How the “Inner Critic” Can Take Over Our Sex Life

Psychological issues have a huge impact on a woman’s libido.  Maybe you don’t feel good about your body. Maybe you’re exhausted, because you’re too busy at work and having to take care of the house and kids when you get home.  Maybe you have no energy left to give to your partner.  All of this can contribute to anxiety, depression, stress, poor body image, low self-esteem, relationship issues, and life dissatisfaction.

Dr. Ruth says that the brain is the most erotic organ in the body.  So, the libido is very much influenced by a woman’s thoughts inside her head and her emotional well being.   

libidoThe truth is that the quality of your life is largely governed by your thinking.  Most people think that certain conditions are necessary in order to be happy, and if those conditions aren’t met, they can’t be happy.  In other words, “if I just were able to lose this weight, I would feel better about myself” or “If my spouse would just change his behavior, I would be happier in my relationship.”

You have a voice in your mind, that is constantly judging and evaluating everything about yourself.  It says, “you need to look like this, act like this, have this, do this, BE this.” And if you’re not, there’s something wrong, and you’d better fix it!  I call this voice THE INNER CRITIC, and it is constantly speaking to us from the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed.  It is this voice that robs you of your joy, your aliveness, your self expression, your satisfaction, your contentment, your fulfillment.  It judges and evaluates you, criticizes you, and tells you where you don’t measure up. Given all of this, it’s no wonder that your inner critic can be in the driver’s seat of your libido.  Look at all that you have to overcome in order to feel like having sex!

Your inner critic has been running you for most of your life, and creates most of your sense of self.  You had a 2nd grade version of it, a 10th grade version of it, a young adult version of it, and you struggle with it now. It is constantly and compulsively analyzing, labeling, and interpreting everything about you, your relationship, and your life. Your inner critic compares you to an ideal version of the way you should be, your partner should be, and your life should be.  She is all about perfection. And nothing will measure up to her expectations.

A lot of the suffering women experience comes from expecting that all aspects of life should fit this ideal picture.  And when life doesn’t, this is when women feel an overall sense of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, because their expectation is that it should.  

And instead of dealing with it, women cover it up, keep their true feelings hidden, and suffer with silent shame, because although it appears like they have it all together, deep down they feel miserable.  And this misery definitely impacts not only how they treat themselves, but how they treat the people that they are closest to, mostly affecting their relationships with their partners and children.

Women need to feel emotionally close and connected to their partner in order to have a satisfying sex life. When you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself first, it becomes harder to have a healthy relationship with anyone else.  When you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s easy to project that outward onto your partner.

We all know how it goes when you try to change your partner!  When men feel criticized, they pull away. The more he pulls away, the angrier we get, and then we become even more angry and try to fix or change them!  This can cause a vicious cycle in your relationship with your spouse, as the more you try to fix and change him, the more he pulls away.

The repetitive lack of connection to your partner, unresolved conflicts and fights, and poor communication between partners can cause chronic unhappiness in the relationship.  Sex is a man’s way of feeling emotionally connected to women.  So, when he feels disconnected, he wants to have sex.   But, we, as women don’t feel like having sex unless we feel emotionally connected.  So, herein lies the vicious cycle.  He wants to have sex to feel connected, and we don’t want to have sex unless we feel connected.  When we are stuck in the vicious cycle, neither partner takes responsibility for the lack of connection, love and affection towards their partner.  Each person justifies his or her actions, and before you know it, it’s like you are two 4 year olds saying, “I’m not going to show love unless HE does!”  “Well, I’m not going to show love unless SHE does!”

So, this overall effect of the vicious cycle can wreak havoc on a woman’s libido.  And, relationship and sexual issues have as much of an emotional impact on men as they do on women. When one partner isn’t happy with their sex life or the quality of the relationship, both partners are deeply impacted, and both partners suffer.

What can also wreak havoc on a woman’s libido is that we live in a culture that places value on youth and beauty.  So many women struggle with feeling good about themselves and their bodies, because they are comparing themselves to an ideal version of how they think they should look.  And there is also a false belief that permeates our culture that as women grow older, their sex life will decline, and they should accept this as part of their reality.  The truth is, this is not the case.  Although hormone imbalances play a role in how a woman feels about sex and her body, you do not have to experience a low sex drive simply because you are a particular age.

So, a key to a better sex life is connected to developing a better sense of self, and experiencing more joy and contentment in your relationship with yourself and your partner.

