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Do you ever feel like you don’t deserve to share your voice or wisdom if things aren’t going your way?

Have you encountered an inner voice that declares that your struggle is a weakness that must be hidden at all costs?

Are you sitting there feeling embarrassed that something is wrong with you because you don’t understand everything?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone!

It’s as if an invisible decree silently declares that if you haven’t cracked the code of success, health, love, happiness and know exactly what you’re doing at every moment, your wisdom, your existence is not worthy of expression.

I find it interesting that we tend to curate our Facebook and Social Media profiles to express the highest level of success, love and happiness. It’s as if we’re afraid our reputation will somehow be tarnished if we show even one millimeter of weakness or (gasp) authenticity.

What if someone posts a picture of you in sweatpants and an old, cute, scratchy t-shirt that’s a far cry from the professionalism you usually exemplify? What would you do if you secretly recorded yourself being angry and it was broadcast all over the internet? What would your initial, gut reaction be?

Did you know that even though we idolize perfection, most of us have a tendency towards negativity? What this means is that even if 90% of our day is spent in perfect harmony, just one negative encounter can negatively affect our perception of our entire day.

Negative bias

Why is the concept of negativity bias so important? It clarifies how we often interact and perceive ourselves in a larger, global context. If you often feel like you’re never doing enough or that your standards don’t meet your expectations, your negative mindset is likely sabotaging your life.

It is well known that the harshest, most punishing critics in our lives always come from within. Each of us is additionally burdened with our own unique, condescending “Inner Critic.” Our Inner Critic is the harsh inner voice that tells us we will never measure up or get it right.

When we feel ashamed and worthless, our inner critic is at work. It works hard to make sure we stay trapped in our cycle of shame and pain, preventing us from reaching out for the help and love we need.

When our Inner Critic and negativity are in overdrive, they create a perfect storm. Depression, anxiety, and even feelings of worthlessness can occur.

It’s no wonder that when we hit the inevitable “sh- fan” in our struggles with our relationships, health, work, and core selves, our first inclination is to hide it. They don’t call our darker, more hidden nature the “Shadow” for nothing!

To make matters worse, we often feel alone in our distress and are afraid or ashamed to ask for help. The pain combined with the shame of giving in to our struggles creates a perfectly complex trap. We are naturally inclined and encouraged to continue to minimize or reduce our suffering.

The Good Soldier Syndrome

I call this the Good Soldier Syndrome. We are taught to respect people in the military, we are strengthened by great pressure and challenge without complaint.

So how do you begin to work with this complex and painful dynamic and keep your Inner Critic in check?

Simply being aware of your inner critic and negative bias can help you move into greater awareness, leading to deeper self-compassion, acceptance, and love.

If you find your critic to be particularly loud and persuasive, just respond! It may sound crazy, but it sure works! If you can dialogue with the part of yourself that feels critical, you will probably find that your Critic is trying to protect you from something they perceive as a threat.

An interesting practice that I have found to be extremely helpful is to stop, take a minute to breathe, be with yourself, and ask your Inner Critic why it is being so mean to you. Allow yourself to be open and curious about what it means. It can be conveyed through words, emotions and even visuals. Acknowledging and accepting your fear and pain can often promote self-compassion and understanding.

Becoming aware of your Inner Critic

As you begin to embark on the path of growth, your negativity and Inner Critic are bound to flare up. When you find yourself in a negative self-talk feedback loop that’s holding you back from progress, I encourage you to face the part of you that is afraid and acknowledge its fear. Set boundaries with him just as you would with someone who doesn’t treat you with respect.

You can say something like, “Thanks for trying to protect me, but you’re holding me back.” Imagine creating more space between yourself and this aspect of you. Respect her fear and send her love and kindness if possible.

Let them know that it’s okay to be scared and that you can get over it. Being aware of your Inner Critic weakens it so that it no longer influences your choices or controls your consciousness.

You are free to choose how to build healthier relationships with yourself and others. With time and practice, you may even find it’s possible to befriend your inner critic.

Like you, I am human and susceptible to pain, suffering, and struggle. Before a big professional presentation, TV shoot, live chat, or workshop, I’m always faced with a familiar feeling of dread and a voice asking if what I’m offering is really worth it. There are still moments of doubt and times when I would rather give up.

The truth is that our definition of weakness and vulnerability has always been wrong. When we dare to be vulnerable in admitting that we are all, and still persevere, that is the definition of true strength.

The next time you find yourself trapped in a negative spiral, remember that you are not alone. We all experience deep pain, and many of us have experienced unimaginable suffering and tragedy. It’s okay to show weakness, make mistakes, and ask for help. We all need help, love and support along the way.

You are a vital and integral part of this world with great value and wisdom to share. You are greatly needed, and we need each other to continue to safely navigate the chaos of this world into more peaceful waters.

We live in a world of increasing alienation, polarization and division. Healing the region begins with our willingness to listen, to be open and curious, and to be there for “ourselves” and each other.

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