Lose That Baggage: Insights on Outsmarting Our Inner Critics, Part 1

Keila_sharingDRIVEN founder Deborah Goldstein often hosts discussion sessions called Real Talk/Real Food for DRIVEN Professionals who are inclined to enhance their outlooks. These informal workshops are a place to come together over delicious food and explore the deeper conversation about important topics in our personal and professional lives. When Deborah sent out the invite last month to a session titled Convert Your Inner Critic into Your Inner Cheerleader, I was thrilled to go, as I think we all struggle with an inner critic, especially women. You know that voice inside you that is always telling you what you did wrong, how you’re not good enough, and how unworthy you are? That’s your inner critic, and she/he/it can be brutal, affecting us in ways we are not always conscious of. I arrived ready to tackle this topic and anxious to gain insight from the other women at the dinner. And I was not disappointed!

As the food and wine flowed, so did our conversation. We went around the table and spoke about how our inner critic manifests and what she sounds like. I was struck by how similar our experiences all were! Here was a group of amazing, talented, and accomplished women, seemingly unstoppable in career, family and personal life, yet all of us had experienced at some point the crippling effect of the inner critic. As a result of the discussion, we gained great insight from one another in overcoming this. Allow me to share with you my most important discoveries from the event.

The “Bag Lady”

Our inner critic comes alive most when our personal energy is depleted. When we are stressed out, including during PMS, the inner critic has ripe room to grow and hijack our emotional well-being. This inner critic also manifests when we feel we haven’t performed perfectly or when we’ve slipped-up. Have you ever made a goof during a meeting and then replayed it over and over in your mind, obsessing about how you should have done it differently? That’s your inner critic at her glorious best, tearing down your self-esteem and convincing you that you’ve got to be perfect and when you’re not, you should be punished or berated.

This self-defeating behavior was epitomized on a reality TV show from the early 2000s called Starting Over, which followed the lives of women going through difficulty and their journey to overcoming their life obstacles. I will never forget the episode which featured one woman who was tasked by the therapist/life coach to carry around 100 pounds of luggage all day, everywhere she went….to the bathroom, upstairs, downstairs, to run errands, etc. She struggled with the exhaustion of it all, and felt completely drained after just one day. Before long, she had a breakthrough that the physical baggage represented her emotional baggage, and served no purpose but to bring her down and hold her back from her true potential.

That’s the point! Our inner critic represents all the extra baggage we carry around with us: from our childhood upbringing, our relationship struggles with family, and our body image and appearance issues. We’ve all got baggage of some sort, and our task is figuring out how to effectively manage it, minimize it, and move on.

Celebrate The Small Stuff

A strategy uncovered during the dinner was the notion of celebrating successes….all your success, especially the little ones. By shifting our perspective to what went well instead of what went wrong, we become our own cheerleader.  One time a dear friend, in trying to make this point clear to me, held up a piece of white paper with a single pen dot in the middle of it. She asked me, “What do you see?” I replied, “I see a dot.” She replied, “It’s actually a piece of paper.” WOW! Talk about a perspective shift. I was so focused on that tiny imperfection that I didn’t even notice the “bigger picture”! This is often what we focus on in life….our single, tiny mistake rather than the whole host of good things we are doing. Those good things need to be seen as successes and celebrated. This has a positive snowball affect too: The more you celebrate the little successes, the more successes you have.

Check in next week for part 2 of my groundbreaking takeaways from Real Talk/Real Food, and learn what I discovered about effectively taming that pesky inner critic.

Keila Tyner, PhD, is a consultant and speaker with a commitment to empowering women in the workplace. She currently serves as the Director of Programming and Research for DRIVEN Professionals and is a Brand Manager at Saks Fifth Avenue in women’s shoes, managing daily operations for the largest luxury shoe department in Manhattan. Keila has spent her career as a scholar and teacher in the social and psychological aspects of image, dress, appearance, and the presentation of the self.