not know how to cope with a particular difficult situation like the ending of a relationship whether it be via break-up, abandonment or death, a traumatic memory, a feeling of being isolated and overwhelmed by a life circumstance or something else. This exercise will help you as the inner criticisms arise to examine them and to make peace now that you are an older, wiser person and know you can choose a different perspective.
Making peace with your inner critic will help not only you but the people around you, especially your children because, as I’m sure you can figure out, the voice of our inner critic also tends to become the voice of our children’s inner critic as well.
- The Art of Breathing (help4yourfamily.com)
- Messing Up Children in Just the Right Ways (help4yourfamily.com)
- To Parents Who Worry Their Children Will Harm Others (help4yourfamily.com)
- Finding the Right Therapist (help4yourfamily.com)
written by Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C
In honor of the New Year, I would like to share one of my favorite affirmations. I believe it comes from Louise Hay, but I have been saying for a while now and don’t honestly know the origins. However, I find it particularly fitting for the New Year. It is fairly simple and goes like this.
I am willing to let go of old, painful patterns that keep me feeling unhappy. I welcome new and fulfilling experiences into my life.
I love this affirmation because it rightly implies that you do not need to figure out how to let go of old patterns, as much as you must be willing to let them go. Just the simple act of being sincerely willing to let go of old, painful patterns, can open up a new experience for you and for your family, since your willingness to let go will impact them as well.
It is my hope for you that this year brings your happiest family experiences ever. Thank you so much for traveling with me through the past year, my first year of blogging, and for your support as I entered a new learning experience. I am looking forward to many more years spent together.
- Parent Affirmation Monday- being present- 12/3/2012 (help4yourfamily.com)
- Parent Affirmation Monday- Empathic- 11/17/2012 (help4yourfamily.com)
- Quick self care for parents (help4yourfamily.com)
Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C
Many parents get into the habit of believing that in order to nourish ourselves, we need a grand gesture or a day away from the children. While that is nice sometimes, we also need to find smaller moments throughout the day to fit in body and soul nourishment. Especially around this time of year, when we find that we are doing more for others, it is important to fill our own tank as well.
One of the issues I hear from parents when it comes to self-care is that there is no time or money or that when you do start taking care of yourself it just reminds you of how little care you have been getting. Well, the last issue is for another post on another day (I am planning on writing that post), but in the meantime, here is a list of quick and easy self-care ideas that even a parent with a small child can find a moment in the day to do. Most of them cost little or no money. Please feel free to use the ones that work for you and lose the ones that don’t. I want to include this list in the book I am writing and would love it if you would share any other quick and easy self-care tips you have. You may notice that you already do some of them, like drinking water. For this list, the idea is not to just drink the water, but to enjoy doing it and to mark it in your mind as something you did today to take care of yourself.
- Put lotion on your feet before you put your socks on.
- Take a deep breath, hold it for a slow count of two, then let it go. Repeat two more times.
- Try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to enhance the good feeling you are having, or to clear away a difficult feeling. Here is a video of Cheryl Richardson teaching this technique in five minutes, but if you want to really take care of yourself, you can get the book by Jack Canfield and Pamela Brunner Tapping Into Ultimate Success (you can find this book quickly on amazon by clicking the amazon link on the top left of the screen).*
- Set a timer for five minutes and start clearing off a surface of your home that has been bothering you. Stop when the alarm goes off. Look at what you just accomplished for yourself!
- Sit and drink a glass of water. If you want to get really fancy, cut a slice of cucumber, lemon or apple and put it in the water. Allow yourself to enjoy the water as it cleanses your body.
- Light a candle that you have been saving for a special occasion. Now is the special occasion.
- Get the app on your phone called Quick Reminders (it’s free) and type in an affirmation for yourself then tell your phone to remind you of your affirmation regularly.
- Take a moment and stretch your body. Start at your head and slowly and gently circle your head around clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Circle your shoulders around, circle your wrists and elbows. Circle your hips around, clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Bend your knees. Circle your ankles around. Wiggle your toes. Bend and touch your toes, then reach up to the sky. Open your arms to the world and breathe in happiness.
- Imagine your body filling with a colored light that feels like the right color to you right now.
- Take a shower and enjoy the feeling of the water on your skin. Even better, take a bath.
