Tame your Inner Critic in 6 steps: My personal experience
...Shut up. Why did you say that? You shouldn’t have said it. You are such an idiot. And there you go again eating all that crap... You have no willpower. You are not a good enough parent/ partner/ friend... You are not good looking enough, skinny enough, smart enough. You don’t have what it takes to be truly successful. You are a fake. You are lazy. You are afraid to dream big. You are a loser. You are a failure. You are not worthy of love...
Ouch. What nasty things we can tell ourselves sometimes. So many versions of YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH. Ufff… what a heavy burden to live with - feeling that we are never good enough and that we have to perpetually do more and more, just to be enough!
How about choosing to live our lives seeing that we are ALREADY GREAT, and from that place, allowing our greatness to emerge? How about living our life chasing what we truly want instead of running away from what we fear?
I recently went on a crazy study-dive on the Inner Critic, as part of a collaboration workshop I did with a fellow coach and college friend, Jenniffer Green. The topic seemed so interesting and important on my personal journey of self-development and I figured this understanding could be really helpful for my kids, husband and clients. I also knew my Inner Critic was something I was going to have to face at some point if I wanted to continue going deep and evolving both personally and as a Coach. I was ready.
The Inner Critic, I learned, can also be thought of as Freud’s superego, which represents the critical and moralizing part of the mind internalized from parents and society. What’s interesting is that our critic oftentimes has standards that are outdated - that is, they may have served us as immature children craving the love and acceptance of our parents, but they are not really standards we genuinely value or believe in and they actually limit us from being fully ourselves and reaching our potential.
Imagine for example a little girl walking alongside her mother, head down, as her mom compares her to other girls telling her she needs to be more like this one and that one. Her gut would tell the girl she knew better but she didn’t want to confront and upset her mom and so she learned to stay quiet, doubt herself and do everything for others without asserting her own needs. Today, as a grandmother, her critic still shows up judging her for not being able to stand up for herself. She is now finally starting to, as she has gained awareness of her habitual loop.
The constant judgements of ourselves that run in the background of our minds can become such a natural part of our mental chatter that we may not even realize that they exist, let alone be aware of how prevalent and limiting they can be in our lives. But once once we begin to observe our experience with perspective, we gain the option to choose a different response to an old tape.
In my particular case, through the 6 Step Process, I was able to recognize one of a few voices of my critic that tells me “You are going to fuck it up”. This voice shows up a lot policing how I make choices about my parenting and my work. Sometimes, it shows up as judgement of others. For example, I can get annoyed by someone because of how “boringly perfect” they are. Yet this is really all about me judging myself as “reckless” as I compare myself to them.
The first step alone of clarifying what a particular voice of your critic is telling you is HUGE. Try it for yourself. Complete the prompt below with a specific way in which, according to your critic, you are not enough. Make the statement a You (vs. an I) statement so that you start distancing yourself from it right away.
(i.e. are not smart/successful/ attractive enough)
After distilling a limiting belief about your innate goodness or potential to a specific message, the next step is developing the awareness of where that particular voice comes from and how it makes you feel.
—> What’s the earliest you can remember having these thoughts about yourself/ feeling this way?
—> What emotion captures how you feel when you feel judged in this way?
For me the second step brought to mind a traumatic high school trip to Israel when I was 14. This was a 2 months trip everyone in our school dreamed of going to the summer before their senior year. My turn had finally arrived and I was having the best of times. I had my first boyfriend and first kiss. I even got my belly button pierced. Then one night around the middle of the trip, like many others in our class, I sneaked out of the hotel with friends and went out. But things turned sour for me: I ended up hospitalized in a coma for 2 days and got kicked out of the trip. All I really remember after waking up is the enormous amount of shame I felt towards my parents and community.
In fact, it is this painful memory of shame that I realize still haunts me until today - even when I had thought my Israel experience was a distant memory long overcome. The awesome thing though, is that now as a mature adult, when I get that paralyzing fear of fucking things up, instead of being sucked into my usual judgement loop that prevents me from moving forward, I can now see clearly and with compassion that I’m overreacting to the present situation and that this is really 14 year old Carol showing up. My critic, with my best interest at heart, is trying to protect me from failure, shame and rejection, but I don’t really need that protection right now. I have a whole network of people that love and support me, I have proven time and again that I am capable of achieving great things and I know that failing is just part of growing and living fully. As I observe myself and my experience in this way, my critic immediately loses power.
I can then proceed to use its energy to help me get what I truly want and need which is more Confidence, in particular in my ability to sustain the important work over the long run— after the exciting newness has passed. In the spirit of starting small and creating long-lasting habits, I’ve learned that one little thing I can do that gives me an immediate boost of confidence is getting something done. So when I notice my inner critic attacking me, I first disarm it with good questions (step 4) and then, shift the energy of my critic in my favor (step 5) by for example, answering an email I had been neglecting, sending a gift I have overdue or finally finishing that blog post. And after I do this I take a moment to pad myself in the back (step 6: Celebrate!) for taking a step in rewiring my brain for success.
Interestingly, through the 6 step process I have also come to appreciate, love and respect more the side of me that is about fun, adventure, insatiable curiosity, creativity, meaningful connections and experiences. I leverage it more in my life—instead of repressing it due to fear— and as a consequence I feel more whole.
If you would like to learn more about a private or group session on the 6 Step Process to Tame your Inner Critic email me at email@example.com.