Do you have an Inner Critic?
A familiar harsh voice, reprimanding you, telling you things like “You’re so stupid… how could you have done/ thought/ said that?”
That inner critic undermines you, blocks you, limits you, and makes you feel like there’s no point even trying, because (it tells you) you’ll never be good enough.
So how can you deal with it? How can you feel ease within yourself, and free yourself up to get on with living peacefully, productively, healthily and creatively?
How to tame your Inner Critic Click To Tweet
I’ve come up with eleven practical ways to handle your Inner Critic. Some may appeal to you and others won’t, but try to keep an open mind as you read through. Don’t just try them once and decide that you’re too much of a hardened case; instead, see if you can practise them over a period of time until they begin to feel ‘real’ and part of you. Gradually you’ll realise that your inner critic has become smaller, softer and more manageable.
1. Give it a name
Identify it. Call it something, like ‘my inner critic’ or a nickname. You may be in the habit of always accepting your Inner Critic’s judgements as facts, and it can be quite transformative when you learn to take a step back and think ‘hang on, that sounded like my Inner Critic speaking — maybe there’s another way of looking at this’
2. Don’t battle – befriend!
Don’t try to fight with it. Yes, it limits you. Yes, it hurts you and makes you feel terrible. But when you try to tame, silence, squash or master it, you may be just making it stronger. Instead, try thinking in terms of befriending it, guiding it, calming it, and gently transforming it.
3. Recognise that it’s trying to protect you
Recognise that (strange as it may sound) your Inner Critic originated as a way of protecting you. As little kids, we will have done all sorts of things that our parents and teachers didn’t want us to do, or exhibited feelings and behaviours that they weren’t comfortable with. So they will have used various ways to stop us, including telling-off, derogatory remarks, heavy silences, or shaming. Because we wanted to have their love and approval, and keep the attachment bond going, we learned to try to inhibit those behaviours and feelings that were not approved of. Your Inner Critic is going ‘don’t do that! It’s not safe — if you do that you won’t be loved’.
4. Be curious – what’s it distracting you from?
When you notice your Inner Critic at work, start to be curious. What exactly happened immediately before it started up? What feelings or thoughts were the trigger? Maybe you were feeling powerless, or shameful, or desirous, or vulnerable. Your Inner Critic took over and distracted you from those very difficult feelings.
5. Get it out there
When it feels like there’s a battle going on inside you, between your Inner Critic and another part of you, it might help to externalise it in some way. For example, you could represent the two viewpoints in drawing as characters or stick figures with speech bubbles giving the different points of view. Using puppets or objects can be another good way of getting more clarity about what is going on. See if you can find a third position, where you are a compassionate, kind observer, who understands that each of these parts of you genuinely believes (in its own way) that what it is trying to do is just to keep you safe and alive.
6. Look inside
Focus in on yourself. Might there be an area of your body where you sense the Inner Critic resides? Maybe it has a shape? A colour? Is there anything else about it? What does it want to let you know, underneath all the critical comments? Can you be kinder and gently curious towards it? Maybe if you start to take this approach, your Inner Critic will soften too and become less harsh.
7. Accept others
Start to notice how critical you are of other people. Perhaps you could begin to allow them to be ‘good-enough’, rather than wanting them to be perfect and condemning them when they aren’t. Becoming more accepting of others’ imperfections can really help you be gentler on yourself.Becoming more accepting of others’ imperfections can help you be gentler on yourself. Click To Tweet
8. Use creativity and humour
Try picturing your Inner Critic as a cartoon figure, or a monster. In your mind, see if you can play with that image and start to change it, to dismantle and transform their power. Gradually you could make them look ridiculous, small or powerless — you could even change their voice tone into something tinny and silly.
9. Look after yourself
When your Inner Critic starts sniping at you, ask yourself if you would want anyone talking like that to someone you care for. If the answer is ‘no’, then reconsider whether it’s okay for you to be spoken to like that.
10. You’re whole and you’re enough!
Hang on: your Inner Critic expects you to be perfect, right? How realistic is that? You’re human! So what that you’re messy, flawed, vulnerable, prone to making mistakes — you’re like the rest of humankind! You’re also full of wonderful qualities too, so see if you can hold awareness of all your qualities, the positive ones and the ones that feel negative, and know that this is all ‘good-enough’.Hold awareness of ALL your qualities, positive and negative, knowing you're ‘good-enough’. Click To Tweet
11. Get a therapist to help you
If your Inner Critic persists, counselling or psychotherapy could be well worth the investment. The therapy relationship can become a safe place for you to explore and understand all of the parts of yourself, so that you can heal the hurts and develop new strengths.
If you’re in the Colchester area, give me a call on 07515 937027 or email me today.