Our Inner Critics Are Always Lying in Wait: Be Ready for Them, and Counterattack

Therese Borchard’s wonderful writeup re: Unworthy at EverydayHealth.com is insightful, praiseful (thank you!) but also very moving as Borchard reveals some of her own struggles on this rocky road to recovery. I’m still blown away by this one basic but beautiful fact: Borchard recently swam 4.4 miles through the Atlantic Ocean from Annapolis, Maryland to Kent Island. However, self-esteem issues being self-esteem issues, even in the wake of this dazzling accomplishment her harsh inner critic piped up trying to spoil things. As Borchard tells us, the swim

should have given me enough warm fuzzies to fill my quota for a week. This was huge for me not only because there exists no tiki bar between the two pieces of land where you can hang out for awhile if you need to catch your breath or are feeling particularly parched. It was profound because shortly after the swim last year, I had a physical and mental breakdown from which I’m still recovering. With lingering symptoms and aberrant sleep cycles, I gave my participating in this year’s race a 50/50 shot.

I was basking in my achievement at the post-swim party when I opened my mouth and said something stupid. A guy I swim with told me a few weeks ago that he was thinking of dumping his girlfriend. When he introduced her to the group, I whispered to him, “Is that the one you want to get rid of?” There was no way she could hear, but still.

“No, I don’t. I mean, that’s rude,” he said. “I can’t believe you would bring that up here.”

Ugh. I hate myself. Why do I say such stupid things all the time? The familiar tapes of self-loathing began to play and I fought back tears. However, before I uttered the familiar “And I have failed” like the distinguished high-school teacher above, I got angry. “Look, you damn voices, you get my ear 24/7, let me have this one moment to celebrate victory. Bother me tomorrow if you want. But right here, right now, I did something that I am very proud of. Don’t try to ruin it.” The night didn’t end in a happy dance. My mind was a war zone like usual. However, that’s progress. I didn’t accept the self-hate memos blindly and cower in a corner.

Exactly. We have to take and claim our progress where we find it. Day by day.

And let us not dismiss our vast accomplishments. You need not chisel these in stone, but have you made a friend or raised a child or saved a life or swum four miles across the sea? Revel in this. It’s real.


Our Inner Critics Are Always Lying in Wait: Be Ready for Them, and Counterattack — 17 Comments

  1. Well stated, as always. “It’s real.” Quite often, the most direct, cut-to-the-chase wording is the only truly useful kind to repeat to oneself. For self-criticism, “It’s not real” can be just as important.

    It’s partially this direct, no-B.S. rhetoric that’s causing Unworthy to catch on in such a big way. I expect that more blogs/reviews along Miss Borchard’s lines will start popping up — it’s such a powerful, speaking-to-the-reader book, wonderfully devoid of new-age lingo or any other euphemistic Band-Aids.

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