Your inner critical voice is sabotaging your self-control
Self-criticism might be the only way we know how to motivate ourselves to achieve our weight loss goals. We’ve internalized an authoritarian voice we knew growing up. We assume being hard on ourselves is what gets us closer to healthy. “If I wasn’t hard on myself, I’d never get to the gym and live off cheese and chocolate!”
I’m not here to reprimand you at all–you do enough of that. And therein lies the problem:
In our world of optimal health, we often neglect one of the biggest health underminers of all: the critical inner voice we think is helping us.
Here’s how that critical voice is actually preventing you from getting health and happiness
- Being hard on yourself puts your body into an anxiety state, which increases your stress hormones like cortisol and encourages your body to crave processed foods, store fat, and suppress progesterone production.
- That same anxiety state prevents you from having restful, healing sleep. Which makes you more stressed.
- Being hard on yourself turns overeating into binging – you suppress the shame with more food, which feeds more shame…
- Being hard on yourself keeps you in a binge/restrict cycle: when you punish yourself with restriction, you perpetuate the cycle.
- Being hard on yourself makes you hate your body because your brain attaches to and criticizes imperfections, rather than appreciating & embracing reality.
- Being hard on yourself prevents you from enjoying the present moment and makes you miss your life: you’re stuck ruminating over past mistakes or planning & worrying about the future.
So what’s the answer ?
Motivating from love, not fear.
Becoming a coach to yourself. Think about it: If you’ve ever played a sport or an instrument, perhaps there was a coach or instructor you both loved and respected. They still expected you to show up and perform, they still pushed you, and they still benched you when you missed practice or got in a fight on the field; but they expressed disapproval in behaviors vs. you as a person; they knew your worthiness as a player/artist/performer didn’t depend on one performance; if you were sick, they didn’t force you to “push through it.” They were understanding, forgiving, empathic, and tolerant–while still creating the conditions for you to grow and excel.
When we relate to ourselves like that favorite coach, we’re being self-compassionate.
However, most us default to the anxiety and depression-inducing, confidence undermining self criticism, rather than the supportive, growth-inspiring self compassion mentioned.
Luckily, self-compassion is a skill everyone can learn.
If you’re hesitant about being more self-loving, consider this:
- You will always have the tool of self-criticism. You’re not going to forget how to be hard on yourself, so consider developing the tool of self-compassion, as well.
- Many of the most compassionate people are also the most hardworking and successful.
- When we learn how to relate to ourselves with compassion, we fear mistakes less and are able to take the risks we need to grow. Perfectionism (and being hard on ourselves) worries, depresses, and paralyzes; whereas self-compassion comforts, energizes, and empowers.
- You wouldn’t be cruel to your friend if they lost their job or gained 10 lbs, so why are you being cruel to yourself?
Learning to embrace imperfections and motivate from a place of love isn’t something that happens overnight. And of course those of us who have high expectations for ourselves tend to be hard on ourselves for being hard on ourselves when we decide we want to make a change!