I’m calling November Inner Critic Month–because we all have one–and she can be a raging bitch. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to punch mine in the face on most days, if I could only just stop listening to her so much. Last month, I was fortunate enough to meet the amazing Joanna Kleinman, psychotherapist and mom of three, who works with women to silence their inner critics once and for all. For the next four Mondays at The Medicated Mommy, Joanna will be sharing her tips for how to silence yours. And she is starting with motherhood! Make sure you subscribe below so you don’t miss any of her incredibly valuable advice!
FIVE STEPS TO DETHRONE YOUR CRAZY “BAD MOM” INNER CRITIC:
I have been waiting for the premier of Bad Moms all summer long. I have heard fellow moms talking about it for months, rallying packs of moms together to see this movie. So, I was so excited when I finally went to see it last week. I wanted to find out why it is that this movie is resonating with so many women in a way that no movie has done in years.
This movie really hit home for me, as a therapist who has helped thousands of moms struggle with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and as a mom of three kids. It also hits home with millions of moms out there who struggle with the feeling that they have no idea what they are doing, and they are not doing a good enough job.
Motherhood has become an all encompassing identity. Moms feel that it is their fundamental role in life to be the “ideal mom”–to do it all, know it all, BE it all, and make sure their kids turn out the way they want them to! This role has certainly been exacerbated by social media, which leads moms to feel even more inadequate about the mother that they are, as it certainly appears that all of their friends have the “perfect” family on Facebook!
It’s no wonder that today’s moms feel overstressed and overworked, and feel trapped in a culture of motherhood in which no matter what they are doing as moms, they are not measuring up. All of this is enough to make moms feel like they are going crazy, and then they beat themselves up for feeling crazy, which makes them feel even crazier!
So, why are we all so friggin’ crazy? Why is it that we can all relate to Kristin Bell’s character, Kiki, who fantasizes about being in a car accident that’s just enough to put her in the hospital so she can sleep and binge watch TV? It is because we are ALL overly identified with the voice of our Inner Critic, who is the voice in our mind that is constantly evaluating, judging, comparing, and telling us where we don’t measure up, what we have to fix, change, or perfect, and how we could do things better. And the more we listen to her, the crazier we feel.
Our Inner critic has us convinced that no matter what we have achieved or accomplished as mothers, no matter how much we have done for our kids, we are still not good enough! As Kiki says in the movie, “In today’s day and age, it’s impossible to be a good mom!” REALLY??!!
The PTA president, Gwendolyn, is the personification of our Inner Critic. Her character represents everything that we think we should be. She’s doing it “right.” She is the ideal woman. The epitome of perfection. And, if we keep listening to her, our inner critic’s advice about how we need to change, fix or perfect ourselves, we can finally get to the point where we feel like we’re doing it right. Except, no matter what we do and how hard we try as moms, we never, ever reach that arrival point. It’s like we’re all hamsters on the hamster wheel. Running and running and running, and still, we feel the same.
It’s time to STOP THE INSANITY! Does that mean you just let everything go, drink yourself into oblivion, slack off and throw wild PTA parties like the Bad Moms did? NO! It’s about recognizing that you are listening to a crazy person in your mind, thinking that it’s YOU. It’s about learning the difference between YOU and your crazy, delusional, perfectionistic, Inner Critic, who is the one that is responsible for so much of your suffering in your life, especially when it comes to motherhood.
Your inner critic convinces you that you have to keep doing more, being more, and knowing more, in order to feel like you are a good mom. The minute you meet her expectation of who you are supposed to be, that is quickly yesterday’s news, and she is already on to the next problem you have to solve, the next mountain you have to climb, the next milestone you have to make your child reach.
The truth is that the feelings of inner peace, joy and contentment that all moms crave, come from learning how to separate yourself from your inner critic. t’s about learning the tools to stop giving energy and attention to her attempts to improve, perfect, fix or change either yourself or your children.
Here are five tools to separate YOU from your “BAD MOM” INNER CRITIC:
1. What is the story your inner critic has been telling you about the mom that you are? Pay attention to the areas where you are struggling or suffering the most in being a mom. What are the beliefs that your inner critic is convincing you are “Truths?” Even though this may feel like the truth, you are identifying with the expectations of your inner critic, who expects you and your life to fit a perfectionistic picture. When life doesn’t fit this picture (which is often the case), your inner critic will convince you that there is something wrong, and it is up to YOU to make it right. Try catching your inner critic in the act of hustling you into believing her story. See her story as just that: A STORY! You will know when she’s trying to hustle you by watching your suffering, and all the feelings that come along with it.
