We all have inner critics. They get in the way of our aspirations and potential. They evaluate and comment upon everything we do, every choice we make. They judge our behaviours, our thoughts and feelings. They even judge us as a person. The inner critic is satisfied with nothing less than perfect and mistakes are an absolute no-no. This voice tells us we won’t succeed, shames us and tells us to quit before we’ve even begun.
“Befriending our inner critic is a life-long journey but one that is rewarding on so many levels.”
Basically, the inner critic can talk you out of things that could have been brilliant. The inner critic is a convincing and compelling component. It can feel like you’re engaged in a constant losing dialogue in your mind, one that you cannot win. But perhaps you have been going about the battle in the wrong way. Maybe there doesn’t need to be a winner? What if instead, you befriended the inner critic?
Often it is our struggle with difficult thoughts that causes our suffering. Imagine you’re stuck in quicksand; the immediate impulse is to struggle and fight to get out. But that’s exactly what you mustn’t do – because as you put weight down on one part of your body (your foot), it goes deeper. So the more you struggle, the deeper you sink – and the more you struggle. Very much a no-win situation. With quicksand, there’s only one option for survival. Spread the weight of your body over a large surface area – lay down. It goes against all our instincts to lay down and really be with the quicksand, but that’s exactly what we have to do. So it is with the critic.
Sounds strange and counterintuitive, I know, but trust me. Or at least give it a go.
Give Your Critic a Character
Trying to stop or ignore the voices in your head is not going to make them go away; it’s only going to make them stronger. By giving the inner critic a character, you are recognising that the voices are separate from who you are. So give your inner critic a name, form, personality. Where does it come from? What does it do? How does it sound? This makes it easy to have a conversation with it and bring lightness to the interaction.
Recognise The Inner Critic is Your Guide, Not Your Enemy
This can be tough, especially when the torrent of abuse can be so cruel and unkind. But the inner critic really is your guide, not your enemy. The voice is coming from a place of past experiences, of trauma and fear. Rather than wanting to sabotage you, it really only wants to keep you safe and protected. And this is the only way it knows how.
Thank The Inner Critic
Yes, I really mean it. Remember, the critic simply wants to keep you safe – maybe too safe, but it is coming from a space of protection. Acknowledge these needs of the inner critic. Thank the voice for the advice it is sharing with you, and gently tell it, you’re okay, you got this. Show it compassion and kindness. Listen to it instead of shunning it or fighting it. It’s like ignoring a screaming child, he isn’t going to get any quieter. But when you acknowledge him, the tantrum softens. When we acknowledge the voice that tells us we can’t or that we’re not good enough, it softens too.
Try this meditation:
- Relax the body and mind with your breath
- Bring to mind the character of your inner critic, see it’s form, hear it’s voice
- Become aware of the feelings and sensations that arise in the body. What does this thought bring up for you?
- Notice any desire to get rid of the experience and the thought
- Come back to acknowledging your thought without judgement
- If your mind wanders or resists, gently guide it back to the thought, character
- Bring a gesture of self-compassion to yourself – a hand placed gently on your heart centre or your solar-plexus.
- Acknowledge and thank your thought for the advice it offers and kindly, but firmly tell it that you are okay, you got this!
- Remind yourself that what you bring to the planet is your unique self
- Feel a sense of calm and inner peace enter the body as your critic fades
- Return to your breath as you gently become aware of the room around you and open your eyes whenever you are ready
Find out more about Alexandra and her mission in October’s Digital Magazine where she is featured.
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Alexandra Taylor is a Yoga & Meditation Teacher and Transformational Life Coach originally from Jersey, Channel Islands and now living in London. She is on a mission to help others find a physical and mental stillness in this hectic world through the philosophy of Yoga and Meditation.