The road toward more satisfaction with your life is to begin to distinguish the difference between YOU and YOUR INNER CRITIC.  As I stated earlier, your inner critic is the voice in your head that never shuts up, and keeps evaluating, judging and criticizing, in the interest of trying to perfect you.  The irony is that the more that you keep trying to meet the unrealistic expectations of your inner critic, the more you will struggle.  You will never have what you are really looking for:  joy, contentment, satisfaction, true peace and happiness, because you will always be trying to achieve the unachievable.

The goal here is NOT to silence her!  It would be nice, but unfortunately, she isn’t going anywhere!!  The goal here is to regain your power by recognizing that much of what your inner critic says is based on an idealized standard.  Your inner critic keeps raising the bar, no matter how hard you try to meet her expectations.  Today’s perfection, tomorrow, becomes merely yesterday’s news.  When you catch her putting you down and trying to perfect you, your partner, your kids, or some other area of your life, you can short circuit the power that your inner critic has over your emotional well being by recognizing her insatiable appetite for perfection. She can never be satisfied.  You, however, can be, by recognizing your strengths, accepting your weaknesses, and having some self compassion.  Understanding the difference between YOU and the unrealistic demands of the Inner critic, and learning to separate HER from YOU will alter your relationship with yourself.

Once you begin to practice distinguishing yourself from your inner critic, you may find yourself more peaceful, and more content with your life, exactly the way that it is and exactly the way that it is not.  You may even find yourself falling in love with yourself.  Imagine what impact that could have on your libido.

5 Tools To Separate YOU from your “BAD MOM” INNER CRITIC

mom-karma-cardYour inner critic convinces you that you have to keep doing more, being more, knowing more, in order to feel like you are a good mom.  The minute you meet her expectation of who you are supposed to be, that is quickly yesterday’s news, and she is already on to the next problem you have to solve, the next mountain you have to climb, the next milestone you have to make your child reach.

The truth is that the feelings of inner peace, joy and contentment that all moms crave, come from learning how to separate yourself from your inner critic.  It’s about learning the tools to stop giving energy and attention to the critic’s attempts to improve, perfect, fix or change either you or your children.

Here are 5 tools to separate YOU from your “BAD MOM” INNER CRITIC:

1.    What is the story your inner critic has been telling you about the mom that you are?  Pay attention to the areas where you are struggling or suffering the most in being a mom.  What are the beliefs that your inner critic is convincing you are “Truths?” Even though this may feel like the truth, you are identifying with the expectations of your inner critic, who expects you and your life to fit a “perfectionistic” picture.  When life doesn’t fit this picture (which is often the case), your inner critic will convince you that there is something wrong, and it is up to YOU to make it right.  Try catching your inner critic in the act of hustling you into believing her story.  See her story as just that:  A STORY!  You will know when she’s trying to hustle you by watching your suffering, and all the feelings that come along with it.

2.    See your inner critic’s story as repetitive mind chatter.  For example, if you are angry about forgetting about a birthday party your child was invited to, how is your inner critic making you feel about yourself?  Can you identify this feeling at different times throughout your life, even before you became a mother?  The story of the inner critic is repetitive and unchanging.  The inner critic will just keep looking for more evidence to support the story.  That is how a mistake that most parents make, can make you feel like the worst mother in the world.  The same feelings your inner critic creates today, are the same feelings she created when you were 8, 17, and 30!

3.    How is your inner critic trying to control your children?  Your inner critic needs your children to fit her “perfectionistic” idea of who they should be, because if they fall short of her picture, she will convince you it’s YOUR fault!  She will make you feel small, inadequate, and incompetent.  So, to make sure that you don’t feel that emotional pain, she will try to control and fix your kids, so that you can feel like you’re doing a good job.  When your inner critic tries to fix and control your kids, it is the control and criticism that has your kids behave in ways that are the polar opposite of her expectations.  When you can get your inner critic out of your parenting, and let your kids be themselves, they end up being more of the kids that you desire them to be in the first place:  loving, connected, happy kids.

4.    Give your Inner Critic a name that fits her personality.  (Gwendolyn, perhaps?!).  Notice how and when she speaks to you.  Notice the body sensations she evokes in you (shoulders tense, knots in your stomach).  Notice what mood she puts you in.  Notice when you want to eat when you’re not hungry, sleep when you’re not tired, binge watch TV, or worse, is she in the driver’s seat of your life again?  Get her out!  Stop giving her the power to tell you where you’re not enough or how you should live your life!

