“Esther, you’ve just listed things that you haven’t done well,” someone tells me at work. “I feel like you’re criticising yourself.”
Soaring crashing music. A montage of scenes of me interacting with people flash before your eyes. It’s the time of the movie where the main character (me, in this case) comes to an epiphany.
I was supposed to be telling people my strengths. But it’s slapped me in the face that my inner critic isn’t just in my love life. This inner critic is EVERYWHERE.
Not only have I been self-sabotaging my love life, but perhaps my professional career too?
I had been starting to think that I could identify my inner critic because it would always use the words ‘not pretty’ or ‘not interesting’. They were two words that my inner critic was hyperfixated on. But now, I realise that it’s a part of me all the time.
I talk shit about myself all the time.
Whenever anyone asks:
- business is always going terribly
- My studying is always shit
- Nothing is happening in my life
I talked shit to someone about how I was going to do terribly in my last assessment I had for the Open Polytechnic (I have now got a Certificate in First line Management!). I told them I hadn’t prepared for it, I was going to do terribly, my grades were going to be bad. The person told me maybe I should seek academic help from the Open Polytechnic.
… this is painful for me to say but I got 99% on that fucking assessment. I don’t have a student loan because I got a scholarship for academic excellence in high school to go to uni free and had to maintain a B average. I had become one of those piece of shit kids that moan about how they were going to fail only to get the best score in the class.
I never understood the phrase ‘I am my worst enemy’. Like I fully believe that no-one cares for me more than myself. But also – I now am the person that talks the most shit about myself. In my head, to other people.
How many opportunities had I missed or not gone for, because my inner critic had convinced myself I wasn’t smart or good enough? How many relationships could I have had, money that I had made, things I had achieved? Even with this blog, it’s a constant struggle with my inner critic saying every I second type, ‘everyone will think you’re so crazy and insecure and EXTREMELY UNATTRACTIVE. No-one likes an insecure girl’.
I don’t think it’s helped by NZ tall poppy syndome – you don’t tell everyone what you did great, you just stay humble or else it’s totally arrogant.
Unfortunately it plays out real time in front of my therapist (MT) today. She asks me to list three things I did good today.
Me: I cleaned the carpet after I spilled chocolate protein shake on it.
Instantly, my inner critic (IC) springs to life. So fucking what? My room is so messy. My house is messy. I will never be one of those tiktok girls doing a Sunday reset with window sills you can eat from. I am so gross.
I actually can’t believe how fast I can think of something to bounce back on.
Me: I listened to someone I find annoying talk even though they’re like my least favourite person at the moment.
IC: You are being such a bitch. This person probably doesn’t have any friends. They might even be neuro-divergent and noone has a problem with them but you.
“Voices in my head” never meant anything to me – I thought they were just all my thoughts. But at this session I could really see that there were two sides, and separating them into an ‘inner critic’ finally made me see the war in my head. I just naturally always listened to my inner critic, thinking it was me.
But now that I am trying to answer the question, it’s like both sides are battling to get to the microphone of my thoughtwaves: me, trying to actually answer and doesn’t like shouting and pushing and says please and thank you, and the inner critic who is elbowing and screaming to try include something shit about myself captured : ‘I cleaned the carpet BUT my house is messy.’ ‘I went somewhere I didn’t want to BUT it was the bare minimum’.
MT tries to stop this ‘not pretty’ ‘not interesting’ thing that I keep saying. Also I think it’s funny that I also always refer to not being able to talk to guys as “boys” like I am a teenager: it’s like total Fruedian shit that my inner critic, who really blossomed when I was in high school, is so in control.
MT: “There are so many different interpretations of pretty and interesting. I could find someone so attractive that you don’t think is at all. And what I find interesting is different to what you find interesting. And that’s the same with everyone, you don’t know what another person might find interesting or attractive.”
MT asks me how I feel when I talk shit about myself. Honestly, it feels like being normal. When I say something I do well, it’s like bragging, and then my inner critic makes me normal again. Unfortunately this is me finding comfort in the inner critic, which is why it’s so powerful.
