How To Cancel Out The Internal Critic
How often do we find ourselves worrying about how other parents or people see us? Whilst we can’t read minds, we can paint a pretty painful picture in our heads of what we believe they’re thinking or saying to themselves.
We torment ourselves when we solidify the belief that someone is judging us. But what use is that?
I really implore you to remove this rigidity that you know what someone is thinking. What good does it serve you? What I want to help and address is the worry that believing you can read minds. It’s the effect of holding this belief that we need to address and discard, because what does it serve other than become a stick to bash yourself with? We can sympathise and forgive other parents when they are having a tough time of it, isn’t it time we did the same for ourselves?
Perception and reality — what should we believe?
How can we tell whether we know what the other person is thinking?
Take a moment and prove my point.
- Fold your arms as you would normally, comfortably and relaxed. Notice how ‘right’ it feels for you.
- Unfold your arms. Now re-fold them in the opposite way. Where one hand is resting on your arm and the other tucked under the other arm.
- I’m willing to bet that it may not feel awkward but nevertheless it won’t feel completely right. It’s ok but not natural and you prefer to fold your arms the other way.
- Reflect for a moment. If someone walked past you, would they believe that you were feeling awkward? Or uncomfortable? I’m going to suggest that more often than not no one will know how you feel. There’d not be a reasonable way of knowing.
How similar is this to your belief that you’re being scrutinised by someone’s internal dialogue? Hopefully you notice we can partition our inner monologue which, I invite you to consider, is more useful to you.
Perception in the work place
I’ve been in seminars where attendees have said that when they’ve had to leave the office early they’ve noticed ‘looks’. However, all acknowledged that they couldn’t tell whether it was accurate or simply a perception.
As a working parent, you may find that some colleagues’ question leaving work early. However, often this is more borne from lack of information or understanding than malice.
Solutions to try
If there is a critic of your hours, you can have discussions or look to better communicate your working schedule.
PR yourself so that there is better knowledge of when you are available.
Ask your manager to send a team-wide email refreshing your hours
Many times people will fill in the blanks of their information with negative connotations. A little knowledge can go a long way especially if it repairs work relationships. It may be as simple as getting to know the person better, on a human level, is all that’s needed.
There’s no reason this workplace example can’t work at other times. Perhaps there’s a parent you need to get to know better before you believe they are thinking the worst of you?
I think it’s a useful distinction to make when having these internal conversations: do I know this? Or am I believing this based on a presumption? However at least we can begin to break and crack that singular belief that it is fact or a problem. That person may be thinking about a trillion other things and is staring off into the distance yet coincidentally in your direction. It is more often the case that communication can resolve many of the perceptions and assumptions you may be experiencing. Close the gap between presumption and knowledge. Find out what’s really going on.
It can’t be said enough times that perfection is an illusion. And I’d like to add the universe into the the category of imperfections. As Prof. Stephen Hawking put it quite simply:
“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist”
Perfection is an imposition on a system/structure that is inherently beautifully imperfect. So let’s also ease back when things are going so well for us in those parenting moments. Let’s avoid those harsh internal critic(s) that tell us how we ‘should’ be parenting.
Allow yourself to be vulernable
This also brings to mind the Brene Brown TedTalk about vulnerability. How stepping out from our shields and allow ourselves to be seen, to be vulnerable is a greater show of strength than remaining enclosed, safe, behind perfection.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
I get that it’s scary. It’s not nice to feel exposed and vulnerable yet it is one of the greatest signs of strength that you can harness. Breath in your imperfection, and release the binds of being a perfect parent. Be vulnerable and be proud that you’re willing to show up and make mistakes, for how else do we grow than threw learning? None of us got a parent book that maps perfectly are own journey. We are all making it up as we go, imperfectly and vulnerable to making mistakes. Rejoice! You’re at one with the universe.
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About the Author
Ben Jackson is the founder of The Parent and Pupil Coach delivering behavioural change programmes for 10–16 year olds. He coaches for leadership and transition for career parents and is regularly contributing to webinars and articles. You can connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn.