Reading time: 6 minutes
Your ‘Best’ Friend
Hello Boys and Girls!
I want you to close your eyes and imagine something: imagine that you had a ‘best’ friend and you’ve known him/her for your whole life – in fact let’s give your friend a name: ‘Jamie’ (it’s unisex – just roll with it…).
Although you’ve known each other forever, your relationship with Jamie is… Tricky. Jamie is very opinionated and often says things at the wrong time. Jamie loves when you only do things that are “comfortable” – things that won’t rock the boat and that are routine. Jamie doesn’t like when you try anything new.
But if you go against Jamie’s wishes, and try something new – and you fail, Jamie gets vicious: Jamie becomes downright mean and opens a verbal can of whoop ass on you. All you will hear is:
“You’re a loser! I told you it wouldn’t work!”
“Everyone is laughing at you! They think you are fool!”
“I knew they would find out about you sooner or later! You’re a fake!”
Would you stay friends with that person for long? Or would you treat him like Uncle Phil did Jazzy Jeff and throw out of your house! But what if you couldn’t? What if Jamie lived in your head all the time?
“My Biggest Enemy Is My Inner Me”
For most people, ‘Jamie’ or that ‘little gremlin in your head’ is a daily reality. After doing a little research, psychologists call this voice the ‘Inner Critic’. Researchers believe that Inner Critic is actually a psychic defence. The Inner Critic was birthed in our childhoods & represents all the rules, judgements and expectations of our parents, family systems and even society itself. The theory goes that the Inner Critic is there to stop us feeling anxiety, pain and shame. Now although most people have an Inner Critic, some people may have a harsher Inner Critic if they had:
- Significant childhood trauma
- Being raised by caregivers who were not affectionate & did not give them positive affirmations
- Being pushed to always achieve and be ‘perfect’
Now the inner critic is NOT your conscience. Whereas your conscience may push you to do things for good or moral reasons, the Inner Critic is out to punish and criticise you. It’s not your friend. Sometimes, if a person has had many challenges in their life & not had support, then their inner critic can lead to anxiety, depression or in the worst case scenario, suicide.
We live in the most technologically advanced period of human history, with people living longer and having a better standard of living. But there are some very worrying stats.
In the UK alone:
- The number of young people diagnosed with depression has nearly doubled between the 1980s – 2000s.
- The number of young women (between 16-24) being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has gone up three times from 2007–2014
- Workplace stress and anxiety as it’s an all time high, with 70% of Health and Safety Union Representatives saying that work-based stress is one of the biggest problems among staff.
And the stats keep coming in. Houston, we have a problem.
What’s Going On?
Many theories have been tossed around from the breakdown of the traditional family unit, growing individualism, globalisation & even our environment. But I can only talk from personal experience & those closest to me & the common issues are:
- Increasing work pressure & increasing in costs of living
- Less time with family & friends
- 24/7 culture & information overwhelm
- Seeing friends & family on Facebook living more ‘successful’ lives.
- Because of external pressures (parents/society) feeling like a failure when they don’t hit certain life goals at a certain time (be married with kids & have purchased a house by 30).
This makes the Inner Critic goes nuts. I once heard a motivational speaker saying you should “never sleep & give 200% to your job” and I cringed. Is this good advice?
If in my bank account, I had £100 and I went to with draw £200 – guess what? I would be £100 in debt. Likewise many of us sacrifice the good things (relationships, health and meaning) for material things (money, power, status) and we end up lonely, sick and depressed and wonder why we are so miserable. It’s bad maths and it needs to stop.
What we really need is self compassion.
What Helped Me and Can Help You
With the severe illness of one of my loved ones last year, it made me realise how much I was focusing on the things that didn’t matter. Dealing with this and the demands of modern life, left me feeling exhausted, depleted and miserable. After meeting a close friend and explaining the situation to him, he said to me plainly “you’re bullying yourself into the ground – it’s time to show yourself some TLC (Tender Loving Care). I pushed myself around and thought I had to be Superman when really, I was Clark Kent. Here are some tips to help you put down your cape and relax.
My relationship with sleep became like a loveless marriage: we grew apart but had to keep together for the sake of the kids. But because I wanted to improve myself so badly, I would function on 5–6 hours of sleep thinking that I was being productive but more of the time, I was groggy, irritable and I would constantly catch the flu – even in the summer. Research has shown that sleep make sure remember more, makes you sharper and makes you happier. In other words, more productive. Nowadays I aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep and I feel so much better.
Stop Being the Hare! Become the Tortoise.
As a culture, we have become obsessed with “overnight successes” – we seemingly see celebrities, entrepreneurs and other successful people parade on TVs and think that within 6 months of learning, we should become a genius, billionaire, play boy/girl, philanthropist (HT @IronMan). But we don’t see the years of dedication and perseverance that they needed to ensure. For example:
- Actor Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) went to 600 auditions and failed before he got his big break. This took over 30 years & many times he wanted to quit – but his mother kept him going.
- Stephen King was a struggling teacher, behind on his bills, and in his spare time wrote short stories for local newspapers. At one point he got so frustrated with writing, that he chucked his first completed manuscript for ‘Carrie’ in the bin. Luckily his wife found it and encouraged him to release it and that launched his career.
I know this might seem like some motivational mush, but we all miss the point. The point is NOT the success: these people simply endured without fuss & kept going at a steady, even pace. They ran their own race. It’s the small invisible daily actions that count & I’m learning to enjoy the journey on the way. I’ve stopped trying to leap into a happy and successful life in a single bound and now I’m happy to take the stairs.
You are NOT a machine. Turn off!
My late grandmother had a farm. She would work from sun-up to sundown and that’s it. If my grandmother had a to-do list it would go like this:
- Wake up
- Water the plants
- Remove the weeds
- Harvest the crop
That’s it. The time she was not farming, would be spent time with her kids & grandchildren. She lived to her mid 90s & had a full life. I envy her life is so many ways & wonder whether if in my lifetime if I will ever get that simplicity.
As technology goes forward & the world moves faster & faster, we forget we are not like the machines that (for now) serve us. We humans need to rest, relaxation and times to stop everything. I’m guilty of this too. Be a friend to yourself rather than treating yourself like the Igor in Dr Frankenstein’s castle.
This post was inspired by 2 things:
- Monday 10th October was World Mental Health Day
- I watched a fantastic documentary by Keith Dube called ‘Being Black Going Crazy’ which highlighted the mental health issues that black people face in the UK. Mental health is a global issue and one that STILL has a massive stigma attached to talking about it. We have to get a grip on this now & we must be willing to be vulnerable.
As I leave you, there are 2 challenges I want you to consider:
1) If you are struggling with your Inner Critic or Mental Health, take the steps above & be kind to yourself. It’s easy to let our Inner Critic run our lives but I can bet my life savings that you have many talents, passions and things to be grateful for. If you still struggle, don’t be afraid to talk to someone or get professional help. 1 in 4 or us will have a mental heath issue at some point in our lives so you are not alone.
2) Show some kindness and consideration to whomever you come across in your daily life. If someone has a broken leg, we can see it & show that little bit of extra consideration, but what if someone has a broken heart? There are some people that you see everyday that are smiling on the outside but are contemplating suicide. With the stats increasing as it is, the scary thing is you may have talked to at least one person today who is suffering from a mental health issue. Your interaction with them can be life changing for good or ill.
In the words of the philosopher Jerry Springer “Be good to yourself – and each other”.
Thank you for reading. As always please leave a comment below and follow me on Twitter @karlwebdev.
See you next Thursday!