Paul Scadding discusses the inner critic, what it is and why mums so often struggle to be kind and reasonable with themselves
Isn’t it crazy how we are so much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else? As parents, we make one mistake and it’s all we can focus on. In fact, there hardly seems to be a decision we can make correctly.
Parenting is an impossible job. There is so much scope to mess up and the stakes are so high — we want the best for our kids. We set our standards ridiculously high and when we inevitably fail to meet them, we beat ourselves up and have that little voice in our heads telling us “I told you so”. That horrible nagging, niggling voice — the one that is always doubting you and telling you you’re not good enough — is known as your inner critic. It’s a really interesting area, and at Enchanting Digital, we’re lucky enough to have an expert on the topic to answer all our questions.
The interview below was carried out with Paul Scadding, motivational speaker and Success Coach. After transforming his own life and battling his own demons, Paul took control of his life and now works with organisations and individuals to help them achieve success without stress. Paul’s focus is inner resilience, motivation and embracing change. He helps many mums out there address and silence their inner critics so they can go on to parent in a happier, more confident way.
Here, Paul discusses the inner critic, including what it is and why it poses such a problem to mums in particular.
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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you chose this as a focus for your career?
I am a coach and motivational speaker helping people to identify and overcome the limiting beliefs that hold them back from living happy, purposeful and contented lives. I struggled with anxiety and depression for over 10 years and know first-hand how hard life can be if you are plagued by constant, negative, undermining thoughts. It’s exhausting. I am committed to showing people that the key to their success is their mindset and developing an attitude that allows them to respond effectively to challenges and change through developing what I call inner resilience.
When mums started asking for my help I was like — “Um, I’m not sure asking the childless gay guy to help you is smart.”
But time and time again, mums have told me they feel safe with me as I am not another mum who could judge them, or a guy who won’t get it. If I can provide safety and support to SuperMums then I take that as the biggest compliment ever. We need to make it easier for mums to succeed. One of the ways I do that is to help them calm and conquer their inner critic so they are not losing precious energy on internal mental battles that drain them.
What exactly is an ‘inner critic’?
Your inner critic is the critical, undermining and sabotaging inner voice that puts you down and insists you are not good enough, despite proof to the contrary.
You could win an Oscar and your inner critic would tell you that you got lucky, you’re a fraud and even though you have the accolade, you’re still a bad actor. If criticism is the governing voice of your mindset, it makes it very hard to succeed at anything and feel relaxed or proud of your achievements.
Why is it so important to calm your inner critic?
You cannot fulfil your potential or be truly happy if you are self-sabotaging or giving away energy to worry, doubt and fear. Your inner critic keeps you agitated and on the go all the time, striving to balance demands in life and work and “get it right” all the time.
When we are busy and stressed, life often passes us by and we don’t get to enjoy it. If you never feel good about yourself, you are open to all kinds of damaging thoughts and habits that will ultimately make you unhappy. If you are beating yourself up, constantly doubting your abilities and undermining your decisions, you are making life harder for yourself. I know that used to be me. Life changed almost overnight when I started to take control of my thinking and changed my responses to challenges and change.
Why do mums in particular struggle with their inner critic?
Mums have SO much pressure, too many demands and unrealistic expectations placed on them, and their response is to try to be perfect and be all things to all people. I think as a society, we set mums up to struggle and fail, and I will not be part of that. I do all I can to empower SuperMums.
Do you think social media plays a role in painting this unachievable picture of the ‘perfect parent’?
Yes. Social media paints this perfect picture, and if you fall short of that, you feel that you aren’t good enough. When you’re having a hard day, you’ll see a post online and your inner critic will say, “See her? That’s how you should be. She’s a real woman. That’s a real mum right there. Look how easy it is for her — and she had time to do her makeup.”
The comparison makes you feel useless and worthless and mums are not that. Mums are powerhouses of resourcefulness, love and creativity. Pay no attention to what others are doing and focus on doing the best you can moment by moment — that’s how you succeed. Social media is not real life — it’s enhanced reality. Real life for most of the mums I support is not being able to go for a wee in peace without the kids barging in on them. One SuperMum I work with told me that her cat has learned from the kids to find her in the loo and now she never knows whether her loo break visitor will be the kids or the cat. That’s reality — put that on social media!
Do you find people with anxiety and depression are more likely to struggle with their inner critic?
Yes, if you are already feeling at a low ebb, your inner resilience — the defense you have against your inner critic — is worn down, and you feel powerless against it. Your inner critic absolutely kicks you when you’re down.
The key to overcoming any struggle is to gather your resources into taking action. That can be really hard sometimes, but when we hit the point where we say “enough is enough”, you are actually making a decision, and change can happen from there.
Is this a particular problem for perfectionists?
Perfection is not real — it’s subjective and ultimately not attainable. Perfectionists often have a brand of inner critic that tells them if they just keep working, or just skip a meal or just work out more, or whatever it is, then they will be perfect and they can relax. But once they reach that milestone, the inner critic gives them another goal or milestone to meet, so they never arrive at perfection as a destination — it’s always over the horizon.
The key is to approve of and accept yourself here and now. Build yourself up, don’t break yourself down and you will make positive changes. If criticism worked as a motivational tool, we would all be deliriously happy, right? Nurture, growth and positive change happen through love and kindness. Mums know this as they shower it on their kids. The same principle is true for us all. We need love and support as we learn and grow. We can still have standards and do a great job without having to break down or burn out.
What do you think mums beat themselves up about the most?
That they are not giving enough to their kids. I do a lot of work with mums about guilt and most of the mums are worried that they are messing up in some way and as a result will mess up their kids. Each time, I remind them that being a mum has no job description, no training manual (just lots of contradicting information), crazy, unsustainable hours on little or no sleep, no pay and often no thanks. I know the rewards are there, of course, but day-to-day can be so hard when you’ve watched Frozen 2 for the 700th time. It makes the job feel impossible. Mums will tell me all the time that they’re worriers and I tell them they’re using the wrong word: it’s spelled WARRIOR. I am in awe of mums, of their strength and resilience, and the more we all support mums, parents and families, the better kids we raise and the better the world is.
Are there any strategies we can put in place to tame our inner critics?
I teach people a 5-step approach that allows them to calm and conquer their inner critic and I’ll share one of the steps with you now.
This step is Compassion — in essence, it’s being kinder to yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and respect, which you can absolutely do because you do it for your kids, friends, teachers, co-workers, partners, in-laws and sometimes complete strangers, so extend some kindness inward. To do this, we can change our self-talk and start to use words and language that support you to succeed and feel good enough.
We’d like to say a massive thank you to Paul for taking time out of his busy schedule to have a chat and share his knowledge and experience. To work with Paul to quiet your inner critic and build inner resilience, you can catch up with him on his website, Paul Scadding. You can also follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
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