This month we are taking a deep dive into a vitally important topic. The topic is that little voice you have in your head. Of course, you have it – we all do. It’s the Inner Critic.
It’s not that you have an Inner Critic that matters though, it’s how much energy you give to it. My goal for you is that you get a little bit less wound up in what that voice has to say!
As a young person, I was intensely aware of what other people thought about me. Or at least what I believed they thought. My Inner Critic was always in high gear about the judgments of others concerning my appearance and actions. Then around the age of 18, I realized others weren’t paying that much attention to me and everything I did. And my Inner Critic shifted.
The voice in my head became more self-critical. It was worse, not better!
What I have learned since then is that your Inner Critic is really the voices of fear and self-doubt. And that most of what is being said is not true.
In my work with others, it seems that I have at least one conversation every day about what goes on in our heads. Here is the most important point that you may not realize. Just because you think or feel something, does not make it true. A feeling is not a fact; it’s just a feeling. A thought is not a fact, it’s just a thought.
There may be a very good reason for a particular thought or feeling and it’s often helpful to explore what that is. But don’t believe everything you think and feel. You make up things all the time to try to make the world and other people make sense.
All this is because the brain itself is unable to distinguish between something you imagine and something that is real. Whether you imagine an ugly spider or you really see one, the exact same areas in your brain are activated.
Your defense against your Inner Critic then is to make friends. The voice is there to stay, it may even be useful to you – just learn to deal with what it says in a new way.
Please read the main article for ways to shift the relationship you have with that powerful voice of fear within you.
The Inner Critic
You know that voice inside of your head that always pipes up when you’ve done something – anything – that you are a bit unsure of? The voice that always tells you what you should have done – or shouldn’t have done – or how you should have done it differently.
And on and on. And on.
That voice is your Inner Critic. (Mine sounds like a chorus of Gollums whispering and Harry Potter Howler letters screaming.)
My Inner Critic and I are old friends. She has seen me through thick and thin, high and low, in and out, good and bad. She’s always there, offering me her special type of information.
Sometimes, I start to believe that my Inner Critic is a dinosaur: long extinct, long ago buried below rocks and dirt. Then suddenly, out of the blue, she raises her head and starts her cacophony, and I realize she’s just been laying low, waiting to catch me off guard. Then she says to me, “YOU can’t get rid of me! I am always going to be with you to show you the facts of who you are.”
Recently, I participated in a workshop where we were instructed to write a letter to our Inner Critic. We were also asked to name our Inner Critic.
My Inner Critic’s name is Matilda the Hun, and yes, she does pillage and burn my inner pastoral landscapes.
While other members of the workshop had different ways of approaching their Inner Critics, we all shared common Inner Critic rhetoric: “You never do things right!”, “You don’t deserve success/happiness/your dreams to come true!”, and the ever-present “You aren’t ‘good enough’!”
Each of us is our own worst critic. You know more about yourself than anyone else, so anyone complimenting you obviously doesn’t know what they are talking about; they don’t have all the facts. Sound familiar?
Quinn McDonald is an author, teacher, and artist. She recently published a book about finding and allying with your own Inner Hero. But, she writes, before we can call on our Inner Hero, we must learn about our Inner Critic. She suggests exploring your Inner Critic with your five senses:
How do you feel when your inner critic is criticizing you?
How do you look at your self/art/work when the inner critic says you/it is worthless?
What phrases do you hear when the inner critic is around?
What long-forgotten shame or guilt does the inner critic sniff out?
When you look at your self/art/work with the inner critic, it will always leave you with a bad taste about your skills. What are the worst self-criticisms?
McDonald continues to say that once that you know how your Inner Critic shows up for you, you can better find how your Inner Hero can confront it.
She suggests creating an image (since hers is a book on art journaling, she suggests drawing, collaging, writing, or painting this) and putting a face on your Inner Critic to make it come into sharper focus for you. Making a representation of the Inner Critic moves it away from you onto a piece of paper, McDonald writes. Once the Inner Critic is on a piece of paper, it is separate from you rather than a part of you that directs your thoughts. (This is the same reason it’s important to name your Inner Critic: it unglues it from your identity.)
McDonald warns against just “banishing” your Inner Critic. If that is how you approach your Inner Critic, often a part of your inner attention is on patrolling the inner edges of your thoughts: looking for it, unconsciously calling to it, and losing lots of energy and time that could be better used in positive directions. And, when that kind of attention is given to anything, it shows up sooner or later. That’s why she suggests getting to know and calling on your Inner Hero.
Our Inner Critic is there for a reason, and it’s not always bad or wrong. It developed as a way to protect you from hurting yourself, then eventually developed into a total naysayer as you began to hear more criticism from the world around you and to compare yourself to others.
So who is your Inner Critic? What is her/his name? Who/What does her/his voice sound like?
You, too, might want to take 10 minutes (that’s all!) to write a letter to your Inner Critic. Then take 10 minutes and write a letter from your Inner Critic to you. See what understanding and common ground you can find, what kind of peace you can accomplish between the two.
If there is no peace there, explore your Inner Hero. Who is s/he? What does s/he look like? Sound like? What words and language does s/he say to you? Give your Inner Hero as much time as you give to your Inner Critic.
And then whenever your Inner Critic comes to jabber in your ear, take a few calming breaths and call on your Inner Hero.
Questions From Janet
How have you given in to your Inner Critic in the past?
What do you know about the details of your Inner Critic?
What would give you and your Inner Critic a more peaceful relationship?
Where I’m From By Evelyn KalinoskyI am from
the father who didn’t want me
long before I was a seed germinating in my mother’s wombI am from
my visions, my memories
etched in stone the color of autumn leaves
red, pink-hued, sandstoneI am from
the stories untold
the ache of not belonging
of being alone
of being unwantedI am from
the stars that glisten
possibilityI am from
the heart of a woman
who knows without question
what it means to love
and slowly, myself
I am from
that stick to me like surgeon’s glue
that hold me fast
to places, people, things
that are no longer mineI am from
the stories yet written
of pen and paper
of belonging and longing
of place and time
of being me
perfect(See more of Evelyn’s thought on the Inner Critic here)
Individual Coaching by Phone
Want to stop that feeling that life is passing you by?
Would you like to able to experience your life as an exciting series of adventures?
Would you like to feel more joy and achieve more success?
That is what I help my clients develop in their own lives. Working with a coach helps you overcome the challenges that can keep you from a successful life. Coaching gives you a companion on the journey; someone with whom to discuss events as they unfold and to help you move toward joy in the adventure. Developing clear goals, focusing intently and staying committed become possible.
If you aren’t sure and would like to explore whether coaching is right for you, please send an email to Janet@lifeadventurecoaching.com or call me at 828-691-4655 for a complimentary consultation.
Janet Slack Janet Slack is a professional coach and therapist living in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. From there, she maintains an office in Hendersonville for her local coaching and therapy clients and works by telephone with others from all over the United States and several foreign countries.