We’ve all got one haven’t we? You know that inner voice that seems to get louder and more persistent when we’re not feeling at our best!
RIGHT NOW…..what’s yours saying?
RIGHT NOW…mine is saying
- Who are you to write about this…you can’t even deal with your own?
- What will people think about you if you put this out there?
- You’re not great at detail and what if this goes out there with a typo or grammar error?
We can’t kill the voice. It’s part of us, a small childlike part of us who’s feeling vulnerable in some way. What we can learn to do is to be more accepting and to use it to our advantage by befriending it.
Tracking back to the source
The voice of our inner critic most often mirrors the things that our parents and caregivers said or implied when we were young. These might be things that were actually said, like for instance ‘children should be seen and not heard’ but these messages might also be subconscious messages that we just sense from others. Like for instance the shame that I think I sensed from my Dad, who grew up with an undiagnosed heart defect. He always felt he was criticised for not being as strong as other boys. I suspect I picked up some form of message from him that ‘it’s not OK to admit when you’re unwell.’
Now for the most part, as children we need parental controls in place to keep us safe. So that we learn what’s right and wrong and how to relate to others. However, there can be a critical edge to some of these messages and part of the problem, when we’re children is that we don’t have the capacity to digest what’s being said. We swallow it whole or we introject the message, to give it it’s technical term!
And it’s these introjections that can become the basis for our inner crictic. Just like our actual parents, the intention behind the inner critic is to keep us safe. Safe from pain, rejection and shame. So when my own inner critic is running amok in the run up to doing an important presentation; she’s trying to stop me doing something that feels risky!
So here’s some ideas on how you can begin to befriend your inner critic;
It’s a defence
Remembering that the inner critic is defending us and trying to keep us safe, is one way to start to change the way that we think about him/her. He/she is not setting out to make things difficult for us – far from it, he/she is probably more concerned about making sure that nothing happens to us!!
Go into things with your eyes open
Notice what you’re feeling physically and emotionally when you’re not OK. Open your eyes and ears to what is going on for you in the moment. The body is brilliant at telling us when there’s a problem – we just often don’t listen to it. What physical sensations are you experiencing? Where and how intense are they?
Feel the fear
When you notice the physical sensations that something’s not OK, can you take a moment to consider…..what is it that I’m afraid of? What’s scaring me here? Notice the catastrophising and generalising here. There will be some fundamental fear behind the critical voice. If you can get a handle on it, you can begin to take the sting out of the inner critic…..because somehow naming the fear diminishes it…we shine a light on it and it no longer seems like the bog scary thing that we were holding onto.
Picture the child
Visualise yourself as a child and imagine what you would say to that toddler version of yourself. If he or she was scared would you tell him/her to stop being so silly and get on with things? Probably not.
So, picture the child and see if you can be more compassionate and caring to reassure him/her that they don’t need to worry. Change what you say to yourself. Imagine your own inner child is like the persistent toddler who’s pulling on your leg wanting attention. Turn towards him/her, give them what they need and they’ll go back to what he/she was doing. They’ll step down once they know you’re on it and they don’t need to worry!
And finally….the bit that’s probably the hardest to do ‘in the heat of the moment’…
Get into your Adult
The childlike responses to danger that we’ve discussed thus far are emotional, back brain responses. We’re not being rational or objective, so finding a way to reframe or change how we see a situation can help us to gain perspective and most importantly access the front brain; the part we need to make great decisions and do our best problem solving.
How could you reframe what’s happening? What’s REALLY going on here? What actually is the worst that could happen? How catastrophic would that be? And if that did happen how would I resolve it?
I love inner child work. I think it’s truly transformational! If we can recognise what’s going on and make different, conscious choices about how to respond to the voice of the inner critic. We make better decisions. We do better. We make better choices and we take back control of how we can respond to any given situation.
If you’d like to work on befriending your own inner critic, I’d love to work with you. Please drop me a note and let’s make a start!!