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Silencing the Voice That Says You're a Fraud

 

By MELINDA BECK JUNE 16, 2009 wsj.com

 

....Psychologists say many of their patients are plagued by a harsh Inner Critic -- including some extremely successful people who think it's the secret to their success.

 

....

Unrelenting self-criticism often goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety, and it may even predict depression. In a study of 107 patients in the latest issue of Comprehensive Psychiatry, David M. Dunkley at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and colleagues found that those who were most self-critical were the most likely to be depressed and have difficulties in relationships four years later, even if they weren't depressed to begin with.

 

Self-criticism is also a factor in eating disorders, self-mutilation and body dysmorphic disorder -- that is, preoccupation with one's perceived physical flaws. "We have expanded what we expect of material success and physical appearance so that it's completely unrealistic," says Robert L. Leahy, a psychiatrist and director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York.

 

Many people's Inner Critic makes an appearance early in life and is such a constant companion that it's part of their personality. Psychologists say that children, particularly those with a genetic predisposition to depression, may internalize and exaggerate the expectations of parents or peers or society. One theory is that self-criticism is anger turned inward, when sufferers are filled with hostility but too afraid and insecure to let it out. Other theories hold that people who scold themselves are acting out guilt or shame or subconsciously shielding themselves against criticism from others: You can't tell me anything I don't already tell myself, in even harsher terms.

 

It's unclear whether women berate themselves more than men do -- or just talk about it more readily. "The issue with men is, we don't really know what they're thinking. They're trained not to admit to any qualms or emotional pains," says Marianne J. Legato, an internist and founder of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University. But she frequently sees men suffering from the "I'm a fraud" syndrome.

 

....

Techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy can also be helpful in changing patterns of thought that have become painful....[says psychologist Katherine Muller, director of the Psychology Training at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.] "People usually succeed in spite of their Inner Critics, not because of them."

 

Among the suggestions she and other experts offer for putting your Inner Critic in its place:

  • Monitor your thoughts. Jotting down your self-critical judgments -- I'm a loser, I'm stupid, I'm ugly -- in a journal or a personal-digital assistant is the first step to mastering them: That process alone may decrease the intensity and frequency. Also note the situations in which these feelings occur and see if you can spot patterns.
  • Evaluate your judgments. Define your terms and examine whether your standards are arbitrary or fair. If you think you're a "bad person," are you a bad person all the time? Are there times when you are adequate? Dr. Muller says patients often find that their views are internally inconsistent. "I'll ask, 'What does a loser look like to you?' The patient is picturing a guy in sweatpants sitting around the house drinking beer. I say, 'Is that what you did yesterday?' And he'll say, 'Well, no.' "

     

    Also, try to depersonalize what is really beyond your control. "Some people think, 'My portfolio is down 35% -- what's wrong with me?' As opposed to, 'What's wrong with the market?' " Dr. Leahy says.

  • Collect objective data. Challenge negative thoughts with hard facts. Keep a short list of your achievements on a note card and pull it out when your self-criticism threatens to overwhelm you. Or look back at your own CV and review what you've accomplished. "Focus on the fact that you made it as a scholarship student -- not that nobody asked you to dance for two years," says Dr. Legato.
  • Conviction or condemnation? Recognize the difference between thoughts that are critical and those that are constructive, suggests Therese J. Borchard, whose Beyond Blue blog on Beliefnet.com often deals with such issues. If you overeat at a picnic, thinking "I am a fat pig" is a condemnation, she says, whereas thinking "I'll try to start eating better tomorrow" is a conviction. Dr. Leahy agrees: "Your goal should be improvement, rather than putting yourself down."
  • Re-evaluate your values. Make sure that whatever you are beating yourself up about is worth striving for. Some goals, like kindness, integrity, and being self-disciplined, enhance the meaning and quality of life, whereas others only feed into your sense of defectiveness, Dr. Leahy says. "Some people think, 'I can get Botox and then I'll be lovable.' But the way to be lovable is to do lovable things," he adds.

Breaking the habit of self-criticism can pay big dividends in mental and physical health. "The way you see yourself can be challenged and changed, and it can literally create new neural pathways in your brain," says Dr. Legato. "And as your thinking improves, your immune system improves, your digestion is better, you don't compensate by overeating or drinking, and your anxiety levels go down."

 

You may find you have mental and emotional energy left over for many other things -- including helping other people feel better about themselves.

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124511712673817527

Edited by manymoretodays
access full article via google

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serotonin

Yeh, very good article and thats why everytime i criticize myself i also say it is not y fault!

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ladybugqt

you are not told enough, i'm sure, what a difference u make... Thank u for posting this!

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Barbarannamated

Perhaps this is why CBT has not "fit" for me. I don't relate to the points in this article.

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woof

Alto, This goes way beyond AD's and Benzo's. I found this to be extremely helpful about a myriad of aspects of life in general.

 

Thank you,

Woof

 

PS: sorry it took me so long to get my topic vs. the forums clear. :)

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Caitlin

Hi Alto

 

Thank you so much for this article !

 

I often spend my time criticizing my self.I only recently realised how much it doesn't help

 

Caitlin

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