Tips to Manage the Harsh Inner Critic

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All day someone was upset that they couldn’t play video games with their brother, someone was taking too long in the bathroom, someone wanted chicken nuggets for lunch but found the bag was put back in the freezer with only a single nugget.

Playdates were canceled, the youngest is now biting, and why is the girl child so quiet?

Doors slamming, children crying and bickering, I’m pretty sure we just missed soccer practice, and where is their father? He was supposed to be home 13 minutes ago.

I was tired. I had a mountain of laundry to do. Monitoring screen time was beyond my current capabilities, and I’m pretty sure they were on hour four of Sponge Bob or Peppa Pig.

I just wanted to have five minutes of peace to myself, but instead of hiding in the pantry to play a super-fast chug game with the bottle of wine, I go in search of my daughter who is never this quiet. My heart drops when I find her. I can clearly see portions of her scalp where her beautiful curly hair used to be. The floor is covered with dark brown ringlets that were supposed to be attached to her head. She looks at me and proudly exclaims, “I got the gum out of my hair!”

I am a therapist. Most of my clients are moms. We spend time talking about the expectations that they have for themselves and how to be kinder to themselves when they don’t live up to those expectations. At that moment, there was no amount of therapy that I could do with myself to convince me that I was not an absolute failure. I am the worst mom. What kind of parent doesn’t realize that one of their kiddos is playing hairdresser? We are supposed to have family pictures in a few weeks, what is my mother-in-law going to say when she sees this?

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Here are some tips that you can use when you find yourself listening to that harsh inner critic on a rough day:

You are going to mess up. Be gentle with yourself.

It is okay to be proud of the mom that you are while still working on becoming that mom that you want to be.

I teach my clients to NOTICE when they have those thoughts instead of trying to fight the thoughts. I have not had much success in trying to fight them. I can always find evidence that I’m a bad mom. Instead, I start to notice when those thoughts occur: I am noticing I am having the thought that I am a failure. I am noticing that I feel like I am going to scream. I am noticing that thought that I am a bad mom. Thoughts are not facts. Feelings are not facts. Thoughts and feelings are temporary.

Life is not happening to me; it is happening for me.

What lesson can I learn from this situation? I may not have asked for these life events to happen, but I can learn something from this. I learned that there wasn’t a bow on the market that hid the fact that she took a pair of scissors to her own hair and that she likely does not have a career as a hairdresser.

It is perfectly okay to be angry, annoyed, anxious, scared, or sad about a situation. These are absolutely valid feelings that we have as a response to bad things that happen to us. I want you to remember that all things (good and bad) are temporary. We are not guaranteed to have a life that is completely doom and gloom. We are also not going to have a life that is 100% rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies.

Your mistakes do not define you.  

You don’t need to be supermom who gets everything right all the time or the mom who pretends like you have your life in order. Your kids need to see you recover from your screw-ups. They look to you to see how you treat people, they watch you and mimic how you handle stressful situations. They need to see you make mistakes, own up to those mistakes, and apologize, and try again. You are going to lose your cool. You are going to say things that you regret. You will make mistakes. You are not your mistakes. Just like you are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings.

How do you recover from a rough day? Tell us in the comments below.

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