Pause. Stop. Rewind. Think back over the last 24 hours. What thoughts roamed through your lovely head? What did these thoughts say to you? Positive words? Negative words? Our days are regularly pebble-dashed with Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs), self-criticising words that we let unconsciously bully us without calling them out. They say things like:
- You’re not good enough
- Why can’t you do anything right?
- You look awful today, everyone will notice
- Bad things always happen to you
Sound familiar? In The Confidence Code, Kay and Shipman share an exercise to demonstrate how negative thoughts or our ‘inner-critic’ makes us feel negative emotions and why this is detrimental to women’s confidence. Here’s my variation:
Imagine you’re mid-motion standing up to present to your peers. This is a serious gig. You let panic creep in and tell yourself “I didn’t prepare enough”. You feel like a fraud, like you’re going to be ‘found out’. Your nerves are twitching, your tongue dries out, parched. You start to speak but fall over your words. Your mind is as clear as coastal fog. Slide one, 20 more to go. You’re a sweaty pulp and your audience can see the drips melt from your face.
Reading this, are you cringing? Anxiety-rising? Wanting to advert your eyeballs? This is because your brain reacted to you contemplating this scenario as if it were (almost) live and as a result, produced an appropriate emotive response. It has trouble distinguishing an imagined reality from your genuine reality. It’s the same when a charming NAT tells you that you look like ‘crap’, you feel crap.
In January, I began working with the wonderful Sarah Doyle from The Better Life Project and in tandem, forging a positive bond with my NATs by 1. Recognising 2. Calling-out and 3. Reframing. Sarah’s philosophy is if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself. Exhibit A, imagine saying to your best friend:
Hi Jen, how are you doing today? You know, I was just thinking that you’re actually a complete dipso, ineffective at your job, a terrible mother and your hair makes you look like Worzel Gummidge’s offspring.
Say what now?!… Yet you may say things like this to yourself!
Sarah encourages you to befriend your negative thoughts/inner-critic or what she refers to as your ‘inner Mean Girl’. Give her a name and open dialogue with her. Taking this advice, I’ve called my inner-critic ‘Regina’ – a perfect cocktail as it’s my middle name and also the lead antagonist in Mean Girls, played by Rachel McAdams.
Regina works because she’s part of me. I can learn from her criticism but not when our inner-dialogue transcends to destructive NATs; from friend to bully. Regina is giving me a lot of grief lately about starting Working Mammy. But I’m not ignoring this, I’m proactively listening to her (1. Recognising) and empathising because I understand that this is coming from a place of fear (2. Calling-Out).
Below I’ll list what ‘Regina’/my inner-critic said to me and provide an alternative perspective (3. Reframing) in an effort to alleviate her fears. This feels bananas but here goes…
Creating a blog is unoriginal. No one will read this. There’s too many blogs out there.
I’m determined to take action and reach-out to other working mothers. A blog is the best starting point within my current resources. This blog is unique because I’m unique, no two life experiences are the same. Same goes for the women (or men) I hope will contribute pieces to this site so it’s not just my voice. I’m comfortable with failure because it means I’ve tried.
You want to build a self-care support-network for working mums. You’re not an authority on wellness.
No I’m not an authority nor do I pretend to be. That’s why I want to create this network because I need it; and if I need it, other women must too.
You’re a working mammy with one toddler. Other women’s lives are more stressful. Who’ll want to listen to you?
Of course but stress isn’t static. Life fluctuates and pole-vaults us into unsettling times of frustration, difficult choices and heartache. We all need flexible tools and most crucially, open-dialogue and a support-network like Working Mother Wellness to help us cope.
People will judge you. You’re openning yourself up to criticism. Why put yourself in this position?
My intention is not to appeal to everyone. I like salted caramel ice-cream (delish), other people don’t. Some people will find this site useful, others won’t. That’s what makes our world interesting. We don’t all like the same things. I’m open to criticism once constructive. If I wasn’t, I’d never grow.
What are you playing at?! You’ve a family, a full-time job, a life, other commitments. You don’t have the time for this!
Eh fair point. But! There’s 168 hours in a week – 112 hours where I’m awake and 72 hours where I’m not working. All of these hours make up life experiences that can inform this site. I’ll figure it out. If what you need does not exist, create it. I need workingmotherwellness.com!
So! Engaging in diagloue with Regina seems eh bonkers!! – I’m in a garden centre café talking to myself as I type, hoping this blog doesn’t result in a nervous twitch and identity crisis. But it also feels liberating to listen to myself with genuine intent, hear my fears and to re-frame them. I’ve missed opportunities in my life because my inner-critic crippled me with fear. Not this time!
Question for you taken at liberty from Sheryl Sandberg: ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ Is your inner-critic holding you back from your goal or dream? Is she scaremongering you with her fear of failure in an attempt at self-preservation? If so, give this exercise a bash because trying is always a step forward no matter how miniscule it feels.
Name your inner-critic (Recognise)
Listen to her fears (Call-out)
Present even one alternative perspective (Reframe)
Remember: bonkers but liberating so worth the effort ♥
Or stick Mean Girls on the telly for a giraffe! 😀
I’m Jen Murphy, award-winning blogger and wellness advocate for working mothers. I created Working Mother Wellness as a platform for mums to share our wellness experiences. Sign-up to build your own Working Mother Wellness toolkit. You will receive updates on Kundalini yoga and meditation practices, wellness tips, and info on upcoming workshops and programmes.