The 7 little words a psychotherapist says your inner critic needs to hear


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In Disney’s fairy tale Tangled, the evil witch belts a solo about all the reasons the princess deserves to be locked away from the outside world. She’s “ditzy,” “naive,” “clumsy,” “gullible,” and altogether unfit to fulfill her dreams. My inner geek is convinced that the witch is in fact a metaphor for the inner critic. We’re trapped within a self-imposed tower built upon a shaky foundation. We ask ourselves, “What is wrong with me?” And yet, we could toss our hair out the window, climb down from the prison of self-criticism, and live our lives boldly.

Psychoanalyst and author Susan Henkels agrees. In her 45 years of talking clients through their perceived weaknesses, she has discovered that asking yourself one simple question—What if there’s nothing wrong with me?—can help quash self-limiting beliefs. “I’m not saying there isn’t anything wrong with you right now,” she said in a talk at the TEDxSedona conference. “I’m just saying, what if there [wasn’t]? Could you have more confidence and courage to do something that you’ve always been passionate about?”

Asking yourself the question doesn’t mean you’re calling yourself the living, breathing embodiment of perfection. It’s really about deleting a narrative that says you’re not enough so you can get to the good stuff. “We really do create this whole list of what we think is wrong and then create an entire life around decisions we made probably when we were five-years-old,” says Henkels. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stop fighting ourselves? If we could stop being our own worst enemy and go do something that we really, really want to do?”

“What if there’s nothing wrong with me?”

Saying peace out to your judgement is a decision you have to make every day, according to the psychoanalyst. “It’s really just a choice to let go of all you say is wrong, and choose to do something way more powerful with your life.”  To get started, she recommends standing in front of the mirror during your morning skin care routine and simply saying, “What if there’s nothing wrong with me.” It’s simple, accessible, and I can vouch that it works pretty damn well.

While I haven’t had any heart-to-heart talks with myself in the mirror lately, I have begun to interrupt my toxic thoughts with those seven simple words. I liken it to the moment in meditation when you return to your breath after getting caught up in your to-do list. Except, instead of focusing in on your inhales and exhales, you’re shushing your inner critic by circling back to a more compassionate narrative that guides you toward your untapped potential.

Avoid the comparison trap to live your happiest life. And while you’re at it, try a “complaint cleanse” too. 

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