If you have read some of my previous blogs or been to a workshop, you will have probably heard me talk about The Mugwump. A name coined to describe the inner critic that niggles away at our confidence. Mugwumps can take over a whole day at a time, with negative self-chat and self- deprecating narrative.
The inner critic can feature heavily for people who struggle with self-esteem, low confidence or have been faced with unexpected setbacks. You may experience feelings of anxiety, low mood or intense frustration, as a result.
The internal dialogue of your Mugwump can deflate, exhaust and lead you to avoid situations and opportunities that you want in your life.
The Mugwump has a tendency to get a bit whacked-up on power at times. The more it stops you in your tracks, the greater its agility & confidence grows. Voicing its opinion as a means to keep you stuck, avoidant or secretly terrified at the prospect of rebelling.
Here is something worth acknowledging about the inner critic. It's likely its tone of voice has been informed by a few scenarios.
The dominance of someone else's viewpoint in your life which, when the message is repeated enough, can become an embedded belief we buy in to. “You always mess up” or “ Be more like your brother”, “Don’t do it like that stupid” or “who cares” - can easily distort and the Mugwump soon force feeds this belief as your own unworthiness.
Another way your Mugwump might grow, gaining it’s power and momentum, is our subconscious minds innate desire to keep us safe.
“So how can an abusive, oafish inner-critic be keeping me safe?” I hear you sigh.
Our brain is pretty clever, when it thinks we might put ourselves at risk for no gain. The depths it goes to get its strategy heard and embedded are immense. Maybe once in your life you stood out, or messed up, took a risk and this backfired or you were unprepared. The brain, it can see this as a major threat. “Holy Sh*t….abort, abort” would be a way to summarise the general message that it sends to body and mind.
A blast of panic. We might have made a fool of ourselves, failed, made a mistake or genuinely placed yourself in a risky situation?
The Mugwump flexes its muscles, gets its beef on and decides. Right “time to learn our lesson”. And thus, like some guru in the stealth-ninjary of self-deprecating-beliefs our Mugwump narrative is formed. “Why bother”, “we are going to fail” “you don’t want to look stupid do you?”, “only pretty people get rich” and all the other demeaning, yet highly effective tormenting, that goes on in your Mugwump rants.
You find yourself battling the inner voice, like punching yourself in the face, no one comes out unharmed.
Mugwumpary takes its toll on body and mind. You find yourself changing what you can/can’t do. Goals shift or feel so much harder to reach. Life just feels like you are dragging your feet through glue. But one thing is certain that Mugwump genuinely believes that it’s done a fabulous job and kept you safer than the thing you were going to do, say, explore.
So how do you calm the Mugwump and cool off that inner critic?
Here are five activities and approaches to try to get you started:
Bring your Mugwump to life: Grab a pen and paper and doodle what your Mugwump character looks like. You don’t have to be an artist to do this. By creating this visualization you will better understand the nature and power you perceive your mugwump to have. If he’s a tiny flea-bitten mouse of a creature, there may be less negotiation to be had than being faced with the image of a gargantuan warty ogre who could pretty much eat you for its tea and you certainly wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night. This representation can help you to gain a different perspective on your Mugwump.
Acknowledge your Mugwump’s best intentions: What is your mugwump trying to say, but maybe got the words a little muddled. What if you gave it the tools to be kinder and optimistic rather than a bossy bully? Understand the hidden or distorted messages of your negative self-talk. If you look closer, can you find a message of love, protection or kindness wrapped up in the oafish nattering?
Check the evidence: It’s remarkable how much we like to tell ourselves outdated stories that inform our experience of the world. Check the evidence for your inner critic. Maybe it hasn’t caught up on the news, that these days you have the skills and attitude to pick yourself up and dust yourself off in the face of a challenge. Explore the counter evidence too. If your bullish self-chat is telling you that you can’t explore what evidence, you have for that and then flip it on its head and consider all the evidence that shows you can or might be able to! Evidence upgrades are an essential part of freeing your Mugwump of its drudgery.
Create new parameters: The mardy Mugwump likes the cozy little space known as the comfort zone, and that’s where it wants you to well and truly grow roots. And whilst ok its pretty comfortable there. Not much happens in the way of adventure, excitement and growth. Create actions, timescales, outcomes and consider how awesome it will feel to pole vault your way into the learning zone. Whether you take a simple stance of distracting your mugwump while you hurtle for your goal (true Jade from Drag Race style) “look over there!” or if you tickle it’s belly and reassure it that everything really is going to be just fine. Those tiny steps or large lunges (you pick) are going to pave the way and wobble your Mugwump’s thinking into acceptance that the comfort zone might not be the only way to roll.
Give your Mugwump a makeover: We all need an upgrade sometimes, who doesn’t love a transformation story from interior design programmes to Lorraine Kelly giving your nan a makeover on ITV? Invite a newer softer version of your Mugwump to the party and tell the old one to take a sabbatical! Imagine its had an upgrade, been on a fitness regime, found its spiritual awakening and learned to be a cheer leader “give us a G, Give us an O, Give us an M, Give us a E… Goooooo, Meeeee”! This reformed Mugwump can become your caring companion. What messages of kindness and free love will it spread within? When an old message slips from its tongue, take solace in your ability to give its head a little pet, say “there, there” and ask it to rephrase the message with compassion and clarity. With practice see how “your not good enough” turns to “You are going to learn how” or “You did your best there, maybe next time we ask for a little help”
So get started on understanding and re-training your Mugwump. Consider the bounds of possibility that are created
in your life when you reward your Mugwump for the Pro-You campaign it’s going to run in your head.
Set yourself free of critical self-talk, forgive yourself for wanting to be the best and safest version of yourself. And; if it doesn’t get the memo and turns up all shouty and argumentative. Know that you have the confidence to nurture it back to it’s cheer leading, life-guru, upgraded broadcast instead!