Why is it so hard to treat yourself well?

Taking care of yourself
Self-care. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

If self-care is so important, why is it so hard to do?

Good self-care is hugely connected to good mental health. Learning stress reduction techniques can improve your mental health and reduce the risk of burning out. Despite all the documented benefits of self-compassion and self-care, many people continue to push themselves relentlessly. Learning to take good care of yourself and show yourself kindness is a significant part of a happy and productive life.

Were you taught to take care of yourself?

Early life experiences set up patterns for the rest of our lives. If the people who should’ve taken care of you treated you poorly, you learned to treat yourself that way. People who have experienced abuse or neglect may have or internalize the message that they didn’t deserve to be treated well. You may have been taught that suffering was a virtue, and you find it hard to embrace happiness.

Even families that provided love and adequate care may have given you the message that you weren’t good enough. Some parents seem to think that the way to get a child to do better is to point out all their faults. There’s a myth out there that praising a child will cause them to become conceited. But if no one praised you for anything, you did well, and everything you did wasn’t good enough. You may have internalized the message that you were not good enough.

Your danger detector is turned up too high.

If you’ve grown up poor or lived in a dangerous environment, you may be on constant alert. High levels of stress hormones keep all your danger detection circuits active. When you’re hypervigilant, on a constant lookout for what could go wrong, self-soothing and self-care don’t happen.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may feel guilty about self-care. People who have adopted the high anxiety lifestyle choose to worry about everything that could go wrong in the mistaken belief that this will keep them safe. They live in a constant state of high alert. Doing anything that might lower that anxiety may make you feel guilty or unsafe.

You are too busy surviving to notice you are running on empty.

Sometimes the day-to-day struggles become so overwhelming that taking time for self-care seems like a waste of time. When life is a struggle, self-care may be something you tell yourself you don’t have time for. You may be so busy listening to your inner critic that you haven’t had time to take stock of what you need. You may not have realized that self-care was an option.

Have you turned suffering into a virtue?

Some people are so used to believing that life must be full of suffering that as soon as life goes well, they start to feel guilty. Some people just can’t bear to stop working long enough to have fun. You may have internalized the attitude that self-compassion will make you soft and weak. Taking good care of yourself both mentally and physically is not being self-indulgent.

Practicing self-compassion can be scary.

Change is usually scary, even when that change moves us in the direction of better health. Caring about yourself may be a new feeling for you. If you weren’t taught self-compassion, or those around you didn’t demonstrate it to you, it may be hard to recognize. Self-compassion is a skill you can learn. Like all skills, you may not be perfect at first, but the more you practice self-compassion, the better your life will become.

Would now be a good time to start practicing self-compassion?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Silencing your inner critic.

Criticism
Inner critic. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Is your inner critic so loud, you can’t concentrate?

The term inner critic refers to an inner voice that continually criticizes everything you do and puts you down. Most people know this is not a voice but their thoughts. Still, the negative thoughts are so persistent it feels like you aren’t in control of that inner critic.

Many people, maybe all of us, have an inner critic who tells us we’re not good enough. Your inner critic may tell you that you’re not smart enough. They may even tell you that you are stupid or an idiot. Some people’s inner critic tells them they’re too fat, too short, or too ugly.

People in artistic or competitive fields are particularly prone to attack by their inner critic. Writers and authors are often plagued by doubts about the value of their work. Athletes also know the challenges of having an overactive inner critic.

But anyone, regardless of their life circumstances, can expect a visit from the inner critic who seems to delight in destroying people’s self-esteem. Listening to your inner critic will undermine your confidence. When the inner critic talks about mistakes you’ve made, you may experience shame or guilt. Listening to the inner critic’s voice can lead to “imposter syndrome,” where people expect to be revealed as not worthy of their accomplishments.

Even highly accomplished people are plagued by visits from the inner critic who tells them that their accomplishment was an accident, they’re not that smart, or they’ll never be able to match that past achievement.

Because your inner critic lives in your own mind, you may start believing that what they tell you must be true. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

Your inner critic will oppose you.

Your inner critic will tell you that you shouldn’t try. Listening to them in the short run can keep you stuck in inaction. Over the long term listening to the inner critic can cause mental illnesses. Your inner critic would love it if you were too depressed to do anything, too anxious to ever venture out of the house, and too fearful to ever argue with them. Not taking action protects you from both failure and success.

Your thinking style may be magnifying your inner critic.

The voice of the inner critic is magnified by highly negative self-talk. Disparaging yourself, or berating yourself, activates the brain’s threat system or keeps it activated. This can keep you stuck in depression or anxiety.

Your inner critic tries to fool you with a hostile tone of voice.

That tone can be extremely cruel, harsh, and attacking. This can lead to a negative self-opinion. And may even convince you that you don’t deserve any better.

The inner critic uses cognitive distortions to fool you.

Inner critics flood your mind with unhelpful thoughts. They like to use labeling, shoulding, overgeneralizing, and other cognitive distortions to keep you stuck.

