Don't you just love Marie Kondo?
I’m catching up with the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo when I go to the gym (it helps me do longer sessions on the cross-trainer) and I'm loving the happy declutter-induced transformation. It's just as heart-warming as Marie’s gentle, joyful smile.
“Discard everything that does not spark joy”
What a great motto. If you have ever decluttered a drawer, a room, or your entire home, you’ll know that sense of release you get from having let go of the old and making way for the new.
I cried all the way to the dump
Having decluttered three times in the last four years, I’ve always found it emotionally challenging. The last time, I stuffed my Land Rover full of unused MIMI packaging and cried my heart out all the way to the dump, sobbing as I tipped empty cardboard boxes into the giant recycling crates. God knows what the guys around me must have thought, but it had to be done.
Maybe you’ve got a kitchen drawer you can’t quite open because it's stuffed with take-away menus and pens that don’t work…ask Marie to help you declutter your home.
I’m here to help you declutter your headspace, baby.
Why decluttering our headspace is a good thing
Which of these common self-critical thoughts have you had?
In all the years I’ve been working as a psychologist, dating back to 2001, the one most remarkable thing I’ve come to understand is how uncreative our Inner Critic is.
Regardless of our cultural heritage, socio-economic background, education level, or indeed the fact that we’re all unique, our Inner Critic says the same negative things about us. Do you recognise any of these?
I don’t deserve a promotion / success/ be wealthy / love
I’m not the kind of person who gets what they want / finds love
I’m a rubbish manager / mum / dad / writer / artist / neighbour
I’ll never be good enough / clever enough / slim enough / fit enough
Add your own here…
These are such horrible things to think aren’t they? I bet you wouldn’t dream of saying these to someone else. Yet we carry these beliefs around with us all of the time.
A few more question for you...
How long have these thoughts been holding you back for?
In what ways has your Inner Critic prevented you from doing or having the things you want in life?
How does your Inner Critic make you feel?
Which specific beliefs would you like to declutter right now?
Why we hold onto unhelpful negative beliefs
We all have an Inner Critic. It’s normal. I want to remind you: your brain is wired to protect you. It is preventing you from situations where you might humiliate yourself, make mistakes, or fail (e.g. going for the promotion, starting the business, dating again etc.).
And of course, you don’t want to humiliate yourself, make mistakes, and you definitely don’t want to fail at something. It’s totally normal to feel the fear and avoid it as much as possible. So you stay put. You stay safe. And your Inner Critic has won. Again.
Or you might be the kind of person who pushes on through despite the Inner Critic. You’re determined to achieve your goals so you put your head down and focus. BUT your Inner Critic is so loud you’ve not really been able to enjoy your journey or celebrate your success.
While you often question what other people do and say, you rarely question what’s in your own head. Most of your thoughts are unconscious, they become your beliefs, that determine your behaviour and so ‘hey presto!’ you learn to live by them.
Some of your beliefs are helpful, these guide your moral judgement. Other beliefs are not and can actually hold you back from getting on with stuff and living your ‘dream’ life (refer to your own list of self-critical thoughts).
3 steps to Declutter your headspace
1. Own it
When I ask my clients to voice-record or write their Inner Critical thoughts, I get a brief questioning look. They’d prefer me to tell them how to ignore, silence, conquer, banish it all together, in an instant!
But, I’ve learned through personal experience, that the harder you fight to get away from your Inner Critic, the stronger it becomes.
So, the first step is to get to know it better. There’s power in acknowledging it, so tune in to it with an open and curious mind. For one week, write down absolutely everything it says. Once you can see it on paper the rational part of your brain, the neocortex, will help you to analyse it.
2. Befriend it
I want you to get to a place where you know your Inner Critic so well that you know where it comes from (e.g. is it something your mother once said, or friend said as a joke that you took to heart?). The better you get at unpicking it and understanding why you say these things to yourself, the easiest it will be for you to thank it for trying to protect you.
3. Redefine it
Review the specific thoughts you have. Examine the language – I don’t, I can’t, I’ll never, etc. Now try this reframing exercise where you replace the negative words for positive ones, starting with the first phrase…
Inner Critic: I’m not, I can’t, I’ll never etc.
Positive Reframing: I choose, I can, I will, I want to, I deserve, I’m looking forward to, I’d love to at least try...
I don’t deserve a promotion = I do deserve a promotion
I’m not the kind of person who gets promoted = I am the kind of person this company needs
I’ll never be fitter = I choose to go to the gym
Then build on the whole sentence turning self-criticism into self-belief
The better you become at noticing your Inner Critic, the louder it will seem. I have to remind my coaching clients, and the people on my free 5-day challenge that teaches you how to Tame Your Inner Critic, that being more consciously aware of your Inner Critic takes you a massive step closer to being able to manage your reaction to it. Remember, it’s just a sign that you’re becoming excellent at noticing!
Huge benefits & long-term rewards
Getting down 'n' dirty with your Inner Critic may feel uncomfortable and icky or downright emotionally draining. That's totally normal.
It's taken me a few years to undo all the negative beliefs I was holding about myself. But it brings with it huge benefits and long term rewards, to me, my partner, my friends and clients.
I can proudly say that I'm more confident in my ability, more grounded in who I am and what I stand for, and I no longer wake up at 4am fretting about something that will never happen.
A smooth transition to confidence
My own transition means that I'm better equipped to help others declutter their headspace and reclaim their confidence. It's a deep process, and an arduous journey to take on your own. It can be made smoother with a lot of support and encouragement form someone who's on your side (let me know if I can help).
Jess Baker is a Chartered Psychologist, Women’s Leadership Coach, and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.
She works across a range of industries designing and delivering leadership development programmes for large corporate clients, and wants to help empower a much wider audience of women ready to step into their light.
Jess is a passionate coach, and an engaging facilitator. She is often quoted in women's magazines, has trained in stand-up comedy, and enjoys speaking at wellbeing events across the UK.
She is also a Trustee of BelEve UK, helping to empower girls aged 8-18 through leadership programmes in schools and communities.