A question I get a lot as a yoga instructor is, "How do I get my internal critic to shut up?" It's a question I had myself at the beginning of my yoga practice and something I still have to make a conscious effort toward.
Your internal critic is the voice in your head telling you that you are doing it wrong. It tells you that you aren't flexible enough and makes you question why didn't you wear your high-waisted leggings today because now all you can think about is how your stomach looks in the mirror. It tells you that everyone in the gym is looking at you and that you shouldn't go to group classes because you aren't as good as everyone else there.
Your internal critic is a mean, nasty voice that you shouldn't listen to. But that can be really hard if you have gone years and years of your life allowing it to have full reign over your thoughts.
Most people workout for the purpose of self-care. We want our bodies to be healthy, and there are tons of mental benefits to working out such as reduced stress and better sleep. But, we are working against ourselves if we spend the whole workout criticizing our bodies or feeling frustrated about what we can't do yet.
Here are 3 tips for drowning out the critic and having a more positive mindset during your workout.
1. Get Away from Mirrors
Mirrors are useful for checking out form and making sure we are in good alignment so we don't injure our knees, lower back, etc. But they aren't always our friend. If you feel like it's too hard to watch yourself in the mirror without mentally tearing yourself down, try working out away from mirrors for a little while.
Focus your thoughts on how you feel on the inside and less on how you look on the outside. Think about the muscles you are working. Imagine them getting stronger. Picture your blood pumping to your heart and all of the stress chemicals you are releasing. Focus on your breathing. Exhale on the work and inhale as you release. Think about softening your jaw. With all of these internal things to think about, you won't even have time to consider what you look like while you are doing it.
2. Set Smaller Goals
If your only goal is something huge that is going to take you a while, it's easy to get discouraged and let your internal critic rant about how you aren't even close yet. Try setting a few smaller goals that you can hit quickly so you are regularly cheering yourself on and celebrating a milestone.
At the beginning of each workout, decide one thing you want to accomplish, and pick something that you know is possible. When you do that thing, give yourself a compliment, no matter how small it is. The more you focus on what you can do, the more you will feel like you can do even more. My yoga teachers always tell me to add "yet" to a phrase when I feel discouraged.
"I can't do hurdler's pose yet. But, I can do crow pose now, and that's something I had to work hard for. I will get hurdler's eventually."
3. Have Someone Supporting You
Working out with a friend is great for so many reasons. First, they can act as an accountability partner. You will be more likely to actually get out of bed on a Saturday morning because you have brunch plans after your workout. And you'll feel better and be kinder to yourself if you are sticking to your commitments.
Second, they can encourage you and help you stay positive when your internal critic starts to take over your thoughts. It can be tough to pull ourselves out of a downward spiral, so we need friends to remind us of all of the things we are doing well. Find someone who you can trust to be honest with. It won't work if you don't share with them how you are feeling. Tell them the negative thoughts and let them build you back up. You might be surprised to learn that other people see you so much stronger than you give yourself credit for!
If you don't have someone like that in your life right now, make that one of your first goals. You don't have to be in this battle alone. Challenge yourself to open up a little more to the people you regularly talk to and give them a chance to get closer to you. An acquaintance is just a best friend waiting to happen.
For more tips, do some research on positive self-talk. There are so many counselors and psychologists out there with incredible advice. Just remember it's something that almost everyone struggles with. You are not alone.
Follow Hayley Hyer @hayhyer
3 Tips for a Positive Workout Mindset was originally published in HAYHYER