Do you have a little voice inside your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough? Or that your weight is too high or “how could I be so stupid to eat that bar of chocolate/those crisps/all that toast”?
I would like to introduce you to the Inner Critic. We all have one and I’m not sure about you, but mine can be vicious sometimes…listing 101 things I haven’t done right.
I went to a fantastic presentation a few weekends ago called, “Silencing your inner critic.” The main take away was that there is a BIG difference between being aware that we maybe haven’t made the most skillful decision in a particular situation (eg. “I regret eating that bar of chocolate and wish I hadn’t have done that”) versus feeling like we are just a bad person and can’t do anything right and then replaying that negative self-talk over and over and over again (eg. “how could I be so stupid…I’m never going to get a grip on my weight…I can’t do anything right….”)
When you can differentiate between the two, you can believe you are a good person who sometimes makes less-than-skillful choices. Framing it in this way is helpful because you stay slightly more objective and this helps you learn and grow from the situation. Berating ourselves and feeling guilty about something we’ve done wrong is not helpful and generally leads to discouragement because we believe that we are just a fundamentally flawed person so what’s the point in even trying to change. I know people often believe that if they berate themselves hard enough, for long enough, that will somehow motivate change. It doesn’t and chances are, you’ve already tried that enough times to know that to be true. A great analogy is that if you hit your thumb with a hammer, you likely regret doing that and plan to take steps not to do it again. You don’t berate yourself and then continue to hit your thumb with a hammer in an effort to “toughen yourself up” and “teach yourself a lesson” so that you won’t do it again. Negative self-talk is no different.
So what’s the solution? You can’t stop the negative thoughts but you can dial down the volume on them and learn other more helpful ways to respond. Here are a few tips:
1) Patiently accept that you are where you are.
Wishing you weighed 10 lbs less, beating yourself up about it and telling yourself that you are a failure, is not helpful. It’s OK to want to change a situation and to move towards that, but accept your starting point (whether you like it or not).
2) Replace guilt with curiosity.
WHY did you eat that bar of chocolate/that packet of crisps/all that toast? What triggered that behaviour – is it habit? low blood sugar? wanting to “treat” yourself? There is so much valuable information here and you will miss it if you spend the time berating yourself. Take on the role of being a “researcher” and glean as much information as you can from the situation.
3) Make a determination to take different action in the future without any fixed timeline as to when you will start seeing results.
Often people have unrealistic expectation on how quickly they will see results and they end up giving up far too early.
4) Assess your own capacity.
Are your expectations realistic? Do you need help? Are certain unhelpful attitudes or assumptions holding you back? I often set “ridiculously small goals” with people. If you think you will go to the gym 3 times per week, then I will usually set the goal as doing some type of physical activity for 5 minutes once per week. People usually fight me on this but you can always EXCEED your goal and do more if you want to. However, psychologically, you get way more out of setting a ridiculously small goal and exceeding it, than you get from setting a huge goal and then falling short.
For more information on how to change the negative self-talk which may be going on for you, please join us at our workshop “Psychology of weight loss: when you know what to do but still don’t do it” on the 20th October where we go into this topic in a lot more detail (registration details coming soon). Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the distribution list.