Do you have a critic in your head?
Most people recognize a voice in the mind that says you aren’t doing enough, successful enough, smart enough, skinny enough, etc. We recognize it in our own minds but we are often surprised to hear that other people have it as well. They appear so put together on the outside! And certainly we would not say any of these things to them – look how much they are doing, how successful they are, etc!
The trick ultimately is to acknowledge the critic, but not to let the critic “drive the bus.” The critic can be a passenger on your mental and emotional bus, but it does not get to make the decisions, or drive behavior and it certainly does not get to decide your value system.
So, once the critic is recognized (and maybe even given a name like Arianna Huffington who has shared that she calls hers the “obnoxious roommate” in her mind), what can we do about it?
1st) Resist the urge to criticize the criticism.
Recognize that voice of shame or criticism and acknowledge that it is a common experience shared by many. Resist the urge to berate yourself for struggling with this voice. (Resist the urge to criticize the criticism.) Instead, validate yourself for having this very common experience.
2nd) Remember that feelings are impermanent.
Remember that feelings, like the waves on the beach or the cars on the highway; they come and the go. There are moments when the critic will feel louder and there are moments when you will feel more grace-filled and compassionate toward yourself. Notice all of these things with an openness and without judgement, knowing that all are temporary. As with this impermanence, resist the urge to allow your inner critic to make your decisions. Acknowledge the inner critic but if it is within your values system to act anyway – take a risk, practice creativity, initiate a conversation – do so anyway. The inner critic does not get to take the drivers’ seat.
3rd) Is that how you would talk to a loved one?
Ask yourself if you would ever talk to a loved one, a friend, even a stranger the way you are speaking to yourself. What would you say to them? Would you validate? Would you encourage? Would you simply sit nearby and allow them the space to see the feeling pass? All of these are kind things to offer yourself.
4th) Self-soothing through coping resources
Utilize a coping resource. Practice some yoga. Listen to music. Take a warm shower. Call a friend. Take a nap. Notice what your body is experiencing, for example loneliness, anger, hunger. Attempt to get this need met. Take notice of what works for you and what does not – your coping resources are quite often different than those of others. Resist the urge to continue the criticism cycle if said coping resource does not work as hoped – keep trying.
Brene Brown (the ultimate guru on shame) has said that if you put shame in a petri dish
and add in silence/secrecy, you will watch it grow. Do not stay silent! Share and connect with something outside yourself. Call a loved one. Snuggle a pet. Pray. Do not stay silent and unconnected. Notice what it feels like to connect with God, nature, and/or a loved one. See if you can make this a daily practice.
Put your inner critic out of the job! Which step is most helpful to you?