I start doing a pretty little cry, like tears gently rolling down my face like in this sad movie of my life you’re watching, and MT asks why.
This is where if you cried in front of your friend, they’ll try make you feel better and keep giving you compliments. When actually, when you have an inner critic like me, the compliments don’t really help since you don’t believe them: they’re fake, they’re not real, they’re just trying to get you to stop crying.
This is why therapy is so good. Because it really can push yourself to see how irrational you’re thinking.
I’m crying because my IC is screaming at me about how it isn’t true. Logically it all makes sense. I once had an amazing conversation about politics and world history with someone that my friend thought was sooo boring and moved away. But my IC is absolutely dominating my thoughts, screeching
BUT NO-ONE WILL EVER FIND YOU INTERESTING. NO ONE WILL EVER FIND YOU PRETTY IN ANY STANDARD. YOU THINK SOME BOY AT A PARTY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT BOOKS, CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY POLITICS, THE ROYAL FAMILY GOSSIP AND HOW HAILEY BIEBER STALKED JUSTIN TO MARRY HER?? BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN.
I’ve always known something about me that haunts me.
That all the boys I’ve hooked up with and my ex – I’ve always been drunk. Not just tipsy – but drunk to the point where I don’t really remember the first conversation. My main thoughts at the time are ‘where can I get another drink’, ‘this music sucks, how do I change it’, ‘I need to pee’.
I think of all the blurry conversations I do remember: I once talked about ‘our’ future children with this random guy in France and he loved it – I remember feeling such a sense of connection, like – he’s talking about our children too!! I’ve never had a conversation like this. I was too drunk for my inner critic to come out at all and say it was weird, because tbh, even sober me thinks it was.
MT says that is great that I’ve recognised that, and that I need to be carefree Esther more without being drunk.
We’re getting near the end of the session. MT asks me to remember that it’s just an inner critic when I approach someone. I try to imagine myself going up to someone I find hot. The house is dark with spots of orange light. Some DnB tune is playing that no doubt some guy has hijacked the speakers trying to show off his “superior” music taste. I’m walking down a cramped hallway with wooden floors, avoiding people in denim jackets who are talking and clutching pastel tins in their hands. I get up to this mystical man who looks like Taytalkstrees.
This time the tears are the ugly sobbing. With only 5 minutes to go, I’ve timed my mental breakdown at the end. I have come to a second epiphany: I am TERRIFIED of talking to men.
The feeling I get is FEAR. I instantly want to turn around and hide in the bathroom or say nothing. It’s flight or fight, I don’t even want to open my mouth to say hi – I am terrified.
I honestly didn’t know it went this deep. I am not scared of all guys – my safety are the taken ones, the ones I feel like I have no shot with or aren’t interested in – but guys that I am actually interested in, who I find hot, single or available have me literally booking an uber to escape if I’m not drunk. I’m so, purely, scared, and that’s when the inner critic comes out as the single voice. Logical me has left the building. It’s IC’s job to talk about how fat I look in this dress, how I have nothing interesting to talk about and steer me back to my friends or back home where I feel safe. It’s truly a protection thing.
And I’m so sad that the fear is so pure, so deep: it’s nothing but fear.
Unfortunately, that means next time we’ll be talking about my #daddyissues because it has to come from somewhere.
We go over time because I’m trying to pull myself together. It make me very, very, very sad.
But meanwhile, MT has assigned me homework where I have to write down three strengths about myself everyday and since I need to admit that I am actually very good at homework, here it is for today.
- I made okonomiyaki with a cabbage today = curiosity!
- I wrote this blog even though it’s a Saturday and I would rather be relaxing! = self driven!
- My flatmates’ cats are starting to like me a lot more, including the one who doesn’t really like people! = loving, giving off relaxing vibes
- And one bonus one: I’m getting so many readers and messages! Thank you so much for reading. You are all so lovely and understanding and I am so happy and warm from them!