Best Life Now

Your Guide to Positive Thinking

Learn the art of self-kindness and feel happier—and more fulfilled—every day.

Give your inner critic a name (preferably a silly one)
It's hard to take that inner voice seriously when you call it The Nag. ("Here comes The Nag again.") Brown calls hers The Gremlin. Chansky prefers The Perfectionist. "Naming it something goofy adds a bit of levity, " she says, "which helps break through the emotional hold that anxiety has on you. Over time, this short circuits the whole anxious cycle."

...While you're at it, give your rants a name, too
Johnson likes to call these inner harangues "stories." "I love calling some tirade the 'my friends are better than me' story, or the 'I don't get enough done' story," she says. "Instead of feeling like it's some kind of valid feedback, this highlights how consistent the stories are. We have pretty much the same thoughts today that we had yesterday, which should clue us in to the fact that they're habits, not necessarily truths."

Pick up the phone
Shame only works if we keep it secret, Brown says. "So if I get in the car after a party and thought I said something stupid, I pick up the phone and say, 'OK, I'm in a total shame downward spiral—here's what happened.'" She laughs. "At that moment, you've basically cut shame off at the knees. So find the courage to do the counterintuitive thing and tell someone what happened—invariably those conversations end with laughter."

Embrace your imperfections
It's enormously freeing (not to mention a huge stress reducer) to stop holding yourself to insanely high standards.

"Perfectionism is so destructive," Brown says. "I've interviewed CEOs and award-winning athletes, and not once in twelve years did I ever hear someone say, 'I achieved everything I have because I am a perfectionist.' Never!" What she hears instead? They credit their success to a willingness to mess up and move on.

So relax your standards just a little. If you give yourself the same empathy you'd show a friend, it will be so much easier to take on The Nag, and win.
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Jancee Dunn
Last Updated: March 16, 2012

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