3 Reasons You're Hard on Yourself
You set out to do something. You somehow miss the mark. You get frustrated and annoyed with yourself. You ask “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just…?? I’m so lazy, weak, unmotivated….etc.”
Does this sound familiar? Women beating on themselves is a tale as old as time.
But why? Why is it you find it so easy to be hard on yourself?
The Brain’s Negativity Bias
Back in our cavepeople days, we couldn’t afford to get too comfortable and let our guard down. It was literally a survival mechanism to think negatively. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive. As the brain developed and evolved, it became very important to learn from negative experiences as a way to survive. Our brain developed special circuitry that stores negative experiences immediately into emotional memory. The negative experience has to deeply emotionally impact you so you'll remember not to do it again! Whereas, our positive experiences get processed by the regular memory processing center and can more easily go undetected. They're not a threat after all.
(It’s even more complicated then this. This is the simplified version!)
In our modern day, this translates to you hyperfocusing on what’s negative: the one negative critique from your boss in between raving reviews, a mistake you make, the hurtful thing someone said, what you didn’t accomplish vs. what you did, etc.
The brain’s negativity bias makes it hard to think positively!
It’s a Defense Mechanism
What is a defense mechanism anyway? A defense mechanism is an unconscious way your brain comes up with to respond to situations that bring up negative emotions.
When there is a stressor, your brain responds by assessing the level of threat. Since negative experiences bring up challenging emotions, your brain decides that you’re in danger and brings in the defense mechanism to “protect” you from the negative experience.
So, when the Inner Disapprover shows up, weirdly enough, they are trying to “protect” you from the negative experiences and feelings that you’re having. How? Because you are now in your head spinning with thoughts, you are no longer connected to your feelings. Voila! You’re saved! Wonky, right?
The problem with the Inner Disapprover is that it creates more uncomfortable feelings and back we go in our head. This is why we get stuck in those negative thought loops.
We received critical messages from many places. We internalize these messages and make them our own stories about ourselves, as if they were true.
Where do we receive these messages from?
Our families. Because of our negativity bias, it’s very easy to be critical, often without knowing it. Many of us have experienced criticism from our families in many, many ways because of that bias. This leads to internalized messages of inadequacy, not being good enough, feeling like you can never do it right, etc.
Society. Our capitalistic society has strong messages of what makes you good, acceptable, worthy, and successful. The expectations are unrealistic and non-human. Read that last line one more time.
The Patriarchy. To be clear, the patriarchy is a system that tells us that men are in charge and that women are secondary. It’s a system that sees us as objects not as humans and forces us into very narrow ideas of what makes us worthy. It feeds us unrealistic ideas in all aspects of our lives. From how our bodies “should” look, to how we’re supposed to do it all flawlessly, and without complaining, to not being allowed to be angry, to being labeled “emotional”...it goes on and on. These messages set us up for failure over and over again which then leads us to feeling like there’s something wrong with us. Like we’re the ones doing it wrong!
When you consider all three of the reasons we struggle with the Inner Disapprover, you can begin to see how easily it becomes an internalized pattern that you unconsciously act out over and over again. It becomes so normalized that you don’t even notice you’re doing it! You reject self-compassion and begin to believe you deserve it. Well, you don’t.
The inner disapprover creates more stress, anxiety, doubt and fear. What an asshole.
WHAT TO DO?
Accept your Woman-ity
You’re a human.
To be human is to be imperfect and messy. And, your brain does wonky
human brain stuff. It’s not you. It’s your brain. Accept that your brain comes up with some really interesting, and sometimes super unhelpful ways to protect you against threat. Thank you brain! We’re just slowly trying to teach it that we’re not about to get eaten. That challenging every day experiences are not life threatening and that you can get through them. How do I know? Because you’re sitting here reading this blog in spite of all you’ve been through.
When you screw up or miss the mark, be kind to yourself. Pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Notice the Inner Disapprover trying to take over. Remind yourself it’s just your trying brain protecting you. Respond to yourself like you would a good friend, with love and kindness. It’s ok to feel frustrated about the mistake. It’s not ok to be unkind to yourself for it.
Set yourself up for success
What does this mean? Make sure you are being realistic with what you are expecting of yourself. If you ask more of yourself than you’re able to do, then you will not accomplish what you set out to do resulting in you feeling like you’re failing. You’re not. You’re just asking too much of yourself. Be realistic. Remember, you’re a human being, not a human doer.
Celebrate your strengths and successes.
We so often skip right over what we’ve accomplished and move on to the next thing. Or we minimize our accomplishment, “yeah, I did that but…”. We also don’t recognize and take ownership of what our strengths are or what’s good about us.
Celebrating our successes and our strengths helps our brain feel happy! Our reward center is like, “Yipppeee! I want to do more things so I can feel like this more!” Noticing the good, what went well, helps create new pathways in your brain and teaches your brain to think more positively. Celebrating YOU, your successes and strengths, helps to strengthen your inner soother and slowly lull the inner disapprover.
Take ownership of all that is good about you. Offer yourself grace and compassion. Accept your very human self.
When you put these into practice daily, you’ll begin to experience less stress, more ease and more life enjoyment. And that Inner Disapprover? It'll be a whisper in the wind.
WILD Woman Success Tip : Building Your Strength Shield
Cut out a shield shape out of paper. (Notice how imperfect mine is.)
On one side, list your strengths, all that is good about you and that you are good at.
On the other side, come up with an image, shape, or colors that represent those strengths.
Keep this close as a reminder of all that is good about you. Your brain needs the exercise and you will be so grateful as you start to notice more positivity and ease in your life!
Myriam Martinez is a Women's Mental Wellbeing Coach, Creativity Mentor, Art Therapist , and stick figure artist based out of Northern California. She gently guides women to embrace their Woman-ity© and love themselves fiercely through the power of the creative process. Her calling in this life is to teach women the power and importance of putting themselves first, loving themselves fiercely, and tapping into their creativity in order to bring more happiness, success, and ease into their lives.
To learn more about Myriam click here: https://www.myriammartinezcoaching.com/