The impersonator – how the inner critic undermines our self-esteem, and what we can do about it.
"Self-esteem comes from what you think of you, not what other people think of you."
- Gloria Gaynor
Looked so fine - felt so low
The photo above was taken in 1992 when I was 27 years old, a year after I’d arrived in Australia. I was living the high life in the fashion industry, invited to the coolest parties and clubs in town. Girls would make sure they arrived with me at events, because I was the magic card that opened every door. My partner at the time used to call me the doyen of society (I had no idea what that meant!)
On paper I had it all. I came to Australia with a handsome, loving man and had another young man from a prominent Australian family chasing me. I was paid over $10,000 for a two-hour shoot for a famous international tech brand. I appeared in music videos with the hottest local bands.
Despite having achieved everything I thought I wanted, I’d never felt so unhappy as I did then. While those around me lauded me, inside I felt deeply insecure and undeserving of my success. I was eaten with anxiety that any minute, my cover would be blown and I’d be discovered to be the fraud that my inner voice told me I was. At the core of my being, I was suffering from very low self-esteem.
So what is low self-esteem – and how does it play havoc with our lives?
Low self-esteem – toxic and common
Self-esteem simply means your own intrinsic perception of yourself. When it’s low, it matters little how much others praise or validate you – inside, you still feel worthless.
Independent not-for-profit association, Beyond Blue, says that self-esteem is a major contributor to the state of our mental health. In fact, many cases of anxiety and depression are linked to low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem is toxic – and common. In fact, I’d say that 9 out of 10 of my clients present with issues with their self-esteem. The thing is, it’s not always obvious that low self-esteem is their issue. For instance, it may manifest itself as not being able to leave a toxic relationship, or struggling to be assertive in the workplace. But when we work together and peel back the layers, inevitably, low self-esteem is at the very core.
Is low-self esteem ruining your life?
Here are some signs that your self-esteem is low:
you dislike or even hate yourself
you feel not good enough, or worthless
you compare yourself to others – and always come off worst
you feel as if no one likes you
you blame yourself or feel guilty for things that aren't your fault
you’re unable to recognise your strengths
you believe that you are undeserving of happiness
you have low or no confidence in your abilities.
The inner critic
For most of us, low self-esteem is that voice inside our heads that we’re all too familiar with – the inner critic.
The inner critic is the voice that makes us second-guess what we say and do, and how capable we are. It criticises everything we do in a way we wouldn't dream of doing to others. It judges, doubts and belittles us, and constantly tells us we’re not good enough. It hits us with a barrage of hurtful statements like: “I’m a fool.” “I’m a fraud.” “I never do anything right.” “I’m a failure.” I’m sure you can add your own list of cruel statements that your inner critic levels at you.
Low self-esteem destroys the trust that you have in yourself. It causes you to undervalue yourself. Worst of all, it fuels those crippling fears that tell you you’ll mess up if you try something new. This often causes you to give up before you really start – so you never get to live the life that you want.
A personal crisis
A few years back, when I was running a successful business, Raw Fashion Agency, I went through a really tough time after losing my biggest client. My self-confidence was shattered. I was convinced that everyone in the industry was pointing fingers at me and talking about what a failure I was. I was so terrified that if I did anything I’d mess up and lose more clients. As a result, I was literally paralysed.
During this terribly painful period of my life, my inner critic caused me many sleepless nights. However, as is always the case, this difficult time contained a valuable insight – one that I’d like to share with you.
The impersonator within
My painful business experience led me to explore how I’d let my inner critic run riot in my life, undermining me at every turn. I wondered how it had taken such a hold of me.
What I came to realise about the inner critic is that it doesn’t want to be noticed. It thrives best when you mistake it as being part of your real self.
But the truth is, none of us were born with an inner critic. That insidious voice isn’t us, but a clever impersonator made up of outside influences and programming such as other people’s criticism, expectations or standards.
The inner critic is simply all the negative, external voices that you’ve internalised. It’s just been with us for so long that’s it got very good at sounding just like us.
Evict your inner critic
The good news is that there are many ways to stop the inner critic from ruling your life – and reclaim your authentic, loving inner voice. While the critic may never completely disappear, with some simple but very effective tools you can learn to turn down the critical voice– and start living your life guided by a self-loving, compassionate voice.
Join me on Sunday, 25 March for my workshop, Self-Esteem, the layers beneath our masks!
In this two-hour workshop, you will:
identify the unique way that low self-esteem manifests in your life
meet your inner critic
identify whose voices it is that you’ve internalised
learn how to evict the inner critic.
Begin the process of healing your self-esteem today, by securing your spot in this transformative workshop.