I left the conference room, headed straight towards the women’s restroom, shut the door and began to cry.
Why were they so harsh? How can I let them make me feel this way? Did I not see all sides to the story? Should I have spent more time researching? Can I even do this job anymore?
My inner critic was having a field day in that restrooms stall. She was grabbing onto my deepest insecurities and reminding me that I’m not good enough, smart enough or strong enough to be me. She was all over the place – flashback to being bullied in fifth grade; remembering the time I cried in front of a co-worker when he hurt my feelings 15 years ago; shaming me for being caught off guard in the meeting that just happened.
Little Lindsay … That’s what I’ve named my inner critic. Small, but mighty, Little Lindsay belittles me and makes me feel like a shy 11-year-old all over again.
For context, I’m an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale and a Six on the Enneagram. At my best, I'm supportive, reliable, imaginative, observant and hard-working. But, at my worst, I'm anxious, fearful, ask too many questions and become too altruistic. And, Little Lindsay will do all that she can to keep me at my worst.
So, what does my inner critic, Little Lindsay, sound like in my head?
- In a meeting: I don’t like that question. I’ve never thought about that question! Why is he asking this question now? I wonder what he thinks I’ll say? I can’t answer this question accurately now. I should be able to answer this question. Why am I having such a hard time with this? I don’t belong here.
- At a gathering where I don’t know many people: I don’t know anyone over there? Should I go over and introduce myself? What if I do and they don’t include me in that conversation? I won’t have anything to add to that conversation. I’ll feel awkward. They’ll notice I feel awkward. Why am I having such a hard time with this? I don’t belong here.
Notice the spiral from defiance, to doubt, to self-sabotage? Your inner critic is a powerful unconscious force, that can lead to a constant barrage of debilitating lies. In other words, this negative self-talker is shame.
My hero, Dr. Brené Brown, has, in recent years, shed powerful light on shame. Through her research, books, TED talks, events and interviews, she's brought shame out of the closet and named it for the destroyer it is.
Shame, or your inner critic, is what tells you you're flawed, unworthy of love and belonging. It thrives in secrecy, silence and the perception of judgement. It stays on a constant loop in your head if you don't call it out.
So, once you acknowledge your inner critic and name it, how do you stop it?
- Name it. Shame cannot survive being spoken. And, giving it a name like Little Lindsay will make you laugh about it!
- Stop feeding it. When we feed even the smallest/minor worries, we give them validation. Work on catching your inner critic before it controls your actions.
- Confess it. Write it down. Pray. Discuss it with another person. The more you confess it, the easier and faster it is to stop it.
- Remember we're in this together. We’re all in a constant dance with our inner critics … it’s just that we don’t share that often and our voices can all sound different.
- Center around your purpose and core. We’re all made to lead and be reflections of God’s love and grace. Lean into who God tells you you are, not what your inner critic says.
Maybe you haven’t cried in a bathroom stall like I have, but, I bet you’ve beat yourself up for a mistake. It might not have come out as tears, but the words in your head sure flooded your mind with shame. This is to err. This is to be human.
When I hear Little Lindsay trying to bring me down, I repeat the mantra from Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” And, she disappears as quickly as she appeared.
Lead Communications Strategist