Archive for the inner critic

What Kind of Tool Are You?

tool picThe doctor said to me one day in therapy that he was angry with himself for being so reticent, so shy at parties.  He watched other single men holding court, while he was relegated to the background, never sharing the spotlight.  He felt like a faded wallflower.  He felt hopeless about ever attracting a woman to love him.

He did concede that people would seek him out for in-depth conversations, and he was never left standing alone at social events, far from it.  Nevertheless, he felt second best for failing to be the raconteur, the teller of wild stories.

I wondered how being the ‘Spotlight King’ would fit with being a General Practitioner.  Have you met the health professional who tells you all about their health problems, their personal life, their latest car?  No matter how entertaining the story, it’s still most times not what the patient needs.

Check the photo at the top of this page and name the best tool.  Which is numero uno?  Obviously the answer will be job-specific.  Hammers are ideal for joining pieces of timber with nails.  So should we then say that an axe is a useless, stupid tool, and fling it with gleeful vigour onto the rubbish heap?

My great-listener GP client came to see that the very characteristics he so despised about himself at parties made him a much sought-after doctor.  They also eventually made him a caring partner as well.  I love Cinderella endings, don’t you?

Comparing our characteristics to those of others is a recipe for misery.  The envy this engenders is completely unnecessary when we consider there are also aspects of ourselves that the other person may lack.  Lots of times which is best is merely a matter of taste, comparable to ice-cream flavours.

How often have your criticised yourself mercilessly?  Felt like throwing yourself out with the bathwater because you failed to live up to some kind of expectation, and then made this the whole basis of your worth as a person?

Abandon what you ‘should’ be like and deal with what is.  Positive self-regard does not involve being good at every single thing, nor being better than everyone else in a certain area.  Rather it involves recognising your strengths, enjoying them, and playing to them.

Professor Martin Seligman has demonstrated this concept quite clearly with great research back-up.  You can read more about this on his Authentic Happiness website or in his book of the same name.  The website even has free questionnaires to help you discover your ‘flow’ areas, if you need a nudge.

I sometimes have nightmares where everyone in the world is an extroverted, loud, party-loving comedian.  It makes me want to run screaming with hands over ears to a deserted beach.

Think about the people in your life and how you value their differences.  I am guessing they don’t all have to be good at every single thing to be valued by you.

What are your signature strengths?  And what are you willing to leave to the experts?  Can you embrace yourself as you are today?

Happy accepting!  Alanda

Do people ‘like’ me enough?

FB like


Getting ‘liked’ on Facebook is addictive.  Unlike ‘real’ life you get an actual tally of the number of people who approve of you in that moment.  This was all new to me until my friend Samantha and I started a business venture running retreats to a beautiful tropical island (see ). Samantha is a Facebook veteran and I am a babe in the woods.  Nevertheless, we both got hooked on the adrenaline of our fast rising ‘like’ tally after she made a page for our retreats( ).  See!  We MUST be good.  Lingering doubts be banished!

This temporary fixation on our ‘likes’ was bizarre since we are two professional women planning to teach people to cherish themselves in a place with a mind blowing landscape.  Sounds great, why the need for reassurance?  Sadly we all have that nasty inner critic continually throwing up criticisms and sing-songing potential disasters.  Facebook seemed to permit us to breathe a sigh of relief since others applauded our lovely retreats.

Of course, coming down from the artificial high of apparent ‘like-ableness’, I had to laugh at being so naively sucked in (yet again!) to another of life’s supposed ways to feel good enough.  It made me contemplate how easy it is to constantly revert to a reliance on external validation to tell us how cool we are.

‘Am I looking attractive in my new dress today?  Well, he said so, therefore I must be…wait a minute she didn’t comment at all, perhaps it is a bit skimpy, maybe Sue will tell me…’  We can drive ourselves crazy second-guessing our worth through others, only to find that people have such varied tastes that we will of course never please them all.

Coming back to what me myself and I think of the dress/work/meal/etc is the most important consideration.  I wonder whether displaying each of our actions online encourages us to check whether they are like-able, and how we might feel if people are too preoccupied to comment or just outright don’t ‘like’.  What if we all become really bland in an effort to please more people more of the time?

Celebrities’ suicide, eating disorders and drug problems prove that all of the ‘liking’ in the world can be no substitute for a little love and acceptance from the people who know us best, whose opinions actually matter to us, including ourselves.  My belief is that the greatest love that we can show for someone is by really being at peace with the totality of them: their humour, wit, smelly feet, intelligence, bad dancing.  That acceptance promotes the feeling of being good enough.  Not perfect, just loveable.  Doing it for ourselves is even better!

Horns to Halo: Just the New Year’s conversation rattling round our heads

Calling all extremists!  Are you even now having a last great big hurrah with your bad habits?  Lazing on the couch, puffing away, merrily sipping champers.  All the while doing it guilt-free, due to the feverish promises you are making about the magnificent changes that will overtake you tomorrow?

These pledges for good behaviour do little more than appease the Inner Critic.  You know, that nasty voice in your head that mercilessly sledges you for every single misdemeanor you ever committed.

Witness the exchange:

Inner Critic:  You really are a fat pig!  You should be starving yourself, or at the very least living on green smoothies for the rest of your life, look at those jiggling rolls of fat around your middle.  You should hide under a tent until you are fit for human consumption!

Quavering, Pleading, Regretful Self:  But it’s not my fault, I get so busy that it’s hard to cook right, and then a bit of chocolate is the only solace I have after all of the hard work I do.  My life isn’t fair, I deserve wine and chocolate!  You wouldn’t understand!

IC: I understand that you have no willpower at all.  You are a complete soak!  Your liver is probably ruined.  You should have more willpower-everyone else does.  Look how ripped and healthy that guy is on the magazine cover.  What kind of person are you?  You should just give up; you really are a hopeless case.

QPRS: But Susan next door drinks two bottles of wine every night, and look how fat that person is over there-I’m not that bad.

IC:  Oh please, is that how you want to live?  No wonder you repulse other people.  There is something seriously wrong with you!

QPRS: Yes, buuuut in the New Year, I will turn it all around!  I am finally going on that juice-only fast for a month and will lose 10kg and then I will run 10km every day and will look like Gisele Bundchen before February even starts.  As for alcohol-pah!  I will throw out any leftovers on the morning of January 1, and the durries are history too.  Really…

IC:  Well, if you say so, ok then go and have your fun (much eye rolling).  Just remember…I’m watching (multiple finger wags)!

QPRS:  I will have a last blast because I deserve it.  And because I am going to be soooo good next year!

We all wear our little devil’s horns more comfortably when we feel that a halo is just within reach.  How about doing something different from those tediously boring New Year’s Resolutions this year?

Kowtowing to the Inner Critic is like pleading with any bully: about as effective as squirming in quicksand.  Instead, try asking yourself what you WANT to do.  This will often look quite different from what your monstrous Inner Critic says you SHOULD do.

You will not eat, drink and merry yourself to death (as the IC predicts) if you ask yourself what you want with full awareness of the consequences of your behaviour.  What do you really want your life to stand for?  How do you want your body, your life, your mind, your relationships, your health to be…realistically?

My advice is quite simple (if you are interested).  The Inner Critic is an extremist.  Has following its advice worked for you in the long-term?  Has it given you what you want?  A happier life?  If not consider this: what kind of changes would you suggest your daughter, son, best friend make if they were in your situation?

Now, DO THAT!  You don’t need to be Gisele, just a great version of YOU.

Be kind to yourself in mind, body, and spirit.  There’s a resolution for you that has been proven to work.  Happy New Year and dream big for your unique self in 2013!