How many times each day do you hear yourself saying “You can’t do that?”, “You can’t do this?” Is it multiple times or not at all? Now be honest here, because if you admit to being aware of this just a few times, your subconscious mind is having a party with the number of times this is being repeated in your mind.
Enter the self critic. Yes we all have one. Some of us have learnt to manage or silence this “personality”. Others are challenged regularly with the “personality” that is known as the inner critic or the danger prevention method we are hard wired with from birth.
How the Inner Critic Works
For most people the inner critic will emerge when we want to attempt something new, different, dangerous or challenging. It is our bodies’ way of protecting itself and steering away from the great unknown. In many cases the inner critic can be really destructive and fundamentally damaging. The inner critic will work towards holding you back and engaging and in some cases focus on a part that you feel most vulnerable about, for example self image.
If you have ever experienced (or seen someone you know) poor self image you will see just how damaging that “personality” the inner critic can be.
We all have a picture of how we appear and also how we want to appear. A healthy self image is somewhere mid way at a point where you can accept yourself as you are and make fair and reasonable goals for gradual improvement. By this I mean improving on what you have, rather than having unrealistic expectations and expecting to see yourself look like a supermodel after a five day detox. Let’s remove these expectations now; please.
Self Image Explained
Self Image is the mental picture we have of ourselves, and is generally resistant to change. The self image is where we are exposed to other and where others can form opinions and judgements based on how we present, such as weight, weight, hair colour, eye colour, shape. Three types of Self Image:
1. How you see yourself
2. How others see you
3. How you perceive yourself and your perception of how others see you
There are also labels that have been learned by people about themselves, from personal experiences the judgments of others. Self Image and the Link to Self Esteem, note these two states are different, as self esteem is based on the individual’s subjective evaluation of self, based around belief systems. These belief systems can result in positive and negative thoughts or mind chatter such as:
- I am intelligent… therefore I can…
- I am loser… therefore I believe I can’t…
- I am outgoing… therefore I am able to…
- I am shy… therefore I am unable to…
Here are some examples of how you may label yourself and the very way you form your healthy or un-healthy self image. So what is healthy versus un-healthy self image?
Identifying Your Self Image
Below are two types of Self Image and the descriptions. Consider which description is most suited to you. This is where the improvement can be made, to become more accepting and kind to yourself and for those with a healthy self image, continue to work on the positive view of yourself. After all, caring for yourself is not a “set and forget” scenario, as a part of an ongoing self development and self care plan, it is a holistically healthy way to manage your Primary health.
Healthy Self Image
A healthy self-image is primarily based on an individual’s personal feelings and perspectives. Here individuals are no longer influenced by other people’s opinions of them or by societal expectations. They instead make up their own minds about the mental picture/idea they have of themselves. As a result, these people often have a more optimistic outlook on life and thereby more confidence in themselves and in their own ability. They feel a greater sense of control over themselves and over their life.
A person with a healthy self-image acknowledges that they have flaws. In fact, they are realistic and clearly understand and accept the fact that they have their personal shortcomings. However, there is no critical judgment here. They acknowledge who they are and how they are at this very moment and do the best they can with what they have.
An Unhealthy Self-Image
A person with an unhealthy self-image tends to consistently focus on their flaws and what they “can’t” do; their language is generally more negative. There is constant and harsh criticism of themselves and massive self judgement.
The constant and critical judgment enables them to focus on their imperfections.
In fact, everything on the negative side tends to be exaggerated and blown out of proportion. This often happens because they are heavily influenced by other people’s opinions of them, to their own detriment. These people seek approval of themselves from others and are defined by societal standards and expectations. They seek constant praise from others and when this is not offered or given, fall into a depressive state as they feel lost and discouraged. It is not a healthy and balanced way to live.
Avoiding Self-Judgement or Self-Criticism
When you judge and overly criticise yourself, it is a clear indication that your internal voice is taking over your life. Yes, constructive criticism can be helpful; however, constructive criticism doesn’t leave you feeling useless and hopeless. It is rather something that leaves you feeling hopeful, optimistic and motivates you to make improvements.
Instead of judging and/or criticising yourself, choose to give yourself feedback. Feedback will provide you with an avenue for improvement and will help you to progressively develop the self-confidence you need to build a healthy self-image that allows you to be the best you can possibly be in every situation. It is more than ok to be imperfect and as I say to myself, and empower my clients,
It’s about progress rather than perfection.
If you are struggling with Self Image and the Inner Critic I’d love to support you and empower you with simple ways help you thrive.