This is a guest post by Kyla Sokoll-Ward. Read About the Author of What I’ve Learn From My Fear Voice below to find out more about her work.
A fear voice. We’ve all got one. Some call it your inner critic, others refer to it as the ego; my favorite term is “inner mean girl”. Because that’s exactly what she sounds like.
If you’re not sure if you’ve got an inner mean girl, she’s the voice you hear speaking up whenever you’re approaching a new group of people and she reminds you that they’ll never like you; the voice that exhausts you at your job because you always need to do more more more; the voice that says you’re selfish if you do something nice for yourself.
Oh, she also loves to give her two cents about your appearance. Maybe some of this sounds familiar…
You’ve really let yourself go. Look at the cellulite on your arms! Disgusting.
I can’t believe you’re going to eat a cupcake. Better make up for it later because you can’t afford to be gorging yourself with sugar.
Your abs should really be more toned. You’re clearly not doing enough at the gym.
Not very nice, is she? Anyone who has ever struggled with disordered eating will tell you that they were ruled almost entirely by their fears. Fears of being fat, unhealthy, imperfect, unloveable, you name it. These fears can become so intense that they take up all of our energy. We spend all day listening to our inner mean girl and never considering the more compassionate voice of our innermost goddess – our true Self.
This was the case for me for years. I was so terrified of shining my light because I knew how badly rejection could hurt. Appearing to be anything other than “chill” was not an option because I didn’t want to seem too emotional, even though I am, by nature, a feeler. More than anything, my inner mean girl was there to remind me of all the ways that I’m not good enough because of how (she perceived) my body looked.
Eventually, after lots of time working through the windy road of recovery, I was able to call a truce with my inner mean girl because I realized this one essential truth: She is just trying to protect me. Sounds weird, right? How could this evil little voice possibly be trying to help? Well, she’s here to keep your deepest fears from becoming reality. And she’s pretty good at it – if you have a fear of being “unhealthy”, she’ll harass you into becoming the healthiest person you know – fast.
It’s hard to walk around all day listening to a track of self-criticisms. Which is why I now have a toolkit of how to handle any inner mean girl attack.
1. Question everything she says, and go deep.
Your fear voice speaks up at times when she feels threatened or that her deepest fears are being exposed. For example, if she notices you’re gaining weight, you may hear her spewing negative comments about your thighs. Here is where the magic happens – ask her, “What are you really afraid of?” You may discover that it’s not the weight gain per se that frightens her, but rather she has a fear of being overweight because she thinks that means you’ll be ugly, which means you’ll be unloveable. And being unloved is certainly something to be afraid of! With these inner dialogues, it’s important to always ask your inner critic, “Is this true?” Is it true that if you gain 3 pounds that you’re fat? Is it true that being fat automatically makes you ‘ugly’? Is it true that if you became ‘ugly’ overnight that no one would ever love you? You may just find that what your inner critic has been telling you all along is just a bunch of dramatic nonsense!
2. Let her in on your feelings.
Your inner mean girl will do anything to keep you from deeply experiencing negative emotions because she thinks that they’ll destroy you. But she also doesn’t mind putting you in a pot of shame for being imperfect. She doesn’t want to get all mushy-gushy with you; she just wants you to be perfect, nonemotional, cool, and together all the time. That’s why she tells you to eat a cookie after a hard day because it’s a quick way to avoid feeling stressed, but then she immediately calls you fat and tells you to hit the gym so you can avoid “feeling fat” (her way of saying you’re unworthy of love). Here’s a good exercise to try: Whenever you feel a bad emotion coming up, and your fear voice is telling you to exercise, food restrict, binge eat, whatever – sit down and identify where the emotion is in your body and what color it is. This separates you from the emotion and allows your inner mean girl to experience the emotion with you, letting you both know that feeling it won’t destroy you.
3. Separate her from you.
This is very important! This voice is not you, but rather a coping mechanism that you developed (at a very, very young age) to protect you from getting hurt. Notice how I’ve used the words “she” and “her”? That’s because she’s entirely separate from you! From the seat of your true Self, you would never say anything cruel or hurtful, even if you think it’s motivation to become a better person – it’s not.You’ve got better tools to love yourself now!
You’ll never get rid of your inner critic, but it’s important to understand what triggers her and how afraid she is of the scary stuff in life. She’s very primal; she doesn’t know that there are better coping mechanisms out there besides shame, so you’ve got to show her. It’s your turn to take the wheel and let her know that the ‘bad’ stuff isn’t all that bad, and that you’ve got this!
About the Author of What I’ve Learned From My Fear Voice
Kyla Sokoll-Ward is a health coach who teaches women to free themselves from food rules, embrace their bodies, and listen in on what their intuition has got to say. After years of beating herself up for her lack of both “willpower” and 4-pack abs, Kyla decided it was time to give food a break from ruling her life. Once she discovered intuitive eating, the beauty of meditation, and her gorgeously soft tummy and hips, she knew she had to help get the word out about how amazing this level of self-love could feel. If you want in, join Kyla for her (free!) email mini-course, Embrace Your Bod. Details can be found on her website or Instagram.