Two Questions That Silenced My Inner Critic

And enabled me to navigate life choices with ease.

Lori Brown
Nov 21, 2020 · 6 min read
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Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

As a woman who has faced an assortment of mental health challenges over the years, I have had lots of time to study my happiness or lack thereof. In a recent review of my fluctuating states of mental well being, I recognized a pattern in relation to decision making. It seemed as though I had developed a habit of sabotaging my good fortune by making terrible decisions. I noticed that when I chose poorly it permeated everything.

Faulty choices were evident in every aspect of my life. From minor things like what socks to wear (Navy blue ankle socks with black pants? Why?) to more life-altering decisions like quitting a job (Why didn’t I secure a new job first?), it happened too frequently to be a coincidence. In retrospect, I found that it had become a habit to choose poorly during times of hardship. My behaviors appeared destructive and senseless sometimes. The most obvious, simplified fact I discovered in my analysis was this: Making poor choices had clear and negative consequences.

I wondered if there would ever be a time when I would simply make better decisions. I wanted to get to a place where I could face the various choices in my day without repeating old mistakes. Something had to change, and I didn’t have the answer. Or at least… the answers I kept coming up with kept leading me to undesirable results.

Making poor choices had clear and negative consequences.

A simple assessment trick

Heavy on my mind, I explained my dilemma to a friend who has been a teacher for many years. I told him how I saw the pattern of bad choices and that I wanted to try a new approach to “it all”. After a moment my wise friend asked two questions that changed my life.

At first, his questions felt like a gimmicky self-help quiz. Then, once I actually opened my notebook app on my iPad and started to type out my answers to the questions, I felt something mentally shifting within me. I felt a renewed strength of character. I felt a tiny transformation happen with my first responses. What I experienced was so profound yet so simple that I could not wait to apply the same questions to all the parts of my life where I have struggled.

Indeed what has happened since then has been … miraculous. So here is what he asked me on that pivotal day.

He asked, “What words have been weaponized against you?” He quickly followed with the second question. “What arguments do you have to counter those weaponized words?”

I blinked and stared blankly, not quite understanding what he meant. My friend must have caught on to my bewilderment because he broke the silence by explaining further.

“Lori, If you experience a significant struggle at some point in your day there will be specific, repeating thoughts that act as obstacles in your path. Usually, there are specific words or phrases tied to those moments.”

I nodded my head and thought of a recurring moment of negativity.
“Selfish!” I shouted with perhaps too much enthusiasm.

He chuckled and slowed me down with further instructions. “Good, okay. Selfish is a word that is attached to negative moments in your day. Now just think about an argument against it. Write down a simple, true statement about yourself that counters the meaning of selfishness. It should be something that proves you are not selfish. Anything. Doesn’t matter what. As long as it is true.”

I playfully replied, “I will do my homework later if you don’t mind.”

He laughed again and explained that it was something he learned to ask himself anytime he faced a struggle of his own, and he was sure it was a useful tool that could have a positive influence on my daily routine.

Later that night I turned my iPad on and there, staring at me in bold letters was the word I had first found to be “weaponized” in my thoughts. Selfish.

I dismissed it for the moment and checked my email, then surfed the web aimlessly for a few minutes. I noticed the battery was running low on the tablet so I plugged it in, and started closing all the open apps to avoid draining the battery more than necessary. Then I came across the notebook app, and there it was again. The bold reminder that I sometimes feel selfish.

I gave it a try. I argued against this word as my friend suggested. I typed out the following:

SELFISH

I take care of my son and his every need. I tend to my family without thinking of my own wishes at all sometimes. I often sacrifice the things I desire to make sure the people I love have what they need and want. This is not the behavior of a totally selfish person. When I act selfishly I believe it is my turn, and that it is fair. Sometimes I deserve to be the one who chooses what toppings go on the pizza.

I realize that pizza is a silly example of when I might feel selfish, but it applies to much bigger aspects of how I make choices daily. If someone asks me for help, I have, in the past, been prone to agreeing to do largely inconvenient things, when I did not have the resources or time to actually do the task. This is an example of when the inner critic would shout a ruthless accusation in my head.

“Selfish!” My inner critic would scream, and I would concede to this weaponized word. I would end up agreeing to help a friend even if it meant I would fall behind on my own daily to-do list items.

Now, when a friend calls me to help move furniture I will be better equipped to say no if I need to. I will still hear that old, familiar inner critic shouting “Selfish! selfish!”. The difference is now I have a logical inner voice, thanks to the simple questions my friend asked me.

“What words have been weaponized against you?”

“What arguments do you have to counter those weaponized words?”

Using the logical responses to the questions, applied anywhere in life…I am better equipped to make decisions without the burden of unnecessary negativity. It removes a large amount of useless worry and guilt instantly. For people who struggle with taking on too much in a day, this is extremely useful.

Another way this same tool has become a valuable part of my decision-making process is in person-to-person conflicts. It isn’t always an inner-critic that needs silencing. Sometimes external-critics will also add negative, weaponized words into my thinking. Whether it is during an argument or if I am replaying someone's unpleasant words in my mind at the end of the day…the two questions my friend asked that day in October help me sort out the weaponized words into a neat, and very useful truth. From there I can easily disarm the thoughts that come with the negative associations by arguing against them.

Here are those two questions, one more time.

“What words have been weaponized against you?”

“What arguments do you have to counter those weaponized words?”

Indeed, I have been able to more easily make decisions based on logic rather than negative emotions, thanks to my friend and his simple two-question assessment. It really has had a profound influence on my happiness and on the decisions, I make thereafter. Hope this will help you on your journey as well. Cheers.

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Lori Brown

Written by

I write about funny and complicated things for a variety of interesting people. I read more than I write. I am your audience too.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Lori Brown

Written by

I write about funny and complicated things for a variety of interesting people. I read more than I write. I am your audience too.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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