Sabotaging your marriage can come from a culprit you’ve maybe never thought of—your inner critic. Part of my job is speaking at events. For years, after speaking, my inner critic immediately, hurtfully, and hatefully told me everything I should and shouldn’t have said on stage. I call my inner critic Fred, Fred in my head. Fred is a jerk. Fred feels total freedom to speak to me, however, wherever, whenever, and on whatever topic he likes. And his voice can increase my anxiety and make my ADHD even worse.
Over the years, as I’ve written and spoken about Fred, I’ve found I am not alone. To varying degrees, most of us have a Fred. I’ve also found most people don’t think about their Fred and live as if everything he says is true! But it is so important to have daily dealings with your Fred because what you think about yourself radically determines how your wife experiences you—and that radically affects your marriage. But I found a proven and simple exercise that keeps Fred from sabotaging your marriage. Here are 4 steps to help you put Fred in his place.
Step 1: Name your Fred.
I want to encourage you to bundle your negative thoughts about yourself and give him or her a name. You can call yours Fred if you like. I’m certain Fred is agreeable to franchising. Or you can give her or him a name that has meaning or humor to you. Giving him a name is one of the most powerful things you can do to battle Fred. It simultaneously makes him more and less important. Naming him helps acknowledge the importance of your thoughts, while also separating those thoughts from who you really are. At the same time, naming him also helps make him a joke, and for many of us, humor heals. Now it’s your turn. Write down the name of your Fred.Sabotaging your marriage can come from a culprit you’ve maybe never thought of—your inner critic.
Step 2: Write Fred’s messages to you.
Write down some of the negative and worrisome thoughts that come from Fred. Give yourself at least 10 minutes to sit in this question. Don’t hurry past it. If we are going to put Fred in his proper place, we need to know exactly what kind of thoughts we are listening for.
Step 3: Categorize Fred’s messages to you.
Fred is very crafty and has many side hustles. In addition to his messages to you, check which of the following roles Fred has played in those thoughts:
- Fortune Teller (I know the future.)
- Mind Reader (I know what they are thinking.)
- Interpreter (I know what all that really means.)
- Shamer (I can’t believe you did that.)
- Labeler (You are______________. )
- Blamer (He/She is responsible!)
- Convincer (You should just go ahead and_______________.)
- Guilter (How can you live with yourself?)
- Always/Never-er (This is never going to get better, because you always and/or never ______________.)
Step 4: Talk back to Fred.
Now ask yourself:
- Am I 100% sure the thought is true?
- How do I feel when I have the thought?
- How would I feel without the thought?
Often the results of the exercise can be instantly helpful. That’s certainly true for me and has proven true for countless others. But keeping Fred in his place is an ongoing process. I’m not sure Fred ever completely goes away. He has created these negative neural pathways and we must create new ones. While this exercise may seem too simple to help, I promise it is not. It doesn’t take long and is a powerful tool to keep Fred from sabotaging your marriage.
Sound off: When is your inner critic the loudest with you?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think about yourself?”