Does your inner critic drive you or get you down? Do you swing back and forth between being overly self-critical and giving yourself way too many passes?

In this episode, I’m joined by professional counselor, Nancy Jane Smith, who wrote the book The Happier Approach: Be Kind to Yourself, Feel Happier and Still Accomplish Your Goals.

In the book, Nancy explores the voice in our head that talks the loudest. She calls this voice the Monger and it tricks us into beating ourselves up to become a better version of ourselves.

Nancy says that we all have this Monger voice in our heads—only that for some of us, this voice talks louder than for others. And also at certain times in our lives, we may find the Monger tries to take over more than usual.

Nancy and I talk about the happier approach, a simple way to quiet our Mongers, be kinder to ourselves, while also achieving our goals and intentions. We also talk about the mistake we make when we attempt self-compassion, and the more productive approach we can take instead.

Highlights of Episode 55

  • The 3 voices (Monger, BFF, and Biggest Fan) that are in our heads
  • Why and when does the “Monger” talk loudest
  • How to recognize the “BFF” and your “Biggest Fan”
  • What you can do when the Monger has taken over
  • The typical mistake we make when we attempt self-compassion

Mentioned in this episode

• • •

Key Points

Do we secretly depend on our inner critic?

Nancy: For some people — and I was of them — we believe that we need the Monger to get stuff done because the Monger motivates us to do things. I believed I was more productive because I had this voice telling me, “Keep going, keep going, keep going. You’re a loser if you don’t keep going.”

For years I kept hearing messages around self-love and radical self-acceptance. I didn’t know how to do that. I thought that I’d end up being a lump on the couch not getting anything done. Because my idea of self-compassion was to give myself a ton of breaks and do nothing.

There’s another character in my model I call the BFF. The BFF is the one that gives us a break all the time. “Go ahead have that third drink. It’s okay to eat all the kids’ Easter Candy.”

And so we have this combination of the Monger that’s pushing us and pushing us and pushing us. And then we have the BFF that says, “Ugh, stop listening to that voice. It’s okay.” And we consider that to be self-compassion. In reality, it just keeps us stuck in an argument between those two voices.

What are telltale signs that our Monger has taken over?

Nancy: The hardest part about the Monger is it’s so familiar. We may hate how it makes us feel, but we’re so used to the voice that we’re no longer aware of it. It’s just the voice we hear in the background all the time.

I have seven telltale signs in the book. I want to go through three of them here.

Telltale sign #1: “I got this.” In the book, I talk about Samantha and a situation at work. Her boss noticed that she may have an overloaded schedule and suggested she asked for help. She’s like, “Nope, I got this. I totally got it.” She got hyper-controlling, trying to get everything done by herself. She didn’t reach out to people. She was just militant about her to do list. That’s her Monger saying, “Hold on to control, keep moving forward. We can do this. You’re a loser if you ask for help.”

Telltale sign #2: A 10 reaction to a 2 situation. This weekend I was hanging out with my family and I got a little triggered by my brother and I just went off on my husband about it. The thing was, it was so minimal. It was a “2 situation”, but I took it to a 10 reaction. It could be that you messed up a deadline at work but you react like you’re going to get fired and it just snowballs from there. So anytime you have a 10 emotional reaction, it’s time to check if your Monger has been running you all day.

Telltale sign #3: Numbing. Anytime you’re drinking excessively, or excessively playing video games, or excessively eating, it’s usually time to check in and see if the Monger is running the show.

What can we do when we realize that the inner critic has taken over?

Nancy: In the book, I talk about ASK, which is my strategy for dealing with the Monger.

Step 1: Acknowledge what you’re feeling. Be okay to say, “I’m feeling angry at my co-worker for missing this deadline” or “I feel sad that I’m in this job that I hate.” In our culture, we’re often told to simply be grateful and soldier on. We’ve taken it to the extreme so that we don’t even acknowledge what’s really going on.

Step 2: Slow down and get into your body. This can be as simple as touching your toes. I’m not telling people to do five-minute meditations. The important thing is to get out of your head and get in touch with your body.

Step 3: Kindly pull back to see the big picture. Step back. It’s important to see the big picture because the Monger usually puts these blinders on us so that everything is black or white. I’m a good person or a bad person. When in reality there’s a lot more at play than good or bad.

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