In this episode, we take a trip into Nancy’s brain and learn all about her inner self-critique. The voice that tells her every day that all the things she’s doing just aren’t good enough. Nancy calls that voice The Monger.
The Monger is at the root of why Nancy started the Happier Approach. She realized that her Monger’s voice is particularly loud. Nancy wonders: do other people, people who really seem to have it together, have loud Mongers too? To answer that question Nancy speaks with Kati Morton, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, author, and YouTube creator. Kati tells us about her own struggles with the inner critic and gives us some tips on how to quiet that screechy Monger voice.
Kati Morton, LMFT holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She runs a private practice in Santa Monica, CA. Over the past eight years, Kati has leveraged social media to share mental health information worldwide through video. Her specialties include working with individuals experiencing eating disorders and self-harming behaviors, although she addresses all things related to mental health.
Kati is well known for her YouTube channel which now has over 1 Million Subscribers and over 75 million views. In addition to Kati’s YouTube channel and strong presence on social media, she has appeared on KTLA’s Morning News, E! News, CBS The Doctors, Fox 11 Good Day LA, and was showcased in Europe’s highest circulated magazine, Glamour UK. She was also a 2019 Shorty Award finalist as well as a 2019 Streamy nominee. Kati’s first book, Are u ok?: A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health was released in December 2018.
Kati’s passion is to increase awareness about mental health. Her online community has expanded to all major internet platforms, allowing her to answer mental health questions from her followers around the world. She hopes by doing this, the global community can push for better services worldwide and remove the stigma associated with getting help.
Kati Morton: You know we overreact. So when, and we all if you’re honest with yourself will pay attention you’ll know when you’re overreacting but sometimes we double down. I am fully overreacting. I’m going all in.
Nancy : Hey guys, it’s me! Nancy Jane Smith. Welcome back to the Happier Approach, the show that pulls back the curtain on the need to succeed, hustle, and achieve at the price of our inner peace and relationships.
In our last episode– the first episode of our new season WOOHOO!– I told the story of how the Happier Approach came to be. Where it all started. If you’re a first time listener– or you missed the episode and you’re curious!– check it out.
But today we’re going to get very close and personal with the little… eh, little’s not quite right. How about…GINORMOUS! nagging ice in the back of my head that tells me I’m not good enough all day long. I call that ice: my Monger.
Doug It’s as if you’re in a pool. And there’s lifeguards all around you watching you and they’re gonna blow the whistle at you as soon as you do something wrong. But there’s no lifeguards, and no one’s watching you.
Nancy: That’s how my husband Doug describes my Monger. And that is totally accurate. I call her a Monger because she spreads propaganda. She’s like a horrible school marm wrapping my knuckles with a ruler whenever I make a mistake. My Monger points out my insecurities and judges everything I’m doing wrong.
Nancy : My Monger is pretty much at the root of why I started the Happier Approach. Whenever one of the other characters comes into my head, like the BFF or the Biggest Fan, they’re always coming in to rescue me from that snarly, screech-y Monger ice.
Nancy : I mentioned this in our last episode, but I have a particularly loud Monger. She pops up at the most annoying times, and seizes on the littlest things. The things I should be taking joy in.
Like… making Cornbread Story.
Act I: The Monger in Action
Cornbread Story : So the other night I made chili and we had cornbread with the chili. And I always make the cornbread into muffins. And so it was, they were in the muffin tins. And no matter how much I grease, the muffin tins, the cornbread comes out all crumbly. And to be clear, my husband nor I care about crumbly cornbread, in fact, we even tend to crop up the cornbread and put it in the chili. So it really does not matter in the scheme of things that the corn bread is not whole. But it is something that my mom grew goes crazy about that that is not whole.
Nancy : Yup. My monger goes crazy when I make cornbread. It seems silly, but it’s totally true!
Cornbread Story : so as I was trying to take the knife and pull the corn bread out of the muffin tins, my mother was just going crazy with this as wrong. And I noticed my anxiety getting higher and higher and higher. And I kept saying to myself, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. We don’t even use, you know, we crumble the corn bread up, this really doesn’t matter. But that didn’t help. Like it didn’t matter that I was trying to rationalize with my mongar.
