Have you tried diets, exercise, and vitamins to boost your energy but find you’re still at a loss? You may need to look at the big hidden energy drain that can be zapping your mojo: self-criticism.
We all know that little voice inside our head that tells us we’re wrong or not “enough” somehow – not working hard enough, giving enough, being enough, succeeding fast enough… It turns out that this all too familiar self-critical dialogue is actually linked to exhaustion and adrenal fatigue.
Research scientist Kristin Neff identified that the area of the brain that’s activated when our inner critic is getting loud is the very “fight or flight mechanism” that turns on to help us escape danger. At a base level, we perceive the notion of getting rejected or kicked out of our tribe as a real emergency so we kick on our inner analyst to spot where we’re going wrong and how to redirect ourselves.
Of course, on one level, that inner voice is necessary to steer us toward maintaining our integrity and harmony in life. If we don’t see where we’re actually falling short we could lose relationships or jobs that matter to us.
The problem? Over time self-criticism can become our default mode – our go-to. Not only that but often we don’t just spot the area where we need improvement, we perseverate on it, playing it over and over again. Eventually, the “fight or flight” mechanism remains chronically on, pumping out adrenaline and wearing us down.
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking: “but I need that voice to motivate me.” Think again. Evidence reveals that this inner monologue in fact only serves to increase your anxiety and deplete your energy. Motivation just as readily can spring from self-confidence and ease minus the down-side.
So how can you boost your Qi and ditch the energy drain? Here are two major antidotes I teach my clients to break the self-criticism spiral.
Calm your body
Typically people kick into critical mode then try to talk themselves out of it with little success. Before you can talk yourself into a different mindset you have to first stop the alarm bells in your brain that signal danger. Next time you’re spiraling try this remedy. Put your hand on your heart (this gesture releases oxytocin the calming hormone) and take a few deep breaths imagining you can breathe in and out of that heart center. These gestures restore your body’s sense of ease by activating your parasympathetic “relaxation” nervous system. Now you can flip the script.
Find a compassionate voice
You know you wouldn’t speak to anyone else the way you do yourself. Words like “get over it,” “stop being such a baby” “or you’ll never get this right” simply don’t feel good and never help. You just wind up feeling shutdown, worthless, or ashamed. Instead, acknowledge what’s happening- and as a good friend would- find a kind honest response to what you’re experiencing like: “I know you’re afraid which makes you clumsy. But just breathe and trust that no matter how this goes you will work it out.”
Through learning to find your center and become your own friend you will not only gain energy, you’ll be surprised at just how motivated you are to shine.
Vanessa Scotto, MTOM, MCP is a Life Coach, Writer, and Speaker focused on Peak Living. She received two Masters’ degrees in Chinese Medicine and Counseling Psychology, training as a Life Coach, and has successfully supported hundreds of clients over 15 years in living their best lives. Her work blends Neuroscience, Psychology, Eastern Wisdom, and humor.