Tame Your Inner Critic

We have tons of thoughts every minute but when these thoughts are consistently critical and judgmental of ourselves  (i.e. how we’ve failed yet again) then it restricts our ability to live more fully and enjoy our lives.  An intense and relentless Inner Critic can lead to social anxiety, perfectionism, rigidity and depression.

Become More Aware Of Your Inner Critic:

1.  What is the Inner Critic?

  • It’s a part of us that consistently judges, criticizes, compares, condemns and attacks us and as a result limits our ability to live fully in the present moment.

2.  Where does it come from?

  • It can come from being judged by our parents, peers, authority-figures, religious leaders, politicians etc.
  • It has a protective function, to help us avoid rejection, embarrassment, failure, and hurt.

3.  What words does it use, if any?

  • Sometimes there are no words but rather a felt sense of worthlessness.
  • Sometimes it’s on auto-pilot so it’s difficult to recognize its message.
  • If often not only says, “You’ve failed,” but “You are a failure.”
  • Recognize the language it uses and how intense it is.

Here’s a common example, illustrated by an Inner Critic Meter:

Inner Critic Meter

4.  What are your physical responses to it?:

  • Depending on how loud and ruthless the Inner Critic is, our body can respond by having restricted breathing, increased heart rate, shrinking shoulders, flushing red face, and averted eye-contact
  • These are often signs of a flight, fight or freeze response we automatically do to respond to danger or trauma.

5.  How does it impact your life?:

  • A loud Inner Critic can increase stress, perfectionism, social anxiety, depression, and isolation.

Create Distance from Your Inner Critic:

1.  Use Mindfulness:

  • Mindfulness is stepping back and taking a look at what’s happening — internally, externally and otherwise — from a place of curiosity and radical acceptance for whatever we notice.
  • If we allow ourselves to become more aware of what’s happening internally, instead of avoiding it, we can eventually learn how to navigate this territory better.

2.  Recognize Inner Critic Characteristics:

  • It will criticize you no matter what so stop trying so hard to please it or out-argue it.
  • It usually uses some element of truth so we believe ALL of what it says.  Don’t fall for this.
  • When you believe it, these beliefs leads to self-defeating behavior that re-enforces what it said in the first place.  It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Underlying its attacks is a desire to protect you.

3.  View as PART of you but not ALL of you:

  • Just because it communicates with you doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • Don’t believe everything you think.

4.  Use Writing and Visual Imagery:

  • Imagine it as separate than you with a specific function.
  • It may be helpful to write down a conversation with it, like it’s a separate part of you within or draw it that way.
  • It may be helpful to view it like you would view something on a computer screen or television.

Befriend Your Inner Critic

1.  Respond to You Inner Critic as a Compassionate Friend:

  • Have empathy for this part of yourself, like it’s a hurt child or friend.
  • Reassure your Inner Critic that you’ll do what’s necessary (different than arguing with it) and then follow through so it’ll trust you more to take action when needed.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes and be imperfect while also taking responsibility for growing and learning along the way.
  • Practice being more compassionate with yourself.  Compassion isn’t being passive.  It actually lets us take action from a less fear-based and more centered place.

2.  Sift the Truth from the Judgement:

  • Value any truth of what your Inner Critic is saying to you.
  • Recognize the judgements as the Inner Critic’s fear that you’ll fail, be hurt, get rejected and ultimately a fear that you won’t be loved.

3.  Set Boundaries:

  • Let your Inner Critic know that it’s not okay to attack you but letting you know it’s concerns is welcomed.
  • Changing the social contract with anyone, including your Inner Critic, can take consistency and time but is well worth the effort.

4.  Take Action:

  • Get clear on what needs to happen, if anything, and take appropriate action.
  • Rebuild trust in yourself and your ability to befriend your Inner Critic.

Here’s a graphic on  Steps to Tame Your Inner Critic

Inner-Critic-Befriending-Steps

In summary, take a moment to consider what you criticize yourself the most for, where you learned this behavior, what is true versus what is judgement, and how you can build a healthier relationship with your Inner Critic.  Use this Inner Critic Worksheet for assistance:

inner-critic_worksheet

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