Nancy : This is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn about my Monger. When I try to dissect her, or get rid of her by rationalizing… it doesn’t matter! She just comes back into my head, stronger than ever, to tell me again how I’m doing it wrong.
Nancy : So in terms of this cornbread quote unquote disaster, it doesn’t matter that my husband and I don’t even care what the cornbread looks like. This is the actual problem:
Cornbread Story: It is that I can’t get them to be that shape.
Nancy : That perfect, pillowy, muffin shape– for those of you keeping track at home.
Cornbread Story : And so therefore, I’m doing it wrong. And that was the message of this is my mongers messages usually around, you’re doing it wrong. That’s a common theme for me. So the fact that here, it had nothing to do with the fact that practically, we don’t care about what the cornbread looks like it had to do with the fact that it should look a certain way. And I should be able to make it look perfect. And that I couldn’t do that no matter how much I greased the tin or how well I did it was a sign that I was a major loser.
Nancy : Wow. A major loser. Because the shape of my muffins are a little wonky. Even I can see, that’s HARSH.
That leaves me circling around this question that I’ve actually wondered about a lot. Why is my Monger so loud around the littlest things? Am I alone here, doomed to obsess over cornbread for eternity, or do other people, people who really seem to have it together, have loud mongers too?
Music lead-in to Act II
Act II: Kati Morton
Kati Morton : Let me turn on the camera here.
Nancy : Okay, my cat is crawling around. I seem to be this is Gus. Okay, so let’s just go go. Hi, <fade under>
Nancy : This is Kati Morton. She’s a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist… AND a super popular Youtube creator.
<Snippet of Kati’s channel>
Kati Morton : I, to be honest, it’s gonna sound kind of funny, but I always get bored at work. And I used to have had a bunch of different jobs. You know, I’ve been a waitress, a salesperson, a HR rep, I’ve done all sorts of things. And over the years, every job I took, I was always kind of bored of it. And therapy just never gets boring. People are fascinating. And it’s it’s a real privilege to get to be on the path with someone as they work to better themselves.
Nancy : On her YouTube channel Kati covers all kinds of topics around mental health.
Kati Morton : What I do on YouTube is just help to educate and empower people help them understand something, maybe they can’t understand or decode what therapists say why we say what we say a certain way, or help them better understand a diagnosis, treatment, all that stuff.
Nancy : Kati’s been making videos on YouTube for almost 10 years now.
Kati Morton : Like I came of age in college. When Facebook first started. I had MySpace, so get on my level.
Nancy : Even though she knew her videos would make mental health more approachable to a bunch of people, the task of bringing therapy concepts to YouTube seemed… a little out of her comfort zone.
Kati Morton : I was like, absolutely not. That is weird. I have no, I don’t want to be on camera. That’s super uncomfortable. What do I do with my hands? I don’t even know what if people don’t like me.
Nancy : But the more she thought about it– and the more her then-boyfriend now-husband nudged her towards the idea– she warmed up to it.
Kati Morton : And, yeah, about six months later, I was like, Okay, I’ll do it. But I’ll only film one video a week. And that’s how it was born.
Nancy : From there Kati built up an audience of over one million subscribers. I know! But even with so much success on her YouTube channel, even she struggled with that nagging ice of self-doubt sometimes.
Nancy : Do you have a loud inner critic ice? personally?
Kati Morton : Yes, I talk pretty candidly or I try to within reason about my own therapeutic work, because I’ve been in out of therapy since I was 15, which I think is a very important component of being a mental professionals like, not only do I need to know what it’s like on the other side, but I also need to know how hard it is to do that internal work.
Kati Morton : I know how hard that is, because I’ve done it. So I definitely am the type a perfectionist type of person. I never feel like I’m doing enough, right or it’s not good enough. And that’s a really hard thing to do when you’re creating
Nancy : Speaking from person experience, my Monger can be pretty loud when I’m working on creative projects. It was the same way for Kati.
Kati Morton : I think that that is kind of what comes out of that for me is like, Who am I to do this? Well, I don’t even know what I’m talking about. People aren’t gonna listen, this is stupid. You know, it’s kind of that talking down. But the thing that I’ve realized in the work that I’m trying to do, personally, is to say to myself, in the nicest way possible. Shut up. Stop it. You’re only being a jerk to yourself. And this helps no one and it only makes you feel bad. And so it’s hard and I sometimes get caught in it, but I’ve gotten better at recognizing when it’s happening.
Kati Morton : So anyways, yeah, I definitely have my own inner critic, and I battle her every day. And she’s very stubborn. She’s the worst.
Nancy : Once I started embracing that, in my own therapy, practice of being like, I don’t know, I mean, I’m just doing the best I can with what I have. And I’m not this person on the hill that has it all figured out. But I start so I call that inner critic ice a mongar. Because mongar spread propaganda, and that is what the mongar is doing. And so, the reason I got into this work personally, is because I believed I realized I believed I needed that ice to get anything done. Like I needed the shame to motivate me.
Kati Morton : First of all, I love monger the spreading propaganda. Because I always tell myself and my audience, a thought is not a fact. Yes. So don’t think your thoughts are facts. And then if you’re looking for evidence, another thought doesn’t is not evidence.
Kati Morton : I think it’s kind of the No pain, no gain societal norm, that we have all subscribed to it, for better or for worse, because we think that in order to be successful, or to be valued. We think we have to suffer for it.
Nancy : But I realized, you know, I have a very loud inner critic, you know, my husband calls her the demon within and, and I realized, yes, I think everyone has an inner critic, but not everyone has that demon ice. Why do you think people have louder ices than others?
Kati Morton : I think part of it is the way we were raised. And I know people are like therapists always blame childhood. Well, that’s because a lot of shit happens in childhood.
Nancy : Amen to that.
Kati Morton : And I think that we learn from our parents and our caregivers and our family. That, like, I’ll even be honest, I can remember times and my mom kind of like talking herself down about things like,
Kati Morton : I used to love how much faith she’d have in me like we were just talking the other day about how I won this coloring contest. And I loved to color as a kid, but I’m not a drawer, my brother’s the artistic drawer one, and I can fill it in, okay. And part of this current contest was, oh, he had to draw something new to color it in. And I told her I don’t draw. And she’s like, Well, yeah, you can just make a scribble and then make sense of it, you could do that. And she was always at what you can do that, yeah, just do it. With herself she wasn’t. And so it’s kind of like this mixed message around like, I can’t, so you have to. So I internalize that is like, Oh, I have to be the one that rises above like the hero child like does everything perfectly, and all of that. And I think that for a lot of us, we have different stories either our parents told us things weren’t good, or teachers or we were bullied or things like that. And we internalize that.
Kati Morton : I think that this inner critic, this monger this, this shit talker, looks through all those lenses constantly in therapy is like, No, no, no, let’s take those lenses away. They’re not doing it you can’t even see anymore. And it’s really hard to do that then because we feel so scared. Like, personally, when I do something that’s against my inner critic. I think you’re just going to regret this. It’d be terrible. It’s going to blow up.
Nancy : How do you? How do we fix it? What are some strategies you have for overcoming this? Or quieting this loud inner critic ice?
Kati Morton : That’s the crazy wonderful, beautiful thing about therapy is therapy is almost like an art because there’s so many different ways in it’s like we have a door with like 17 locks on it. If you open one of them, they all open and so there’s all these different ways in
Kati Morton : I can visualize all those locks. Like I have all these different keys and one key might be easier for you to find. So don’t think that this is just the only way in. But for me, I always thought that I needed to shut her up. She was abusive. She was terrible. I hated that part of myself which just spun into like a snowball of more shame and guilt and shit talking
Kati Morton : But my inner critic is actually scared me. She’s a younger me, she’s a little, she’s worried about future me, she’s trying to protect me, it actually comes out of a love and a need for protection that she tries to keep me down to help me fit where I already have fit. Not knowing that I could outgrow that and want to move into something else. And I think when I start to view that in that lens through that lens, I can see you’re just throwing a tantrum. And what do we do when a child is tantruming? Sure, we can reprimand them. And that’s what I’ve been doing. For years, I’ve been reprimanding her. How dare you, you’ve embarrassed me Stop it. But what we know is actually more effective. Anybody who has had children, if you can help them to speak, to share in some way, what they’re going through,
Kati Morton : We’re looking at like a branch on the tree that has grown and I need to track it back. Because chances are, at least for in my experience, and for my inner critic, or inner monger. She is just worried. And she’s stressed about letting people down and hurting herself. And so if I can acknowledge that, then that’s the start of the work, right? Because then I can say, Well, how can I assuage her fears about this? How can I calm her? What are things that could be soothing?