How do you fight the inner critic?

Struggling with your inner critic can be a long process. Learn thought-stopping techniques. Try to ignore what they’re saying. When your inner critic gets loud and insistent, tell them to shut up. Sometimes it’s helpful to analyze what your inner critic is saying. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.

What does the inner critic criticize you about?

Pay attention to the things the inner critic says to you. Are these areas where you need to improve your skills? Are these remnants from childhood when you never seem to be good enough? Make up a list of the common complaints of your inner critic and evaluate them for accuracy. You may want to go over this list with a trusted friend or a counselor.

What do you say to yourself?

A significant source of fodder for what your inner critic tells you are your negative self-statements. Stop saying things to yourself that are damaging. There’s no evidence that constantly criticizing yourself will spur you on to do better, and it may cause you to give up on something you could have accomplished.

Who does your inner critic sound like?

Some people’s inner critic is an internalized voice from childhood. Does your inner critic sound like a caregiver or family member? Is your inner critic impersonating a current or former romantic partner, or does it sound like someone who has abused you?

How does your inner critic make you feel?

Pay attention to how you feel when you hear the inner critic’s voice. Do those thoughts make you depressed or anxious? Do they lower your self-esteem? Is there any way in which these thoughts are helpful?

What are the long-term consequences of listening to your inner critic?

An occasional fleeting negative thought about yourself probably doesn’t matter. When the inner critic starts to talk, you can ignore them. But if listening to your inner critic is wearing you out, creating self-doubt, you need to act.

Your inner critic may be the result of mental health problems or may cause them.

Having a vocal inner critic may be a symptom of a severe mental health condition. People with various psychoses may hear voices telling them they are no good or should hurt themselves. If you have a history of trauma, the inner critic may be continuing to perpetuate that trauma. Even if you don’t have a severe mental health challenge, realize that unchallenged that inner critic will wear you out, which may lead to severe depression or anxiety.

Is your inner critic out of control?

Take active steps to silence those negative critical voices in your head. If you struggle with an inner critic and haven’t succeeded in silencing them, talk with your support system, and consider getting professional help from a counselor or therapist.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Self-Doubt – silencing the inner critic.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Low Self-esteem

Low Self-esteem.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How are you creating your self-doubt?

Self-doubt is that inner voice telling you that you can’t do this and won’t succeed at that. Many of us first entertained these visits from our inner critic in childhood when we began to experience doubts. Over time the inner critic’s voice has become so loud that any positive self-talk is quickly drowned out by the inner critic’s constant denigration.

Parents may have planted the seeds for your inner self-critic but we are all likely to have nurtured his growth. Parents used to think that the way to get more out of their children was to point out the child’s faults, expecting the child to improve the areas where they were weak. An over-reliance on criticism and fault-finding leads to the child’s belief that they are inherently defective and can’t do anything correctly.

We find that discipline-based only on fault-finding and punishment over time harms not helps. Any criticism needs to be balanced with an equal or larger amount of praise.
The more the child is criticized the faster that inner self-critic, the part of us that says we can’t do this and we will never be good enough, grows.

Over the years that self-criticism which starting from things others told us about ourselves, grows to become our belief about ourselves and the dominant story of our lives. The more you tell yourself and others this story the more fixed it becomes in your brain. Telling yourself you can’t and shouldn’t make it impossible for you to do those very things that might prove you can succeed.

Plenty of parents have tried to live through their children. The stage mothers and the frustrated athletes begin early to try to make their children into the successes the adult did not have. If parents or others in your life nurtured one part of you but dismissed another, that inner part of you that should have been was silenced by those inner and outer critics.

Having a parent who encourages and supports you has helped many a champion become what they could be. They tell the story of how that parent was there encouraging them on, through the difficult times. A good supporter tells you that if you keep trying you can do it. If you fall down a good coach tells you to get up and try again. They say “You can do this, I know you can.”

A bad coach tells you that you are clumsy and they don’t know why you are there. Eventually, you wonder that same thing and stop trying. Funny how much parents are like coaches even when they don’t recognize they are filling that role.

But having a parent that only accepts and loves you when you win, who takes your successes as validation of themselves and your losses as undermining their self-esteem, results in children who grow up to only like themselves if they win every contest they enter.

A story does not have to be true for you to believe it. Tell yourself often enough that you are a failure and you will live down to that judgment.

That does not mean that if you lie to yourself and tell yourself that you will be able to accomplish the impossible then it becomes achievable. Part of self-love is to be realistic about your abilities and opportunities.

If your inner critic has been telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something consider the evidence. Argue with that critic. Who says you can’t. Even if you won’t do it perfectly, why shouldn’t you reach for your dreams and see how far you could go if that inner voice were to tell you “YOU CAN DO IT!”

Remember that inner critic, like the inner cheerleader, they are both you. You provide the script that inner voice will read. Start today telling yourself you can and see what wonderful outcomes are possible.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel