April 11, 2016

The Feather Boa Effect: A surprising Antidote to Self-Criticism.

Laura D'Alessandro/Flickr

Warning: Naughty language ahead! 


I recently discovered a surprising new way to quiet my inner critic and stop my own self-criticism from having such an impact on me.

It was late one January evening and I was lying in bed with my lemon balm tea reading Cyndi Lee’s wonderful book, May I Be Happy. In the book, Cyndi interviews Dr. Christiane Northrup as she tries to get some advice about how to stop hating her body. Dr. Christiane tells her a myriad of wise and insightful things, one of which is to take the “Nazi” in her head and “put a feather boa on it.”

This image really struck me. I stayed with it. I liked it. It was fun and novel. I didn’t really know what Dr. Christiane meant, but I got the gist and from that I developed my own new technique to stop taking my inner critic so seriously. And I have used it ever since.

Meet Miss B—my inner critic:

Like all people on the planet, I have an inner critic. I’ve had her since I was about 14 years old and she hasn’t gone away. I like to refer to her as Miss B(itch)—for obvious reasons.

She is that part of me that seems hell bent on highlighting my weaknesses and holding one humungous magnifying lens up to them.

The part of me that doesn’t know how to be my friend, and just isn’t interested.

That part of me that seems to get its sustenance from putting me down and doing a little dance around my diminishing confidence.

She’s not always at the forefront, but she’s always there…somewhere.

We all have a Miss B inside.

Most of the time Miss B is so sneaky that you don’t even know she’s there. She creeps in, takes a dump in your mind, then creeps out—sneering—pleased with herself at the silent but deadly shit stain she left in your psyche. Most of the time Miss B carries on—unnoticed, unchallenged—doing heaps of damage without your ever knowing what damage has been caused or where it came from.

This is because Miss B likes to function below the level of our conscious minds. She’s pretty safe there. She feels untouchable there. She tells us in low, hushed tones all the ways we don’t make the grade…all the reasons why we can’t. We can’t do what we really want to do. We can’t follow our joy. We can’t be the person we want to be. She reminds us about our previous misfortunes, our mistakes, our downfalls, how hard life is. She likes to keep us in a place of scarcity, lack and fear. She talks BS, but we listen. And we don’t even know we’re listening.

Developing ways to stop Miss B from having such a negative impact is so important. She can stop you from achieving your potential and doing the things you truly want to do with your life. She can mess up your relationship with yourself and the world. She can make you a mouse when you are in fact a lioness. She can rob you of your deservedness. Your spark. Your appreciation of all the wonderful, beautiful things you are. She is your fear. She is your worry. She is the reason you never learned to dance. She is the reason you can’t look yourself in the mirror without seeing fault. She is the reason you married a man who you didn’t truly love. She is the reason you sacrifice your happiness for some diminished reality of all that is possible. She sucks. But you don’t have to let her rule. You can learn how to overcome her once you know a bit more about her…

Two Important things to know about Miss B:

1) No-one escapes her. She is part and parcel of the human condition.

2) You can’t kill her. She is a part of you.

Truly understanding and accepting this is actually really comforting. It’s healing.

If you’re wondering how the hell it can be healing to know that no one escapes Miss B and we have to live with her forever, forever-ever, forever-ever (!?!) then let me set this straight—it’s healing because it means a couple of things:

1) You are not alone. Miss B is universal. She’s part and parcel of the human condition. So don’t add insult to Miss B’s injury by feeling ashamed, by scalding yourself for being such a crazy person. Sure, you can be, but so can we all. It’s called being human.

2) You do not need to waste your beautiful energy on trying to kill Miss B. The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. You do not need to create a backdrop of mind-body tension and resistance to her very presence. She’s there and she’s there to stay. She is part of you. Get over it. Accept it. Put your energy into shining some inner light and taking back control.

So, if Miss B is here to stay and you can’t kill her, then what are you to do?

You disempower her.

This is the most effective way I have learned to overcome your inner Miss B.

You can’t disempower her by ignoring or repressing her. Nuh-uh. If you do this she has a hissy fit, starts stamping her feet and telling you with even more conviction what a shit bag you are.

So how do you disempower Miss B and stop her BS ruining your life?

You practice the Feather-Boa effect. It’s wonderfully unconventional, surprisingly effective and—I promise—it will make you laugh.

The Feather Boa effect: 3 Simple Steps to Disempowering Miss B and Taking Back Control.

1. You become aware of your own Miss B. You start to hear her and listen to what she’s saying. Pay more attention to your inner dialogue and you will start to become very familiar with all the crap she talks.

2. You give her the right to be there. Accept her. Become friends with her. Offer her a cup of loose leaf ginger and hibiscus tea and a chair to sit on.

3. You put a huge-ass pink feather boa around her neck. The most outlandish, brightly coloured feather boa you could possibly get your hands on (no, It’s not for strangulation purposes—it’s much more powerful than that). You can even throw in a painted moustache or draw a penis on her forehead.

Making it light:

The key to this technique is that you disempower your inner critic by giving her your attention with a quality of lightness and humour. You disempower her by laughing at her. Laughing at her absurdity, her nonsensicalness. And when you do that she has absolutely no power over you. She cannot hide somewhere in your subconscious subtly ruining your life. You have invited her to sit with you; you have given her a right to be there.

You have even made the bitch a cup of tea!

And then…you put a huge feather boa around her neck and drew a penis on her head. And now she looks ridiculous and it really is very hard to take anything she says seriously at all.

So the next time you hear Miss B tell you that you’re too fat/tall/short/stupid/old/lazy/scared/ugly to do X, Y or Z, I want you to turn toward her. Look her in the eye. Tell her she has a right to be there. Offer her a cup of tea. Then take that feather boa and maybe get your marker pen out too. Let her speak and see how much credit you give her. (Zilch.) You might actually come to like having her around just for the shits and giggles. Or she might get so embarrassed that she just keeps her mouth shut most of the time.

Either way, you win. You rule. And now go put your beautiful energy into doing whatever it is that gives you joy. And know you can do anything, even with Miss B on your back!


Author: Claire Diane

Apprentice Editor: Lois Person/Editor: Emily Bartran

Image: Laura D’Alessandro/Flickr


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