- Treat yourself to reading an article you have been thinking about, or an extra chapter in the book you have next to the bed.
- Close your eyes for five minutes and take a power nap.
- Put your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and thank yourself for the good things you have done to make your life good in this moment.
- Say a prayer of thanks for the gifts that you have.
- Listen to a song that puts you in a good mood.
- Look up a funny video on YouTube and get a good laugh.
- Find a picture of yourself from when you were little, and tell the child in the picture some of the good things that are coming his or her way.
- Purchase a deck of gratitude cards, angel cards, etc, and pull one for yourself. Remind yourself of the message on the card.
- Give yourself a mini manicure or pedicure.
- Step outside and look at the sky. Touch a tree or feel your bare feet on the ground. Take a moment to enjoy nature.
I am certain that I have not covered every self-care tip out there, this was just the first 20 I could think of. I am so curious to know what it is that you do to take care of yourself quickly during the day. Please share!
The Art of Breathing (help4yourfamily.com)
Parent Affirmation Monday- Being Present (help4yourfamily.com)
*See disclaimer page
written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C
As we approach a new year, and get closer to seeing people we might not see all the time, who we might have a history with that remains unresolved in some way, it is time to think about putting aside past grievances. Most of us, at some point, have had an argument with a person we cared for that turned into something much bigger than it needed to be. So often the conflicts we have are not about what we say they are about. More often they are about a perceived slight, belief about the other person, or some other story we tell ourselves about things that have happened in the past. When you look at the person you have an old, unresolved grievance with, perhaps one that gets activated this time of year, I’m going to suggest that it is time to ask yourself whether it is worth it to you to carry around this grudge anymore.
I am reminded of an email I got a long time ago that I wish I had saved. It was about a professor talking to his students. The professor filled a cup with water. He held the cup up in front of the class and asked the students how much they thought it weighed. The students guessed with a fair amount of accuracy. The professor then asked, “How much do you think this cup would weigh if I held it up just like this for five minutes?” Well of course it would weigh the same amount, but it would feel a good bit heavier. Imagine holding a cup up in front of you for an entire day…an entire week…a month…a year. That’s one heavy cup. Imagine the water is a grievance you have been carrying around. Think about the relief of putting down our cup of grievances.
Often we think we are going to hold onto a little grudge. It won’t weigh much. We only pull it out a couple of times a year when we see a certain individual. We minimize the energy it takes to carry the grievance inside of us until we wait for the right moment to pull it out and apply it.
In the car, on the way to see people you have not seen for a while, or maybe even people you see all the time, take a moment to listen to your thoughts. Are you dreading some aspect of the upcoming encounter? Why? Imagine what it would be like to let go of your expectations for what that person “should” do or how they “should” be according to you. A big part of this will be forgiving yourself for believing you knew how someone “should” be or what they “should” do. On the way to see anyone who you hold hurt or angry feelings about (including your children), try saying the following affirmation to yourself:
I am letting go of past grievances and looking toward a brighter future for myself and for this person.
I want to strongly emphasize that looking toward a brighter future does not necessarily mean that you are looking to become best friends. It does not even mean that you spend time together- ever. Letting go of grievances does not push the reset button for healthy boundaries. It is simply deciding that you are putting this memory, this contentious story you tell yourself about the issue to bed. Wishing happiness for those around you, and letting go of old grievances help us all create a more peaceful, loving existence and models for our children how to rise above old, unhealthy family patterns.
- Parent Affirmation Monday- being present- 12/3/2012 (help4yourfamily.com)
- Parent Affirmation Monday- Forgiveness- 6/25/2012 (help4yourfamily.com)
- Parental Reframes When Things Don’t Look So Good (help4yourfamily.com)
- 4 Reminders to Help the Holidays Go Smoothly for Everyone (help4yourfamily.com)
written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C
This week’s affirmation is simple and meant to be a reminder to help your holiday season happier for you. Have you ever noticed how the holidays have changed since you had children. They can go from a time you anticipate all of the wonderful surprises, to a time you find yourself constantly working to make sure everything gets done. When you are planning the holidays around your children, while also keeping up with the regular routines in your life, the joy of the season can become lost in favor of muddling through and getting it all done. My hope is to simply remind you to take time to stop and enjoy yourself along the way.
