‘That inner critic voice you hear that tells you you’re rubbish, that you’re never as good as so and so, or you’ll never be good enough to do blah, is talking bollocks. It’s lying and you should never listen to it.’
– Sarah Powell
Fantastic words of wisdom dished out by Sarah Powell @thisissarahpowell at our Hearst offices on International Women’s Day this year. We regularly have guest speakers and Sarah was on point!
The concept of the inner critic is very familiar to me thanks to quite a few years of therapy. I started therapy after a difficult breakup but stuck with it because it’s so valuable and you learn so much about yourself, people, relationships and psychology in general. I now see it as an ongoing investment into mental wellness.
My therapist does a psycho-dynamic and classic psychotherapy style that helps to analyse behavioural patterns, and the inner critic and the self critical voice is something we cover a lot. So it was brilliant to hear Sarah reference this, especially as recognising your critical voice is the first step to actually being free of it and living a happier life.
Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’ but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful.
Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’, but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful. It’s usually connected to past experiences – perhaps formative years, childhood or teenage years. Understanding this has helped to soften it so it has less hold and control.
A regular therapy session might involve recognising when the old brain has reared its ugly head – it might be a confrontation at work or with a friend or an argument with a sibling or parent – and digging around to hopefully identify its roots. Then I may know why I reacted so irrationally or over-emotionally and cut myself some slack. So therapy has been a great place to learn to be kinder to myself too.
From what I understand the inner critic isn’t the rational adult brain talking – that’s why Sarah says it’s talking bollocks – but it comes from an old part of you that’s triggered when confidence, ego or self-esteem, for example, has been threatened and then it jumps in to say, ‘Ha! I told you were rubbish and no good and that nobody likes you!’
I’m now pretty good at recognising the awful inner critic – usually comparing me to the other girl in the room – so when it does pipe up, I just give it a nod but then push it firmly away and try to replace it with something more positive and helpful. I really have very little time for it these days and that’s testament to the therapy work.
My sessions are fortnightly now and still, after several years, walk away from nearly every appointment (they are 50 mins long) having learnt a little bit more about myself and better ways of dealing with things.
Sarah had a whole heap of other stuff to share about self-empowerment, confidence and just managing life in general when it feels overwhelming AF. So check her out on IG where she spills more of her inspiration for positive self-talk.
7 quotes by Kofi Annan about gender equality and why empowerment of women matters
Strengthen girls’ access to secondary, as well as primary education. Education holds the key to unlocking most of the obstacles facing girls and women — from being forced into early marriage, to vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights. How can we achieve real equality when half a million women die of pregnancy-related causes every year — causes that are entirely preventable?
Invest in infrastructure to reduce women’s and girls’ time burdens. What are the prospects for girls and women who are forced to spend half of every day gathering water, fuel and other necessities for their families?
Guarantee women’s and girls’ property and inheritance rights. How can women climb out of poverty without access to land and housing? And without that security, how can they protect themselves against the impact of HIV/AIDS?
Eliminate gender inequality in employment. And a good job is also a woman’s best protection against falling prey to trafficking.
Increase women’s share of seats in national parliaments and local government. Equality of opportunity in policy-making is not only a human right; it is a prerequisite for good governance.
Redouble efforts to combat violence against girls and women. That means leadership in showing, by example, that when it comes to violence against women and girls, there are no grounds for tolerance and no tolerable excuses.
“Whatever the very real benefits of investing in women, the most important fact remains: women themselves have the right to live in dignity, in freedom from want and from fear.”
‘Above all, I would urge the entire international community to remember that promoting gender equality is not only women’s responsibility — it is the responsibility of all of us.
Sixty years have passed since the founders of the United Nations inscribed, on the first page of our Charter, the equal rights of men and women.
Since then, study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.
No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality.
No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health — including the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation.
And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended.
But whatever the very real benefits of investing in women, the most important fact remains: women themselves have the right to live in dignity, in freedom from want and from fear.’
Selfish Mother is a brand making fabulous sweatshirts, tees and accessories stamped with power messages designed and created by Molly Gunn and various collaborations. Not only a cool addition to your wardrobe but products support a long list of amazing charities too.
My lovely friend Laura, founder of Cocoon Childbought me a Selfish Mother Y sweatshirt and popped me on her Instagram page with her gorgeous daughter Zelia.
£10 from every sale goes to Yazda, a charity that supports women from the Yazidi community in Iraq who have been through horrific abuse. I was going to add a link to Yazda charity but it seems Yazda has been shut down according to this Guardian news report, which is terrible news. As my family heritage is Iraqi I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting, thoughtful or powerful present. Whatever the charity’s situation really hope they can continue some of the work they do in Iraq in some way.
There are a heap of tees and bags celebrating women at Teespring, most carrying bold and beautiful messages. Some are available for a limited time only but this yellow Girl Power tshirt seems to be from a permanent range and 25% from every sale goes to Catalyst.org, a charity supporting diversity in the workplace. Healthista.com where I work is giving away a few awesome Teespring tees so enter hereif you fancy your chance at winning one!
Another great present from a friend (thank you Charlotte), Fifty Shades of Feminism by Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach and Rachel Holmes is a book full of anecdotes, opinions, musings and stories from female writers and opinion formers about feminism and women. It’s a book I always pick up when I have spare reading time and always feel inspired or moved by an extract I read. Highly recommended to give or keep!
I’ve heard this question come up and debated this year, which has made me think: Could it be that so many women feel they have won the rights to education, employment, birth control, career progression, etc and feel there’s fewer battles left to fight? If so, do we still need to mark this global awareness day?
Of course we do.
Part of International Women’s Day is about celebrating ‘the economic, political and social achievements’ of women (which is where gender equality criticisms come in: ‘what about men!’ in which case they can be directed to International Men’s Day) and then acknowledging the paths paved for us by women years before us, but it’s not just about celebrating success. It’s about highlighting injustices.
It’s about recognising the struggles of women still fighting because their battles have yet to be won. Because there are so many women who still need our support.
Natasha Walter, one of my favourite feminist writers and campaigners, said: ‘International Women’s Day is a chance for us to connect to women’s struggles in the UK and across the world‘. So true. Natasha founded Women for Refugee Women an amazing charity which campaigns to stop the unjust detention of women seeking asylum in the UK.
For every woman among us enjoying her (seemingly) equal life there are countless others living under real threat of violence, oppression, injustice and discrimination. Rape is still a weapon of war in so many countries. Even in our peaceful UK, two women a week are killed by a violent partner and one in four will experience violence from a male. I blogged about this last year, see here.
As long as there are horrific statistics like that, we will need to observe International Women’s Day and stand by their side.
Back in the UK, a massive 54% of domestic violence services have been forced to close since 2010. Save Doncaster Women’s Aid is a campaign to stop the closure of South Yorkshire’s last remaining support service in the district for sufferers (women, children and men) of domestic violence. Watch their video here, I think it’s great.
Their ‘Women’s Lives Matter’ campaign is still on so please sign the petition and pass it on!