Once, when I was a kid I ate almost a whole plate of cookies at a birthday party. One of the older children made a remark to his friends about my appetite, which I overheard. I was totally embarrassed and it seemed that his voice got stuck in my head.
For many years afterward, I remembered this experience and each time it was as if I could hear the boy again. Of course, every time this happened I felt those same embarrassing emotions again.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar, where a voice pops up in your head and makes a snarky comment that leaves you feeling ashamed or caught out.
Sometimes it doesn’t even speak directly to you, it just makes some arbitrary sideways remark.
But, you pick up on it anyway, and it causes you to change your behavior.
Maybe it’s a parent’s voice or a caretaker or teacher’s voice. Or, you might not even know who this voice belongs to.
We all have one
You see, everyone has an inner critic. The job of your inner critic is simple. To keep you safe, and to stop you from engaging in dangerous, unhealthy and unwanted behavior.
But what happens when your inner critic gets overprotective? And how does it know what is dangerous, unhealthy and unwanted behavior?
Learning how to deal with your inner critic is an exercise in both self-awareness and self-love.
Sometimes your inner critic might get overzealous and just a little militant. It may become totally harsh.
It may shout at you, say mean things about you and to you. It makes you feel bad yourself.
It can even frighten you and convince you that you are not good enough. Maybe it tells you that everyone will find out you’re an imposter, don’t know what you’re talking about or that you are not worth listening to.
The thing is, your inner critic has good intentions but can still give you bad results.
It holds you back and keeps you stuck, and the only way to get unstuck is to learn how to deal with your inner critic.
It is the inner critic that causes that book that you wrote, to remain unpublished in your desk drawer.
It is the inner critic that prevents you from finally using your talent and skill to start your own business.
Your inner critic can make you play small.
It can make you give up on developing new habits that are good for you.
It can even cause you to eat too much, erode your confidence and make you disregard yourself.
Your inner critic is there to protect you at all costs, but sometimes it has a warped idea of what safe means.
How your inner critic develops
We are pretty confident about ourselves and our lives when we are born. We believe we have a right to be cared for, and to get affection, food, and love (think about how demanding babies are).
We never question our right to be here or our right to receive love.
But as we grow up our experiences change this idea we have about ourselves and our rights.
We start to draw conclusions based on what we see happening around us and to us, based on what our caregivers tell us and show us.
And so we input programs into our mind about these lessons and observations.
Those programs are what give your inner critic its voice.
I believe that most of us have a deep dark secret that we are keeping. We don’t know about this secret on a conscious level, but it’s there. Most people’s secret is “I am not good enough”.
And it is the job of your inner critic to make sure that no one finds out about your secret.
Your inner critic protects you from the world ever finding out about your secret, and at the same time, it also prevents you from your life in full self-expression.
How to deal with your inner critic
Today, I want to offer you a technique that you can use to deal with your inner critic when it stops you from reaching full self-expression.
This will provide you relief which then gets you unstuck.
Understand first and foremost that your inner critic is there to protect you from harm, including perceived harm such as stretching your comfort zone.
1. Your first step is to isolate the voice or sound of your inner critic. See if you can hear where it is coming from.
Does it come from the back of your head, in the middle of your head or in through your ears? Does it speak to you from the inside out or the outside in? What does it sound like? Deep, shrill, angry, condescending, strict, scared?
2. Once you have isolated your inner critic’s voice, you should be able to hear it when it speaks up.
Now you have 2 choices
Thank it for showing up, tell it that you are grateful and that you know it is there to protect you. Tell is that it is ok and that you are going to go ahead and do/say/try X Y or Z.
Turn down the volume of its voice so that it doesn’t shout so loud in your head. Note: this won’t make your inner critic go away. But at least it will give you a break, and let you take back a measure of control.
Remember, your inner critic is there to keep you safe
Mostly, by just realizing that it is your inner critic speaking and not necessarily the truth, it gives you the courage to show up and helps you feel more confident in the moment.
If you want to change the type of conversation that the inner critic is having with you, it requires deeper work.
Your target is to change what it is protecting so that you can be released from the blocks which are holding you back from being your true authentic self and living an empowered life where you show up in full self-expression.
In order to work with it, you need to first know it. Stop listening to your inner critic without paying any attention to it.
Starting right now, you can stretch your awareness so that you can isolate its voice.
Once you know it, depending on the situation, you can choose to either speak to it (option 1) or turn down the volume (option 2).
I’d love to know how it worked for you, comment below. And, do you have another way of dealing with your inner critic when it judges you?