I can’t believe its June already! As spring winds down with graduations, and kids out of school, it’s a time to kick back and slow down a little. I am always aware of how many activities come to a close such as the multiple group studies that take a break for the summer. Now it’s a time to get quiet and take an inventory with your life. Did I involve myself in activities that were purposeful, or did I get caught up in activities that I fell into and fail to listen to what was important? Did I say YES to multiple requests that others wanted me to do and fail to say NO? Many I have worked with have difficulty with people pleasing others.
Is that your pattern? Do you know what drives the need for people to please? I have seen it can be about needing to avoid the inner critic that makes us feel others may reject us. Summer can be a great time to pull back and evaluate things within our inner world. Determine whether you may need to make friends with your “inner critic” that is quick to communicate these negative statements. The paradox of the inner critic is that it attacks and undermines you in order to protect you from the shame of failure.
Shame sometimes called the master emotion, is the feeling that we’re not worthy, competent, or good enough at the core. Some of the ways this inner voice may speak are “If I don’t please my boss, I’ll feel like a failure.” “If I don’t give to my mother-in-law what she desires, she will reject me.” This critic can protect us from ever looking at past successes for fear that we will slack off. It can keep pushing us to drive for more pleasing of others to keep us from failure.
I find there are several ways that people need to start dealing with their inner critic. First and foremost, learn to be a friend to yourself. Listen to the messages you convey to yourself. Are they colored by parental accusations or early five-year-old messages? Learning to experience more self-compassion by embodying the hurt child within. She deserves to feel wanted and loved for who she is regardless of lack of achievement or rejection from others.
Some find that self-distancing from those inner voices by taking out the first person “I” statements and replacing them with “you” or “she/he” can be a way to distance ourselves from those messages. Learning to ask our self “why questions” like “Why does Sharon who feels so confident in her work arena have such insecurities in her personal relationships with men.” This can work well when you’re in the heated moment of beating up on yourself and enable to self-distance. This self-distancing can allow you to think as if it was someone else.
In addition, learning to address the critic directly and not seeing it as an enemy can be helpful. The critic might manifest as a protector that is on our side and actually serving as looking out for our best interests. We can learn to thank the critic for trying so hard to protect us—and then ask for it to step back.
One of the best ways that I have found very helpful is to take the self-defeating thought and completely reframe the experience as a turning point so the version gets revised. This way you change the association you may have with the story and no longer is it to be seen as a failure. An example would be if you failed at something you invested in whole-heartedly you could see it as an inspirational growth experience.
Don’t get lost in the doldrums of self-condemnation. You are worthy of affirming yourself knowing that if your motive was good, you did your best!