I remember my wedding day. It was scheduled to be outside in the summer at the end of a long drought in our area. It was actually scheduled for what I now call “the day the drought ended.” About an hour and a half before the ceremony, the drought ended with a bang, thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour. I guess because I don’t take myself very seriously, I really didn’t fret about it. My friends kept telling me how sorry they were for the bad luck and kept reminding me rain on your wedding day is lucky. I just laughed and told them it was all going into my memories of a special day. I decided the minute the rain started that the day would be special, rain or not.
My point is, that at some point, it is all just going to be memories. If the kids are too scared to sit on Santa’s lap for the perfect picture? Memories. If you burn the turkey and everyone lives on side dishes? Memories. Almost any imperfect happening can be looked back on with a smile later if we have the right attitude, so why not allow yourself to be present, go with the flow, and, when it gets to the point where you have a chance to sit back and enjoy your hard work and planning, do it?
This week, I want to remind you that as you find yourself planning to create just the “right” memories, remember also, that there comes a point at which you can stop and just enjoy the ride as well. Show your children that when you plan well, you also get to laugh hard, have fun, and be present in the moment. Any worries you have about work, money or anything else can wait a moment while you allow yourself and your children to enjoy a family meal, take a drive to see the Christmas lights, or enjoy a special holiday show.
This week’s affirmation is:
I enjoy being present with my children as we enjoy each moment together. I remember that it is often the imperfect moments that we end up treasuring the most.
By the way, 15 minutes before my ceremony, the sky cleared and we ended up having our ceremony outside anyway. It turns out whether I worried or not, the day was destined to work out just fine.
Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C
It’s that time of year again. The time when any old unresolved feelings we have about giving and receiving get activated. Whether you celebrate a holiday that involves gifts, right about now in the United States it would take quite a lot to get away from the messages we get about the meaning of giving and receiving different kinds of gifts. For parents, the meaning of giving gifts can change when we have children. Some of us work to make sure our children have just the same kind of holiday that our parents gave us. Others want our holidays to have little to no resemblance to the holidays from our past. We have a tendency to see people that we only see one to two times per year right around now, which can bring up old, unresolved feelings and cause us to evaluate where we think we are in relation to others. With this perfect storm of holiday memories past and holiday hopes for the future, what happens next can put a real strain on our wallets.
In an effort to get us all through the holidays feeling content with the decisions we have made, I would like to recommend taking a moment each day to ponder what a reasonable budget is for you for this season. When you do, you might want to keep in mind that children are happier when their parents are happy, peaceful and content. Sticking with a budget allows you to feel this way. A parent who is stressed and worried about money is more likely to overreact when children are feeling the normal excitement that goes with the holidays.
If you do that thing I hear some parents do where you worry that you are not getting your children enough, take a moment to ask them what they got last Christmas. I bet they don’t remember it all beyond a few meaningful gifts. Think what the money from the gifts they have already forgotten from last year would mean in your retirement fund, or your child’s college savings rather than on the floor of your child’s room. Also remember that when we look back, we tend to think more about our parents actions, good or bad, than we remember what items they gave us.
This weeks affirmation is:
When I give gifts to my children, I spend only an amount that is affordable to me. I remember that I show my love to my children via actions more than things.
One person who has really come up with a wonderful way to help parents get through the holiday while maintaining sanity and a budget is the Flylady. She has a free email sign up that allows you to “fly through the holidays” where she gives one item that takes a couple of minutes each day to help you get ready for the holidays. I used it myself last year and had to pinch myself while I sipped coffee and read a book on Christmas Eve because all of my preparations were complete, and I had come in under budget. You can do it too.
As a child, did you ever receive a gift that was really special to you? What was the meaning of the gift? What memories do you want your children to have this holiday?
- Making Peace With Your Inner Critic
- Happy Parent Tip #1
- Why Sexual Abuse is Never a Child’s Fault…Not Even a Teenager
- Naming Patterns Changes Patterns
- This is your brain on attachment
- Last Chance for Two Great Opportunities
- Mother’s Retreat Weekend- It’s Really Happening!
- Stopping the Parent Shame and Blame Game
- Making Peace With Your Inner Critic
- Putting together something fun for you!
- Quick Jobs for Kids
- Staying Strong as a Couple