There is an epidemic sweeping across the nation, probably the entire world. It’s called not-good-enough-ness syndrome and it’s B.S. It may not be clinical but it is real, folks! Recently, I began working with a life coach group. There are approximately 70 of us from all across the country and we “meet” so to speak in a closed Facebook group. Our fearless leader is an amazing life coach named Andrea and on the first day she invited us to introduce ourselves and describe one disempowering core belief we had about ourselves. After all the introductions were made, one common theme I noticed was that almost all of the women in the group, including myself, described that they did not feel “good enough.”
This not good-enough-ness ranged from career to relationships to parenting and everything in-between. I read several “I’m not smart enough” posts. Then there were the “I’m not successful enough” posts. Please! These women are all amazing! Next were the “I’m not interesting enough” posts. These were actually really funny, as most of the ladies who didn’t think they were interesting enough had the most interesting stories. Finally, there were the random “I’m not funny/kind/grateful/charitable enough” people. Yada, yada, yada. You get the idea. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that we were all suffering from not-good-enough-ness syndrome. And, I’m sure that my little group of 70 are not the only ones out there beating up on ourselves. You may even be saying to yourself, “Yes, that’s me! I feel that way too. How do I stop the madness?”
We are learning in our group that this not-good-enough-ness syndrome stems from the voice in our heads known as our inner critic. And she, my friends, is a saucy little bitch and you must try to tame her. When she is allowed to rule our minds, the result is anxiety, fear, unhappiness and the inability to move forward in life. Who needs that crap? Not me! Not you!
One of the first steps to managing our inner critics is to take notice of it when it pops up. Since starting my work in the group, I’ve noticed that my inner critic goes on the attack during my yoga practice. Practicing yoga forces you to find stillness both physically and mentally and in that stillness you are forced to be with yourself. Your teacher may spin one helluva theme and you may try like mad to leave your internal stuff at the door but somewhere between Warrior II and Triangle, Half Pigeon and Supine Twist, your stuff is going to come slap you in the face and when it does it’s gonna sting. Really, really sting!
While we like to call our mats a 2×6 judgement free zone, the reality is that sometimes we do allow our inner mean girl to bubble up to the surface and invade our yoga practice. For me, it typically starts with something surface level like telling me that my thighs look really fat in those pink stripey pants or that I look like a dork with my hair pulled back in this headband. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I notice it, shake it off and still my mind. I reconnect with my breath and make my way out of the snark-pit. By the time I’m headed into Savasana, I’m feeling blissful and at peace.
Some days however I’m not so lucky. Some days my inner mean girl just won’t shut up! She goes on and on about how stupid or foolish I am or how I’m a bad friend/daughter/mother or how I’m NOT GOOD ENOUGH at (insert practically anything here). And, no matter how hard I try to stay connected with my breath I can’t get her to shut the *bleep* up. Does this happen to you? I suspect I’m not alone here. What do we do? How do we stop our inner critic from sending us into a downward spiral of negativity? How do we tame her?
Here are three tools we’ve been learning to use in the group. I have found them to be helpful and believe that you will too:
1) Give yourself a permission slip. Basically you exercise a little self-compassion and give yourself permission to be or do whatever it is you are beating yourself up for. For example, give yourself permission to mess up now and then as a friend/spouse/parent. Be okay with skipping a workout. Allow yourself to eat dessert for dinner. If you’re in the middle of a yoga class and you’re not feeling it, take a child’s pose. One of my favorite teachers often begins her cues for headstand by saying, “If a headstand is calling your name, go for it.” Guess what? I never, ever hear headstand calling out “Amy.” Guess who be making her way into child’s pose? Yep, me, and I don’t beat myself up for it. (Headstand without a wall is hard y’all.) Repeat after me, it’s okay to not be perfect all the time. When your inner critic tries to take over, show her your permission slip, and tell her she’ll have to wage war another day.
2) Allow yourself to feel. Too often we try to remove ourselves from our feelings. We think. We do. But when it comes to having to explore our feelings, sit with them and actually feel them, we run away. We numb out. Ask yourself what you are really afraid of. What’s the worse that could happen if you feel the sadness/anger/grief? Feel your feelings already. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have been the girl that cries during yoga class. Perhaps I let my inner mean girl get the better of me or, more often than not, the tears just appear without warning. In the past I’ve tried to hide what was happening but more recently I’m learning to just let it happen. In fact, a few weeks ago, toward the end of a class, as we were making our way onto our backs for Savasana, out of nowhere I began to feel tears welling up. I wasn’t sobbing or anything but the tears were visibly falling down my face. The teacher noticed it and came to me offering a Savasana assist. Before she moved to the next student, she gently wiped my tears with her thumbs and squeezed my shoulders. Neither one of us have ever mentioned it. She held space for me that day and I allowed myself to fully experience the feelings I was feeling without shame or guilt. You do this enough and your inner mean girl will soon realize that you’re not afraid of what she has to offer.
3) Find a mantra to counter your critic. This one is my favorite. It’s really simple and who doesn’t love a good aptly timed mantra? Basically you want to acknowledge your inner critic and diffuse whatever she has to say with something better. Some examples you might try when your inner critic gets chatty is to say to yourself, “Cancel. Cancel. Thanks for sharing.” Or, “Stop. I don’t want you to suffer anymore.” When my inner critic tries to give me an ear full, I stop and ask, “How is this helpful to me?” Usually, whatever it is my inner mean girl is saying, isn’t at all helpful. Asking myself this question stops the chatter in my head and causes me to focus on things that might actually be helpful at moving me along on my journey.
Like me, do you find yourself suffering from not-good-enough-ness syndrome? Does your inner mean girl whisper sweet trash talk in your ear? If so, then I encourage you to try one of the tools above and tell your inner critic to hush. Remember, you are a work- in-progress and showing yourself a little kindness and a little compassion will get you where you want to be quicker than letting your inner critic rule the roost. Namaste!