Does PMS bring out your inner critic?

Written by Jessica Lau

Do not think about a strawberry!

When you read this – a strawberry appeared in your mind, didn’t it? Negative thoughts work similarly. The more we try to suppress them, the louder they get.

For women this is particularly evident prior to their bleed. Premenstrual syndrome affects as many as 3 out of 4 women. You might feel like as soon as you get to enjoy peace after your last period, your inner critic slowly chips in again.

Your inner critic might say things like “You’re not good enough. You’re not attractive enough. Everything is too much for you,” and on top of that – “You’re too negative and sensitive.”

You might feel hard on yourself because your inner critic is loud, but know this is a natural occurrence before menstruation. Your premenstrual inner critic’s negative self-talk might make you feel depressed, anxious or irritated.

Most of us get through this period by finding pleasure in distraction – like drinking alcohol, comfort eating, online shopping or binge watching TV dramas. Maybe you try everything you can to ‘not think about it’.

But if this is something you go through every month – maybe there is a way to work with your inner critic more peacefully?

Make peace with your inner critic: treat her as your risk manager

Why do corporates hire risk managers? If potential threats are identified, strategies can be developed to minimise harm. Your inner critic is a valuable partner for growth. Let’s explore what this might look like.

Your inner critic says, “You are not doing enough as a mother.”

Step 1 – breathe, and pause.

Acknowledge what your risk manager is saying. She is worried that you are not doing well enough in parenting.

Step 2 – have a reality check – is what your inner critic saying real or fair?

First, explore the opposite – what have you been doing well? We don’t have to believe 100% of what our risk manager tells us! This is why the reality check is so important.

Then ask, are there areas of mothering in which you could improve?

Give your inner critic a chance to speak. Be honest with yourself, while being compassionate – try not to add more judgement to yourself, but look at the ways in which you want to show up more in this area.

Step 3 – decide if your risk manager is right

If there are areas that your risk manager is right, take action to seek improvement – read books, or ask someone who is more experienced.

Step 4 – don’t forget to thank your risk manager for giving you a heads up, and celebrate your growth. It’s not easy to engage with your inner critic.

Your inner critic says, “You are unattractive.”

Step 1 – breathe, and pause.

What is your risk manager saying? She is worried that your appearance isn’t good enough.

Step 2 – have a reality check – is what your inner critic saying real or fair?

Find evidence for the opposite first – which parts of you look good?

Then, explore which parts you’re unhappy with. Find the evidence for your risk manager’s claim.

In this instance it might be useful to consider using your inner critic to assess cultural values of what it means to be a woman – we have a lot of pressure to be ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’.

Step 3 – decide if your risk manager is right.

If you’re not happy with the way you look, are there things you can do to make a difference? Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a haircut, or put some extra energy into working out to feel better.

Step 4 – thank your risk manager.

Your inner critic may sound very harsh. It can be tough to have this internal voice, but know that deep down she has some tough love for you. She exists to protect, not destroy you. Taking the time to listen to her can provide insight into what you value or want to make more space for. She wants you to be well.

Engaging with your inner critic meaningfully during your premenstrual phase can help reduce her appearance during other times of your cycle. If she knows she has a place in which to be heard, you can develop a more trusting relationship with one another.

In the above examples, she wants you to be a mother you are proud of; she wants you to feel good about yourself. Make peace with this powerful protector and let your premenstrual period become a goldmine for growth.

If your inner critic appears very often outside of your premenstrual phase, it can be overwhelming. If this begins to affect your daily function, please consider seeing a professional for help.

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