We all have a critical part of ourselves, I know I do. And for those of you who identify as high achievers, perfectionists or highly sensitive, the inner critic tends to be LOUD.
Instead of trying to ignore it, repress it or make it go away, what if you changed the way you responded to your inner critic?
How is your inner critic trying to protect you?
Yes, protect you. The inner critic often serves a defense to shield us against shame, judgment and criticism from others. For example, is it trying to beat others to the punch? Or protect you from “failing” by convincing you not to try something new and scary? Once you identify this, you can also see how despite its best efforts, it’s not really working. You can thank the inner critic for all its hard work, while letting the inner critic know it doesn’t need to be the star of the show. There is a wise, compassionate part inside of you that also has a voice and wants to be heard. You cannot always control the inner critic, but you can control how you react to it.
You can work to observe without judgment and not become over identified with the inner critic. You can choose not to engage or argue with your inner critic. And remember, getting rid of the inner critic is not the goal. The inner critic is not bad. You do not need to shame the inner critic. After all, it’s just trying to protect you! Think of using the inner critic as a tool to observe and uncover the parts of yourself that tend to stay hidden.
When your critical voice is tamed, your compassionate voice can guide you.
The problem is not that the inner critic exists, but with how much we identify with it and respond to the inner critic as if it knows what’s best for us!? (NOPE!).
I believe that all the different parts of you deserve a seat at the dinner table. Yet often the inner critic is getting out of control and trying to be the star of the dinner party! The inner critic doesn’t know when enough is enough and starts to criticize to a detrimental point. Rather than trying to make it go away, we can respond with compassion as we uncover the purpose of the inner critic: to keep you safe and protect you from underlying anxiety or fear. It is possible to make friends with your inner critic!
Observe your Inner Critic.
Now, when you practicing observe your inner critic, without judgment, what do you notice? Try writing down everything it says to get it out of your head and onto paper. This will give you more space from whatever it’s saying.
Notice: what tone of voice does it use? Is it yelling or speaking softly? What does it say? Does it sound like anyone in your life?
The inner critic may start out as internalized messages from childhood, or from our culture and taking in the judgments and expectations of those around us.
Despite its misguided efforts, remember the inner critic is actually trying to protect us from judgment, shame, disappointment, hurt and so on. To criticize you first, so that you can make any adjustments and avoid being criticized by others. Or help you conform to the expectations of others.
The inner critic can be so berating that you give up on creativity, have negative impact on self-esteem, self-worth and functioning in relationships.
Pleasing an out of control critic is impossible. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Instead, don’t buy into the CONTENT of what your inner critic says. Remember thoughts aren’t facts. Feelings aren’t facts either, but they are information. Start to practice simply naming the inner critic for what it is. “𝘖𝘩 𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘤, 𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯.” Try not to “argue” or engage with the inner critic. You can also get silly and give your inner critic a nickname! This also helps to externalize the inner critic and decrease it’s power over you. I call mine Karen 🙊.
Download this guided meditation to work on your self-compassion practice and taming the inner critic!