Nancy : Heck. Yes. Acknowledging the feelings that my Monger is pointing to even if they seem irrational– THAT’S been a game changer for me when it comes to communicating with her. Like Kati said, usually my Monger is just scared that I’m not going to be okay. And I have to remind her that she– we– are safe. Even if we’re not perfect all the time.
Nancy : Let’s return to the Great Cornbread Disaster of 2021, shall we?
Nancy : After I had my initial freakout about the shape of my cornbread muffins not turning out perfectly even though they were just going to be all crumbled up into a big bowl of chili… I took some time to think. To tap into what my Monger was really upset about.
Cornbread Story :
And then finally I had the AHA of Oh, it isn’t, it isn’t about what I’m upset about is the fact that I can’t do it perfectly that that they aren’t looking perfect.
Cornbread Story :
But once I was able to figure out Aha, it is this idea of it has to be perfect. I was like okay, but it’s not perfect. I didn’t do it perfectly. It’s not going to be perfect. I’m going to be okay with that. And the minute I kind of realized, Oh, I’m just it isn’t perfect. I’m okay with that was a huge, everything kind of relaxed and my mongar kind of went quiet.
Nancy : It wasn’t rationalizing or trying to reason with my Monger that calmed her down. Just like if she was a little kid who got upset about a big scary monster under the bed– telling her THE MONSTER ISN’T REAL DUMMY isn’t going to make her any less afraid. In fact it’d probably make her more upset!
Cornbread Story : So I say, Ah, I don’t care that the corn bread isn’t perfect, because it doesn’t have to be perfect because we’re just going to crumble it in the chili. But in reality it is.
Nancy : Instead, I looked at her fear, and accepted it. I’m afraid I’m not perfect? Well, turns out: I’m not! Once I let myself be okay with that little fact, the Monger quieted down.
Cornbread Story : You’re right. The cornbread isn’t perfect, and that does drive me crazy, but it’s not. So we’ve got to move on.
Nancy : It is hard giving myself a break like that. Even taking the time to sit with myself and really understand why my Monger is being so loud. It’s a constant process. And I’m getting better at it. The more I practice, the more I have faith that there will be less stressful batches of cornbread in my baking future. Pillowy muffins be damned!
Nancy : Cornbread is such a small example, but because it’s kind of ridiculous, I think it’s a good way to show how the Monger can show up in the silliest places where you least expect her and wreak hac on your feelings of self-worth.
Nancy : But now at least, I know that even if my cornbread muffins crumble, instead of pushing my Monger away by rationalizing my disappoint, I can acknowledge my Monger’s fears and let her know that sometimes it’s okay if things aren’t totally perfect, 100% of the time. I am human! I make crumbly cornbread! And that is O K.
That’s it for this week’s episode! Next time we’re going to focus on another familiar frenemy of the Happier Approach. The ice that’s always trying to save me from my Monger, but butting in with a little too much leniency.
My let’s-procrastinate-all-day-because-you-deserve-it, have that third glass of wine, hit the snooze button for the fifth time this morning, conspirator in all things self-indulgent: my BFF.
That’s next time on the Happier Approach.
Nancy : The Happier Approach is produced by Nicki Stein and me, Nancy Jane Smith. Music provided by Pod5 and Epidemic Sound. For more episodes, to get in touch, or to order a copy of my book The Happier Approach, you can visit www.live-happier.com. And if you like the show, leave us a review on iTunes! It actually helps us out a lot.
Special thanks to Kati Morton for speaking with us for this episode. She has a new book coming out in September called Traumatized that you can pre-order now. You can subscribe to her YouTube channel to hear more of her brilliance, or go to www.katimorton.com to learn more about her work. Links are in the show notes.
The Happier Approach will be back with another episode in two weeks. Take care, until then.