2. See your inner critic’s story as repetitive mind chatter. For example, if you are angry about forgetting about a birthday party your child was invited to, how is your inner critic making you feel about yourself? Can you identify this feeling at different times throughout your life, even before you became a mother? The story of the inner critic is repetitive and unchanging. The inner critic will just keep looking for more evidence to support the story. That is how a mistake that most parents make, can make you feel like the worst mother in the world. The same feelings your inner critic creates today, are the same feelings she created when you were 8, 17, and 30!
3. How is your inner critic trying to control your children? Your inner critic needs your children to fit her perfectionistic idea of who they should be, because if they fall short of her picture, she will convince you it’s YOUR fault! She will make you feel small, inadequate, and incompetent. So, to make sure that you don’t feel that emotional pain, she will try to control and fix your kids, so that you can feel like you’re doing a good job. When your inner critic tries to fix and control your kids, it is the control and criticism that has your kids behave in ways that are the polar opposite of her expectations. When you can get your inner critic out of your parenting, and let your kids be themselves, they end up being more of the kids that you desire them to be in the first place– loving, connected, happy kids.
4. Give your Inner Critic a name that fits her personality. (Gwendolyn, perhaps?!) Notice how and when she speaks to you. Notice the body sensations she evokes in you (shoulders tense, knots in your stomach). Notice what mood she puts you in. Notice when you want to eat when you’re not hungry, sleep when you’re not tired, binge watch TV, or worse, is she in the driver’s seat of your life again? Get her out! Stop giving her the power to tell you where you’re not enough or how you should live your life!
5. What unrealistic expectations do I need to let go of so that I can surrender myself from my Inner Critic’s grip? When my 15 year-old son leaves a trail of dirty laundry and wet towels from the bathroom to his room yet again, my inner critic will chime in that he is being lazy, selfish, and disrespectful. If I listened to her, I would blast my son from here to the moon with criticism and anger. If I can let go of my inner critic, I can remember that my son is acting like a typical teenage boy. Of course, I will make him accountable for cleaning up his mess. But instead of asking him through my inner critic’s criticism and anger, I can ask him from my calm and centered self. And I assure you, when I am parenting him instead of my inner critic, my son is a completely different human being!
The bottom line is this: The only thing that makes you feel like a bad mom, and then try to do more and be more to feel like a good mom, is your automatic habit of listening to your Inner Critic, and thinking that it is YOU. The more you practice separating yourself from the grip of your inner critic, the less crazy you will feel, and maybe you can recognize the mother that you REALLY are and why that’s good enough!
BIO: Joanna Kleinman is a psychotherapist and founder of The Center For Extraordinary Relationships In Cherry Hill, NJ. She has been in private practice for over 20 years, inspiring individuals across the country to live lives they love. The philosophy of her work is that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships with ourselves and others. Through in person counseling, online virtual counseling with people across the country, and her nationally acclaimed workshop series “Dethroning Your Inner Critic”, Joanna has helped thousands of people to transform the quality of their relationships, the confidence by which they live their lives, and to create a permanent shift in how they experience themselves. These shifts are the result of an innovative and transformational approach in which stress, overwhelm and dissatisfaction can be altered, by learning to separate oneself from what she calls the “Inner Critic”; the voice in the mind that has been speaking to all of us all day, every day, for most of our lives. In understanding how this voice keeps people stuck in old identities, beliefs, patterns and behaviors, she has helped countless individuals, couples, and families let go of the past, redefine the future, and create breakthroughs in the quality of their relationships and their lives. Joanna has been a contributing writer for The Huffington Post, Women’s Health Magazine, Courier Post, South Jersey Mom Magazine, Parent.co, and Parents.com. She has been sought out as an expert motivational speaker for companies including Campowerment, Virtua Hospital’s Annual Women’s Conference, and the National Association of Women Business Owners. Joanna also served as a crisis intervention specialist and has worked with major corporations including Cigna Behavioral Health, Kantor Fitzgerald, Commerce Bank, Fleet Securities, and the U.S Navy. Joanna lives in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband of twenty years, and her 3 children.