Meet your biggest Critic..YOU!

It saddens me to witness so many of my friends and clients become victim to their own inner criticisms. The negative self talk as we know it. Some of us are aware of this constant badgering we put ourselves through and some of us oblivious to it. When we find someone talking out loud to themselves we think they are going crazy but what about this constant unforgiving chatter in our minds?

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Be kind to yourself

One of the earliest issues a child develops while growing up is that of low self esteem. We often try to find external causes for the occurrence (that’s if someone identifies the issue) or assume that the child just needs to try harder in a particular area. As I write this, I am reminded of a friend’s facebook status after she delivered a baby which was “ the way we talk to our children, becomes their inner voice.” If it’s not parents, it is some other family member/friend/teacher/boss etc whose voice gets installed into the software of our brain. Sadly enough we keep running these tapes in our head without ever questioning them.

Messages like: 1) “You cannot even draw a straight line.”

2)  “You should always get an A or else you are a failure.”

3)  “You cannot afford to relax if you want to be successful.”

4)  “Boys are not attracted to you because you are dark skinned.”

5)  “You are not aggressive enough for this job.”

I am sure that each one of us has our own versions of messages like these that always keep running at the back of our mind. Somehow we believe these to be true and keep working as per the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘musts’ other people have imposed on us. We internalize these as our own values and continue inflicting pain on ourselves. All these messages tell you somewhere that “I am not good enough”, “I am not valuable/loved the way I am.” We also begin to play the “ I am good if I do..” game and feel puzzled when we are not accepted anyway.

It is also important to differentiate between this unhealthy self talk and constructive criticism/ feedback. When you receive constructive criticism or feedback for improvement, it is specific to the situation/ behavior and you leave from the situation understanding that you are valued for who you are and are being given suggestions to grow further. For example: A parent could tell a child that “ I was looking at your progress card and congratulate you for your improvement from last semester in Mathematics. Continue to do your best.” The child here is not being judged at a global level that he is a bad child for not receiving the highest grade. It is here that we learn to give ourselves some room for mistakes and ease out the need to be perfect all the time.

Low self esteem shows up in our work as settling for a lesser salary, our belief about what kind of life partner we deserve and what limitations we set on our abilities. A great amount of depression and anxiety stems from this unhealthy inner self talk.

At a much larger level, one cannot accept another person if one does not accept one’s own self. The answer lies in awareness. Be mindful of your inner dialogue, journal about it and reflect on whether it is helpful or harmful at this point in your life.

From a holistic perspective, I would like to mention Dr. Masuru Emoto’s water crystal experiment where he finds that water tends to crystallize in shapes resonating with the type of music being played around the water. The principle behind this experiment is that sound vibrations from the music influenced the formations in water.

With water being a major component of the human body and thoughts containing vibrations that echo through our systems, I would encourage you think about the impact your thoughts are having on your physical/emotional/ mental health.

What we hide does find a way out!

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My desk mirror

Don’t ask me why but today while reading the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) I came across a whole spectrum of disorders that originate from not wanting to acknowledge the negative that exists in and around us. This could be negative emotions i.e. fear, jealousy, anger, insecurity, feeling blue etc. or undesired life circumstances i.e. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical illnesses etc. When we look around we are taught to always keep smiling, push things under the carpet, ‘sleep it over’ or ‘drink it over’. The sad part of it is that sometimes the people we love cannot see us in pain longer than what they would expect. This subtle expectation stems from a place of love but leads to us choosing unhealthy coping so as to pose perfectly in front of our loved ones.

Using computer parlance, all of this data does not get deleted on its own or leave the system. It exists in there, somewhere. If we continuously keep storing files in the system and never delete cookies or unwanted files, what does it do to our system? Well, we know it, it slows down. Being a human being and not a machine adds several other complexities and in addition to slowing down, we tend to find ‘releases’ or compensate our pain with temporary pleasures like drugs, meaningless sex and series of addictions.

Our culture today does not teach us ‘Emotions 101’ and we find ourselves battling with them day in and out. Emotions have been portrayed as something that needs to be controlled just as man has attempted to conquer Mother Nature. It is not a war unless we make it one. Akin to our physical ailments where we know the ‘symptoms’ and treat them, emotional symptoms are ignored or the person with the symptoms is looked down upon as ‘the problem’. This is where the individual goes to a doctor and gets prescribed some pills to alleviate the symptoms. The negative emotions continue to stay inside and we just don’t realize they exist, similar to pain killers where pain is numbed not cured.

Emotions need to flow just as water flows. When we try to block the flow of water, it only forces itself out through some opening. How do we maintain this flow? Being open to experiencing emotions, acknowledging them and not to judging will help. Expecting not to feel a certain way is counterproductive. Journaling on a regular basis will help increase awareness. Once we have an increased awareness, the shadows of blocked waves from the past cannot take us by surprise. Seeking professional help to manage emotions also works. I personally love using Dialectical Behavior therapy which draws from Buddhist philosophy of acknowledgment and acceptance.

On a side note, more often than not, our emotional symptoms point to greater unresolved issues i.e. unhealthy interactions in family, societal disparities, cultural incongruities etc. Our individual systems are constantly interacting with the environmental influences..let me save that for another blogJ

Let it flow!