I don’t know about you but my inner critic shows up on a regular basis.
Probably daily in one way or another.
If I was little better at recognizing her, I would kick her to the curb before she could whisper her venomous words. But she’s good, and she’s been around for a long time, so she quite often sneaks up on me unknown.
When she’s on a roll she can be rather cruel:
“Do you actually think that piece of writing is any good?”
“You look like crap today.”
“You’re a terrible mother.”
It was this same inner critic that held me back from writing for 15 years, who told me I shouldn’t even attempt to write because I couldn’t possibly meet the standards set by any other author out there.
And sometimes that voice is so quick and familiar the damage is done before I realize it, and once again she has rendered me powerless.
My inner critic makes me weary. She’s not the real me, yet at times her voice can be stronger than my authentic voice. But I’m getting better at knowing when she’s in the room, at feeling her presence and recognizing her language.
Conversing with the inner critic
In my journaling practice I use a specific and very powerful technique to take back control from my inner critic: Dialoguing.
I write back and forth in conversation with my inner critic, staying open and curious about where her criticisms come from and what they have to teach me in the present day. And as I meander through this conversation that rather resembles a movie script, I find myself bringing every single critical thought into the light.
And I’m able to analyze those criticisms for what they truly are—lies. It’s amazing how many familiar thoughts swim around in our minds all day long, yet we hardly notice them. We may be aware of feeling shame, fearful, blue, lonely, yet completely unaware of the thoughts that brought us to that place.
Learning the truth
While we don’t want to give our inner critic any air time, we do want to know where her harsh words are coming from. Our inner critic can be a teacher if we allow it (tweet that).
When dialoguing, or even in thought if your prefer, it’s important to ask the right questions, such as:
—”Why are you here?”
—”What power do you have over me?”
—”What do you want from me?”
When we self criticize, the voice may be that of someone we know who has had an influential role in our life, such as a parent, teacher or boss. Knowing how our inner critic found it’s power is critical to being able to take that power away (tweet that!)
As we quiet the voice of our inner critic we must learn who we really are. It’s not enough to simply reject the lies; those lies must be replaced by truth. Using positive affirmations can be very effective once we become tuned to our inner critic and know when (s)he is trying to have a voice. Living by our values is also key to replacing lies with truth.
So often the voice of our inner critic comes from the belief that we must do things perfectly. Perfectionism is a by-product of living in a culture of intense comparison and competition (tweet that.) But if we can stop comparing and competing, we allow our true selves to shine through. I’m learning that self kindness is an essential part of quieting my inner critic—accepting my true limitations and having grace for myself when I make mistakes.
For me it takes consistent effort and an incredible amount of self-awareness and self-love to quiet the voice of my inner critic—I know she’s never far away. But facing her and every criticism she has of me, as well as taking the time to discover what she has to teach me have been a vital part of quieting her voice.
How familiar are you with your inner critic? What do you do to quiet her/his voice?