Mental health moments

The problem with our critical inner voice is that it’s very easy to believe it.

At the time, when it’s loud and convincing it’s easy to believe.

Mine sometimes says things like this:

– you are so fat, all those wellness people are judging you

– you have nothing interesting to say, and you’re awkward, and no one likes you

– you’re so weird and not saying enough. They can all tell. They think you’re stupid

Seriously. These exact words. The last time they flared up I was at a networking event. It started out well, I was feeling positive and a bit apprehensive. I started ok, I did, but then I fell out of a conversation and things got self conscious and weird.

(This is despite being aware of it, despite years of therapy, despite being trained in counselling.)

Once that narrative starts up nice and loud I tend to get swept up in it. After all if those things are true, I should probably just slink off home – right? I should probably never go out. I should probably not try talking to anyone because they won’t enjoy my weirdness rubbing off on them.

I left in a bit of a funk – here I was fat, weird, awkward and everyone knew it.

Later, when the mood sweeps by, the clouds shift, a blue sky emerges, I feel fine. I feel calm and OK with myself and think I’m no more awkward or weird than anyone else. I resume normal programming. I enjoy socialising and even meeting new people. I become the person who helps other people not feel awkward in groups by talking with them, or introducing and connecting people.

So these experiences, and the voice in my head that convinces me I’m not worthy, actually helps me be finely attuned to other people and social dynamics. It helps me know fully in my body what uncomfortable feels like and to absolutely want to help make situations like this more caring and accessible to others.

These experiences also mean that I understand clients who struggle with anxiety, and strive to create a safe space in my one on one work and in groups where clients can be honest about our inner voice and how unhelpful it can be sometimes. Because this inner voice, this loop / mindset/ inner critic is an issue for most people. Not just people seeking help through therapy, but most people who are going about their lives are held back at some time due to doubts and fears that often express themselves as negative self-talk.

It comes up in art therapy sessions, it comes up in coaching, and so it should; because our inner scripts are often our invisible limits – they can shape what we will and won’t try, they tell us strong stories about what we deserve or what it is possible to experience in life.

How about you? Do you have any bitter, hurtful or challenging narratives that pop up when you are stressed or feeling low? Have you worked to replace them with kinder narratives about yourself? Do they give you insight or empathy you can take back into the world? Have you ever worked to change one and replace it with something more useful?