Why is it that some people can handle stress better? A major reason could be that they just have more self-confidence and self-esteem. Just observe this: someone who doesn’t think that highly of themselves is probably going to face much more stress and also be unable to handle it well. They may even slip into substance addiction, get into toxic relationships, etc. as a way of dealing with stress or because of it.
So, how do you improve your self-esteem? The only way is to work on your thoughts. For example, when you look in the mirror and say to yourself “I have gained so much weight, I look terrible”- the thought will destroy you and cause you stress. Try instead to focus on your strong points like “my hair is framing my face so well- I like the way it makes me look”. Your image hasn’t changed but your perspective has!
‘The pathological critic’ is a term coined by psychologist Eugene Sagan to describe the negative inner voice that attacks and judges you. Everyone has a critical inner voice, but those with low self-esteem often deal with a harsher and louder one.
A harsh inner voice may label you as dumb, incapable, unattractive, etc. It amplifies your flaws, saying things like 'you constantly say foolish things' or 'you always make mistakes,' and convinces you that nobody likes you or everyone finds you stupid.
Every attack weakens you and lowers your self-esteem.
So, how do you conquer this negative voice?
Take control of your inner negativity by first recognizing the situations triggering it and your reactions to those situations. Over two or three days, be mindful of that inner voice. Note down what it says each time. You’ll be taken aback at exactly how many times the inner critic attacks in just a single day!
Before bedtime, create a list with two columns: 'Helps Me Avoid Feeling' and 'Helps Me Feel.' For each self-attack, note how it made you feel, whether positively or negatively.
Recording your feelings will reveal that negative attacks either push you to excel (while setting impossibly high standards) or cause you to avoid situations just to escape feeling rejected or unworthy.
With this knowledge, you are prepared for the next step: silencing your inner critic.
You can start silencing the inner critic by speaking up against it, challenging the negative beliefs held there since childhood.
There are three methods to talk back to your inner critic. Experiment with each to find the one that suits you best.
Method 1: The Howitzer Mantras.
These are selected words and phrases that are designed to blast back the critic. Here are some examples:
- This is poison. Stop it!
- These are lies.
- These are lies my father told me. Stop this shit!
- No more put-downs.
- Shut up!
- To hell with these put-downs! Get off my back!
- Stop this garbage!
When practicing the 'Howitzer Mantras,' shout them internally. Select a mantra that really stirs up your anger, as this emotion is useful in subduing the critic.
If you want, you can take it up a notch by placing a rubber band around your wrist while chanting the mantra. You may snap the band each time a negative thought intrudes. This emphasizes your 'stop' commands. Plus, the sharp sting acts as a deterrent, breaking the cycle of self-criticism and discouraging future self-attacks.
Method 2: Asking the price.
Another way to disarm the inner critic is to consider the costs of its attacks. Create a list of the ways your self-esteem has impacted your relationships, work, and overall well-being. Using this list, craft a statement summarizing the most crucial points.
When the critic strikes, counter it by saying, 'You make me lose my temper with my child’ or ‘you’re destroying my trust in my partner’, and so on.
Method 3: Affirmation of worth.
This method can be the hardest to achieve but crucial to fill the void left by silencing this negative voice. To do so, replace it with positive affirmations that reinforce your self-worth.
Try the following affirmations to replace the negative critic in your mind:
- I am worthwhile, I deserve to be loved.
- I am trying to survive; I do the best I can.
- I feel pain, I love, I try to survive. I am a good person.
You can also write down affirmations that you believe in and that can help you replace your negative voice.