5.    What unrealistic expectations do I need to let go of so that I can surrender myself from my inner critic’s grip?  When my 15 year-old son leaves a trail of dirty laundry and wet towels from the bathroom to his room yet again, my inner critic will chime in that he is being lazy, selfish, and disrespectful.  If I listened to her, I would blast my son from here to the moon with criticism and anger.  If I can let go of my inner critic, I can remember that my son is acting like a typical teenage boy.  Of course, I will make him accountable for cleaning up his mess. But instead of asking him through my inner critic’s criticism and anger, I can ask him from my calm and centered self.  And I assure you, when I am parenting him instead of my inner critic, my son is a completely different human being!

The bottom line is this:  The only thing that makes you feel like a bad mom, and then try to do more and be more to feel like a “good mom,” is your automatic habit of listening to your Inner Critic, and thinking that it is YOU.

The more you practice separating yourself from the grip of your inner critic, the less crazy you will feel, and maybe you can recognize the mother that you REALLY are .

5 STEPS TO DETHRONE YOUR CRAZY “BAD MOM” INNER CRITIC

bad-moms-2016I have been waiting for the premier of the movie “Bad Moms” all summer long.  I have heard fellow moms talking about it for months, rallying packs of moms together to see this movie.  So, I was so excited when I finally went to see it last week.  I wanted to find out why it is that this movie is resonating with so many women in a way that no movie has done in years.

This movie really hit home for me, as a therapist who has helped thousands of moms struggle with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and as a mom of three kids.  It also hits home with millions of moms out there who struggle with the feeling that they have no idea what they are doing, and they are not doing a good enough job.

Motherhood has become an all encompassing identity. Moms feel that it is their fundamental role in life to be the “ideal mom”:  To do it all, know it all, BE it all, and make sure your kids turn out the way you want them to!  This role has certainly been exacerbated by social media, which leads moms to feel even more inadequate about the mother that they are, as it certainly appears that all of their friends have the “perfect” family on Facebook!

It’s no wonder that today’s moms feel overstressed and overworked, and feel trapped in a culture of motherhood in which no matter what they are doing as moms, they are not measuring up.  All of this is enough to make moms feel like they are going crazy, and then they beat themselves up for feeling crazy, which makes them feel even crazier!

So, why are we all so friggin’ crazy?  Why is it that we can all relate to Kristin Bell’s character, Kiki, who fantasizes about being in a car accident that’s just enough to put her in the hospital so she can sleep and binge watch TV?  It is because we are ALL overly identified with the voice of our Inner Critic, who is the voice in our mind who is constantly evaluating, judging, comparing, and telling us where we don’t measure up, what we have to fix, change, or perfect, and how we could do things better, and the more we listen to her, the crazier we feel!

Our Inner critic has us convinced that no matter what we have achieved or accomplished as mothers, no matter how much we have done for our kids, we are still not good enough!  As Kiki says in the movie, “In today’s day and age, it’s impossible to be a good mom!”  REALLY??!!

The PTA president, Gwendolyn, is the personification of our Inner Critic.  Her character represents everything that we think we should be.  She’s doing it “right.”  She is the ideal woman.  The epitome of perfection.  And, if we keep listening to her, our inner critic’s advice about how we need to change, fix or perfect ourselves, we can finally get to the point where we feel like we’re doing it right.  Except, no matter what we do and how hard we try as moms, we never, ever reach that arrival point. It’s like we’re all hamsters on the hamster wheel.  Running and running and running, and still, we feel the same.

It’s time to STOP THE INSANITY!  Does that mean you just let everything go, drink yourself into oblivion, slack off and throw wild PTA parties like the “Bad Moms” did?  NO!  It’s about recognizing that you are listening to a crazy person in your mind, thinking that it’s YOU.  It’s about learning the difference between YOU and your crazy, delusional, perfectionistic, Inner Critic, who is the one who is responsible for so much of your suffering in your life, especially when it comes to motherhood.

Your inner critic convinces you that you have to keep doing more, being more, knowing more, in order to feel like you are a good mom.  The minute you meet her expectation of who you are supposed to be, that is quickly yesterday’s news, and she is already on to the next problem you have to solve, the next mountain you have to climb, the next milestone you have to make your child reach.

The truth is that the feelings of inner peace, joy and contentment that all moms crave, come from learning how to separate yourself from your inner critic.  It’s about learning the tools to stop giving energy and attention to her attempts to improve, perfect, fix or change either you or your children.

The bottom line is this:  The only thing that makes you feel like a bad mom, and then try to do more and be more to feel like a good mom, is your automatic habit of listening to your Inner Critic, and thinking that it is YOU.  The more you practice separating yourself from the grip of your inner critic, the less crazy you will feel, and maybe you can recognize the mother that you REALLY are .