We all have an inner critic. I don’t care how well adjusted you are or how much inner work you’ve done. You may go weeks or even months without hearing from her but one day, something happens and BAM! There it is. That old voice speaks up. You know the one. That voice that never seems to be satisfied no matter what you do or how you do it.
She burrows in little by little and if left unchecked she can take over your whole life. But there is a way to get on her good side.
You’ve probably encountered a bully or a mean girl at least once. When you take a step back and look at who that person is and why they act the way they do, you can probably notice something inside them that shakes up their confidence. So, to make themselves feel better, they bully someone else.
Well your inner critic is not much different. She is the way she is because she wants attention. You get to decide what kind of attention you give her. It could be she’s that little girl you used to be who was ignored or excluded from some activities. She may be the voice of disapproval from someone in your past. Whatever is fueling that voice, she’s crying out for attention of some kind.
You could ignore her and hope she goes away. You could allow her to victimize you. But if you take some time to get to know her, you may find she’s not as much of a pain in the butt as you think. She just wants to get noticed. In order to find out what she’s up to, here are some tips on how to go about making friends with your inner critic.
Get out some paper and the writing implement of your choice and make some notes as you go through the following questions.
What’s in A Name?
Before starting, I highly recommend you give your inner critic a name. You can call her anything you want. Giving her a name makes it a little more manageable when you refer to her. It also gives her a little recognition which may help her feel less antagonistic.
Write down her name and whenever she shows up, address her by her new name.
Let’s Get Started
Think about a recent time your inner critic was most active.
When does she show up?
- A specific time of day or day of the week?
- When a specific event or situation arises?
- In anticipation of seeing a specific person?
Start with first noticing when the inner critic is most vocal. Write down your answers so you can keep track of them.
What does your inner critic have to say?
Write down some of the critiques. Does it have to do with
- your appearance
- your ability to handle a certain situation
- your intelligence level
Try your best not to attach any emotion to the words (easier said than done, I know). Pretend you’re a journalist reporting the news and write down some (or all) of the comments you hear her say.
Who have you heard say these same words?
- Did your mother say them to you when you were little?
- Did a teacher say them to you in school?
- Did your significant other say them to you at some time?
As you come up with who you may have heard say those things to you, write that name next to whichever statement matches.
If you really spent some time on the above steps, you may have dug up some old emotional stuff. That was not the point of this exercise but if it took you there, your inner critic may be trying to call attention to some needed healing. Now that you have this work done, take a break because you don’t need to give too much attention to the negativity. Take some time to do something nurturing for you. When you’re ready, come back and work on the next steps.
Now that you’ve decompressed and done something fun, go back to the list you made earlier. Read it over from your reporter perspective.
What patterns are you noticing?
- Does your critic come out at times when you’re feeling stressed about something?
- Does she show up at a certain time of day when your stress level is high?
- Perhaps she shows up when you’re scheduled to see a certain relative?
Make some notes. They may provide some insights into whose filter these comments are coming through. Is that inner voice that shows up at the most inconvenient times you or is it someone else? What does it represent? What is it trying to tell you?
What does she want/need from you?
If your inner voice’s critical comments are a cry for attention
- what will make her feel better?
- what can you do to make her feel more comfortable so she will back off from trying to make you less comfortable?
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, we all have an inner critic. She may be as subtle as “my hair won’t do what I want it to do today” or she may be more severe “you can’t do anything right”. Whatever comments she makes, they are not meant to make you feel good about yourself. You get to choose, though whether you’ll fall victim to her negativity or replace her language with something more nurturing.
By raising your awareness of the words she uses against you and the source of those words, you’re now armed with information to develop new tools. It could be as simple as replacing “my hair won’t do what I want it to do today” with “maybe I’ll let it do it’s thing and see how it goes” or replacing “you can’t do anything right” with “I really rocked that presentation yesterday”. The point is, she’s crying for attention. She may even be thinking she’s protecting you in some way.
As you look at how you can give her the attention she needs, always put honoring yourself first. In all likelihood, this voice is bringing up past issues from when you were a different person. Honor who you are now and see what you can do to help her find peace.