By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
I'm going to get personal here. A few years ago, I was fed up and tired of hearing that relentless, hypercritical voice of my Mean Inner Critic attacking me. I was exhausted from constantly comparing myself to other women, sizing myself up against them feature by feature to see if I measured up. I held myself up to an impossible standard. I was in a constant quest of determining whether I was “less than” or “more than” everyone I met, whether in looks, accomplishments, education, or relationships. I finally hit my lowest point and I decided that I wanted to change. I did not want to live with that mean voice attacking me anymore.
I quickly came to realize that the Mean Inner Critic has two sides to her: she is either really mean to you, viscously attacking you, or she is extremely boastful, telling you how much better you are than someone else. Both create needless competition and conflict within our minds.
The decision to change the negative inner self-talk is a great first step, but let me get real with you and tell you that stopping negative self-talk requires hard work. You must be patient with yourself whenever that Mean Inner Critic tries to take over the conversation and forgive yourself quickly if the Mean Inner Critic actually does take over.
I am happy to tell you that after a year of daily commitment to changing my internal dialogue about myself and others, I now do not engage in negative self-talk and I will not allow others to speak harshly to themselves around me. It has made me a happier person. It allowed me to honor my truest self because I love to lift up those around me and when I finally stopped my internal competition with others, I was able to honor each person and her unique gifts. Also, because I made these changes before becoming a mother, it has helped me embrace and love my post-baby body.
Here are a few tools I learned on my journey to help me effectuate lasting change. I hope they benefit you. You deserve to allow yourself to be your happiest, highest, and most whole self.
Acknowledge the voice of your Mean Inner Critic.
An important first step is to observe your thoughts and begin to recognize the voice of your Mean Inner Critic. Oftentimes that voice has hijacked your real, authentic voice. The Mean Inner Critic sounds like you and that is why you believe her, but it turns out that it is not you speaking at all. Once you start to hear that Mean Inner Critic speaking, acknowledge her either in your mind or out loud. “Hey, I hear you. I know that's not me talking. <Your Name Here>, what do you really think?” It feels weird at first to talk to yourself like this but it gets easier with time.
Say Something Loving To Yourself.
Once you start to recognize the voice of the Mean Inner Critic you have the opportunity to counter-balance it. When your Mean Inner Critic starts in on something, you can gently deny the thought and instead offer a correction with a true statement. By calling yourself by name, you are treating yourself the way you would treat a dear friend, which of course you are- you are your own best friend.
Here’s an example:
Mean Inner Critic: You really messed up this time. You should have looked further into this issue before quoting a price and wasting all of this time and making no money on it. Great, you really needed that money to pay the bills this month and here you are once again, doing work for free when you know you need to get paid.
Your True Voice: Mean Inner Critic, I know that is you. I know that what you are saying is not true. Megan, you worked hard on this case and there were unexpected issues that surfaced as the case went on. You did your best and you are doing your best. If you are unhappy about the price you are getting paid, then you can speak with your clients about additional fees for this unexpected additional work. You are doing a great job. You are doing excellent work and providing for your family. I am so proud of all that you do.
Compliment Yourself Every Time You Look In the Mirror.
If you are anything like me, your first reaction when you see yourself in the mirror is to go straight to the “problem areas,” attacking yourself for a myriad of “areas for improvement.”
It’s time to change it up! Every single time you catch a glimpse of yourself, whether in the mirror, your reflection in the window, or even in the rearview mirror, give yourself a compliment. Is your hair looking great? Tell yourself so! Are you rocking that new dress? Praise yourself for it. You have so much beauty and it deserves to be celebrated. If you don’t celebrate yourself, who will?
Speak to yourself the way you would a child.
As I worked through this process, I saw a picture of myself and that Mean Inner Critic started revving up. I instantly started scouring the picture for my flaws. Suddenly I had a sad realization: I had never, ever looked at one picture in my life and not criticized myself. The only exception to this was my pictures as a very young child. Something clicked in me that day. The little girl in the picture who was innocent and just wanted to be happy and loved is me. She still lives inside of me now. I would never talk to any child the way that I talked to myself. I would never tear them down or make them feel bad about themselves. I realized I needed to nurture my inner child and lift her up with my words.
If you are struggling with negative self-talk when you look in the mirror, tape a picture of yourself as a kid on the mirror. If you get down on yourself when writing briefs, make your computer’s background a picture of little you. Let it serve as a reminder that your inner child needs your love and kindness.
Recognize Yourself in Others.
If you recognize yourself in each person that you meet, you quickly realize that each of us is doing our best. There is no competition. Each of us is fighting a battle of some sort. Each of us is on a path in life. The people who surround us are mirrors back to our own inner processes, highlighting the things we like best and the things that we want to change within our own selves. If we can greet one another with loving kindness, it allows us to extend that mercy to ourselves as well.
Eliminating or subduing the voice of the Inner Mean Critic takes time and does not happen overnight. It takes day-by-day and sometimes moment-by-moment awareness and work. There is no time frame by when you need to “finish” working on this, so be gentle with yourself as you stumble and fall because you will stumble and fall. Lift yourself up, forgive yourself if needed, tell yourself kind words, and keep moving forward. Be your own biggest fan.
I would love to hear from you! How are you dealing with your Mean Inner Critic? Are there any techniques that you have found helpful? Let’s start a conversation and support one another.
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.