I have high standards. I focus, work hard, and I make things happen. But even when things go well, I never feel satisfied. I mean, I’ve spent 10 years teaching Awaken Love to over 1000 women and still felt like a failure. That doesn’t really make sense, but it’s true. I recently discovered through counseling that my harsh inner critic constantly beats me down. It never allowed me to feel the satisfaction that comes when you put your all into something, and let God take care of the rest. I am learning to quiet my inner critic and feel satisfied and it feels so good.
When I started working on myself, I am guessing that my counselor quickly noticed my inner critic. Meanwhile, I had no idea I even had an inner critic. You see, I didn’t typically hear voices berating me and telling me what an awful job I did. But I did evaluate everything to the Nth degree, leaving me feeling miserable. I never felt satisfied and always found ways that I did not quite measure up.
For example, this Fall I spoke at Re Engage about How to Create a Meaningful Sex Life. I felt at ease speaking, and could tell the audience was listening and engaged. After I spoke, several people shared how much my talk had impacted them. By all accounts I should have felt pleased and satisfied with the night. But as I thought through my content, I realized that I might have skewed things towards husbands needing to grow. Which spun into, some of the husbands might have felt beat up and discouraged. Which eventually spun into me feeling pretty awful. That night, I hadn’t heard my inner critic beating me up, but I sure felt it.
As I continued to learn about the inner critic, it all came to a head one night. My husband and I had a tough night of sex, where for whatever reason, I felt disappointed. Though I did not vocalize it, my head filled with criticism for all the ways that Jim had not met my needs. Eventually I settled myself down enough to sleep. But in the middle of the night I woke, and as I lay next to my husband, my mind sorted through what had happened. Suddenly I had clarity about my role in our dynamic and I felt remorse. First thing in the morning, I would own what I had done and ask for forgiveness.
Out Loud in the Open
Then, all of sudden, as clear as could be, I heard my inner critic for the first time.
“You F***ing idiot. You do nothing!,”
And instead of getting scared, or shutting it down, I just calmly listened, ready to know the depth of the darkness within me. Clarity would help me move forward, so I let my inner critic continue…
“Why don’t you do something you F***er. Just sit there and cower. Sit there and take it. What’s wrong with you. F***ing idiot! You’ve done nothing with your life. Are you going to keep hiding? Do something! Ha! You don’t even know what to do!”
And afterward, I just lay silently holding onto my husband and I realized, no wonder I am so critical towards my husband. Look how treat myself.
Since that time, I have not heard my inner critic. But that does not mean it is not there. In fact, I recognize the presence of my inner critic through the feelings that I have in my gut. Those feelings that made me want to take cover during that spoken tirade are the same ones I have felt many times before. The sick feeling of not measuring up, wanting to go into hiding, and feeling paralyzed. I have no doubt that my inner critic had a strong influence in my life, and things need to change.
Quieting the Inner Critic
Many of us struggle with an inner critic. Some might call it insecurities, or anxiety or even an attack from the devil. But many of you may relate. My inner critic has been with me for a lifetime and though it may never completely disappear, I am learning tools to decrease its influence on my life.
The antidote to an inner critic is simply giving myself compassion. So, I am learning to quiet my inner critic by saying things to myself like…
- I am doing the best that I can right now
- I can learn from my mistakes
- It makes sense that this is hard for me
- It will take time for me to change
Evaluate – Don’t Ruminate
I have also decided that evaluating ways to improve and learn is not the same as ruminating about all the ways that I fall short. After just a few minutes to evaluate and think about what I can learn and improve, I must consciously stop thinking about it. I will not be perfect, and that is ok, because I am human.
Learning to Feel Satisfied
While journaling about what makes me feel angry, sad, afraid, guilty, happy, and satisfied, I realized that I don’t remember ever feeling satisfied. Whether it was a piece of furniture I built, the retreat I hosted, or the sex class I taught, I have never felt satisfied. I would cringe at recognition, knowing full well how I had fallen short and what needed improvement. Rather than pause to feel satisfied, I quickly moved to the next task.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to feel satisfied. For me, it means that I bring my best offering, I work hard putting my whole heart and soul into it, and then I release it. I hand it off to God and let Him take care of the rest. If God wants to He can fill in my gaps, or use my mistakes, but He doesn’t have to. He can do what He wants with my offering. And when I release my offering, I take time to see it, acknowledge it and feel thankful. To feel satisfied. For me, taking time to feel satisfied helps to quiet my inner critic.
Working on my inner critic is helping me not only treat myself better, but it is helping me treat my husband better. Just like I am learning to extend compassion to myself, I am learning to extend compassion to Jim. Life just feels easier. As I am teaching Awaken Love classes this session, I am taking time to pause, see what happened, acknowledge it, hand the rest over to God, and be thankful. I feel satisfied when I give my all, and my all is enough.
I promise, I will start writing about sex again. Thank you for being patient with me.
If you live in the Twin Cities I have an in person class starting soon.