When I was in college, my classmates all went around in a circle over lunch labeling what kind of bread we would each be...if we had to be a certain kind of bread. (Yes, these are the kinds of things that amused us at 19.) When it came time for me to be labeled, I remember one of my classmates responding without hesitation, and with the utmost confidence, “White Bread. For sure,” followed by an immediate, almost victorious, resounding array of concurs.
I have a visceral imprint of what I felt in that moment. My chest actually just collapsed a bit in typing this. Was that really what people thought of me? And if so, what did that mean?
“Do I have no personality? Am I bereft of any sense of individuality? Is there no redeeming or even slightly interesting thing about me?”
Enter Self-doubt, Shame, Embarrassment, and Deflection. My Inner Ugly Critics. They’ve been taking up space in the darkest and most judgmental corner of my mind ever since. Think Inside Out, but without the cute looking and uplifting Amy Poehler side kick.
To be fair, I don’t think my classmates were trying to be hurtful, and I don’t think they were necessarily wrong. Looking back over my childhood, I can identify many times when I just tried to blend in, not take up too much space, and avoid anything that might invite criticism or confrontation. Please God, ANYTHING but confrontation! Life just seemed easier if you didn’t rock the boat.
Funny thing about not rocking the boat though... is that it can come off as boring. Bland. White Bread.
Of course, that isn’t to say I was just a lonely appeasing pacifist loser. I had friends in college - and have had friends since, thank you very much - it just meant that my social circle was smaller (MUCH smaller), and that it took a whole lot of trust and time for me to let anyone through the well crafted exterior of my personality.
My Inner Ugly Critics have been hanging around for a while now.
Whispering to me:
“Don’t try for something too hard, you don’t want to seem difficult.” -Self-Doubt
“Don’t ask for too much, you don’t want to seem needy.” -Shame
“Don’t act too weird, you don’t want to scare people away.” -Embarrassment
“Don’t emotionally invest too much, you don’t want to be disappointed.” -Deflection
But about four years ago I hit what I would call my personal rock bottom. I found myself at a place in my life where I felt utterly isolated, depressed, and directionless. It didn’t help that I was also coming off of a serious breakup. As if in an instant, I woke up and discovered that my inner critics had silenced me for so long, that I had become a shell of a person. White Bread Extreme, if you will.
Immediately (well, not immediately exactly, but in one of the moments where I was a crying puddle of a mess on the bathroom floor or thereabouts) I made the conscious decision to start turning the volume down on my inner critics. And it hasn’t been easy. It took lots of honest conversations with friends and family, personal reflection, ample moments of self compassion, grace and time... lots of time.
But I’m still here. And I can honestly say I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.
I’m not writing this to tell you anything you don’t already know. Emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological pain impacts us all the time. It’s moments from our past or childhood, like my bread story, that we hold onto that inevitably impacts the way we show up in the world. It’s part of what makes us human. It’s part of what makes every one of us...well, us.
I’m just writing this to share my experience and highlight that you don’t have to be held captive by your pain or your Ugly Inner Critics.
YOU get to decide how you engage with the world and yourself. I fear that the trauma and whispering voices never fully go away, but in making a concentrated effort to adjust their volume we take back our power and our true voice.
You know that phrase, “Shine your light”? I hear people say that all the time. Heck, I say it all the time! “Shine your light and attract all that is compelled and amazed by it’s beauty.”
I think that’s what quieting those voices is. It’s you rising above the past and above the inner demons and showing up in the world as authentically as possible despite them being there. That’s your light. And it is beautiful.
Oh yeah, and I know what kind of bread I’m am!
Walnut Raisin bread.
Because I’m a little nutty, strong (frustratingly so at times), and I tend to be on the sweeter side. And if you don't agree, you can get over it.
In love and gratitude,
Holistic Health & Wellness Coach
Lindsey is a Carnegie Mellon University classically trained actress and IIN graduate living and working in New York City. She is also the holistic health and wellness coach behind HealthyBelly Coaching. Lindsey's passion for health and wellness began years ago as a result of confronting her own struggles with weight, self-esteem and body image. Today she is a lover of nutritious and delicious foods and an advocate of daily practices to love your body back. However, Lindsey has continued to see dietary fads and nutritional confusion hold others back from realizing their best selves. This realization and her own journey to personal happiness is the inspiration behind the HealthyBelly Coaching mission: To help others discover their most happy, healthy, and vibrant selves. She believe everyone deserves to live an abundantly joyful life, and that good health is an essential element to making that a reality.