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An Experiment in Quieting My Inner Critic

A curious thing happened when I tried befriending myself: Just by increasing my awareness of my inner critic, it quieted down considerably. But, like Statler and Waldorf, the obnoxious critics from the Muppets, the voice was still there with plenty of snarky comments. Here are a few examples from my experiment.

Example 1: “Every night you plan what you’re going to do the next day and who you’re going to call but you never get it done. What a failure.”

This thought came late at night and, though I tried mightily, I couldn’t get myself out of the negative loop, so I asked my husband to walk me through it. Having him say “And what would you say to a friend who said that?” was somehow all it took for me to shift perspective. I said, out loud, “You squeeze everything that’s possible out of every good moment. You don’t get as much done as others because you are sick, but, man, do you appreciate the good times.”

Example 2: I told someone about a gift I wanted to make as a Christmas present, then added in my mind, “If I get off my butt and get it made.”

The loop on this one was shorter than in the previous example, but it went on for few minutes before I got out of it. Then I was able to tell myself, “You are not choosing to be lazy instead of making gifts. The times you’re ‘on you’re butt’ are when you’re too sick to do anything else.

Example 3: “You don’t have a migraine right now. Why are you lying on the couch reading? You should be doing something, like writing or cleaning the kitchen.”

Very quickly, I was able to change this thought to “You may not have a migraine right now, but you’ve had one for the past five days. You’re still worn out and exhausted. It takes time to recover from a migraine like that. Rest. Take care of yourself.”

Because I knew I’d be writing about them, I sent myself an email describing each of these instances. That helped me remove myself from the situation and think through both the initial thought and response. I recommend this even if you’re not writing a blog post about — I think it cemented the kind response in my mind.

Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets aren’t just a writing metaphor — I actually imagine their faces on my inner voice. Knowing how much they love to hear themselves talk helped me recognize the criticism as an unhelpful complaint, not a legitimate problem.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to get the hang of reframing your negative self-talk. Like with any new behavior, it takes practice before becoming a habit. How’d your experiment with befriending yourself go?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • collyermum
    6 years ago

    Thank you Kerrie, that was a great article! Like other posters, no 3 is the worst! I get so guilty when I don’t achieve the small things/housework I wanted to get done because I am exhausted – I will try some of your great responses. It’s just wonderful to know I am not the only one – thank you for writing and blogging, it helps to know I am not alone in this.

  • tucker
    7 years ago

    In Sept of this year, I began having anxiety attacks b/c I was not being the person I used to be and doing all the stuff I needed to get done. I had missed several neighborhood assn meetings and as treasurer, had not even done some of the work I always took care of every year for the past 17-18 yrs. Little did I know that my husband had already intervened on my behalf and told the president that my health was now at the point that I needed to take a break and take care of myself. I had already given up my position in another organization and honestly, even stopped going to the monthly meetings for a good girls night out.

    You see, I’ve had more than just chronic migraines for the past 2 years. It seems every time I turn around, some new problem is cropping up and I wind up at a new doctor with a new diagnosis. It’s expensive, exhausting and frankly, I’m getting quite tired of it. Even yesterday, I found out that my simple eye exam is resulting in a visit to a specialist. Scary.

    I’m always feeling guilty about things I didn’t do with my kids, who became teenagers this summer. Their “good” years are slipping away so quickly! Then there are the dogs, who haven’t been walked in months b/c I go back to sleep in the morning before work or I’m just too tired to care about exercise. Hey, at least my family usually eats together for dinner, even if it is frozen lasagna.

    But the past 2 weeks are already different. I’ve managed to do some cleaning I’ve put off for 3 years, got a Christmas present to my friend in time for her to paint for various family members (3rd year of trying that too!), I’ve started doing the Wii Fit again (last time was Dec 2010), and maybe I’ll send out that Christmas Card before Valentine’s Day….. (don’t know when I sent those out last). And the BEST thing is that I got out my sewing machine and have made some hats and lap blankets for the Angel Tree. And I’m teaching my son to sew also. What more could a person with chronic brain pain ask for? :):)

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    7 years ago

    I’m so glad you’ve been having some good times lately. Best wishes as you learn how to best manage your health and family life.

  • rpigg
    7 years ago

    What a wonderful article and comments! Negative self talk has become the norm with me, and my husband is my champion, but I can see I need to take this advice myself and talk myself up, not down. No I can’t do what I used to, but really when I made myself look at “me” after reading your article it is amazing what I do inspite of the migraine. If I were to be as nice to myself as I am to everyone else I would probably feel better. Thanks for the challenge

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    7 years ago

    Thanks for the kind words. I hope you’re taking good care of yourself.

  • Cindi
    7 years ago

    Number 3… it’s a killer for me, too!

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    7 years ago

    It is the most nagging doubt I have. Have you come up with a way to work through it?

  • sanitz
    7 years ago

    I’m seriously stunned at how you are able to nail my feelings and thoughts so exactly. Thanks so much for sharing such a huge part of yourself with us who can relate so well.
    I imagine all people are hard on themselves, but we have so many reasons to show the same compassion to ourselves as we would to others.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    7 years ago

    Thanks for the kind words. I agree that we are so deserving of the compassion many of us heap on others, but rarely give ourselves.

  • One hour at a time...
    7 years ago

    Thanks, Kerrie. Here’s mine, “You must be weak.” Still working on a response.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    7 years ago

    That’s a hard one and one I do a lot, too. What I’ve discovered among all the people I know with migraine is that we are the furthest thing from weak. One simply cannot be weak and endure migraine attacks. Maybe that helps you, but maybe not. Try thinking about what you would tell a friend who was criticizing herself for being weak when really she was tremendously ill.

    Take care and be gentle to yourself!

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