When we confront our inner critic, we are tempted to shut it down and banish it from our inner landscape. This makes sense, because negative self-talk can truly ruin our mindset. Letting your inner critic run the whole show is just not sustainable.
But today, I want to suggest to you that your inner critic is not inherently bad. Deep down, your inner critic wants the best for you. It just has a funny way of showing it sometimes.
Trying to suppress this part of us does not work. If we suppress it, it can come back stronger and more terrible than ever. Instead of getting rid of our inner critic, what if we got curious about it and what it truly wants for us? How might acknowledging that its heart is in the right place help this inner critic find a more beneficial way to communicate what it wants for you?
This is where self-compassion can become an important tool. You might wonder what this looks like in practice. When I notice that critical voice popping up in my head, beating up on me, I try this exercise:
Take a moment to bring to mind a time when that inner critic was speaking to you last week. Try to put yourself right back in the moment and if you are OK with it, just allow it to be here… What do you notice here?… Is it a body sensation … a voice in your head … an image?… If you can just be with this for a few moments…
Now imagine that behind it is someone who actually wants something beneficial for you… See if you can get curious here… What might they want for you that is really important?… What do you notice here?… What positive intent does this voice have for you? Ask this inner critic how hard it has been working to try to help you.
If it feels right, bring some self-compassion to this part of you, this part that has been working so hard to try to bring some positive impact into your life… Ask how tired it is, and if it is tired, let it know you can see how tired it is… It is tough work it has been trying to do…
Now imagine you have a close friend who finds themselves in a similar situation… How might you talk with them? What advice would you give to their inner critic about how to better communicate with them?
Take a moment to check in with how you feel. What are you noticing now? Has anything shifted in how you feel towards your own inner critic voice? Has anything shifted with your own inner critic? What do you take away from this all moving forward?
When you are ready, open your eyes, and write down what came up for you in a journal.
Through this practice, I have learned that I have a lot to gain from getting curious and bringing compassion to my inner world. Even the voices that might beat up on me from time to time can be transformed. Perhaps even transformed from the role of being an inner critic to one of an inner mentor. What comes up for you? In what ways could you benefit by coming into a better relationship with your inner cast of characters?
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