We all have an inner critic. Her job is to notice all the times we make mistakes, fall short of our goals or even just fail to meet our own often unreasonable expectations. She is a creation of the survival portion of our brains, but she is going about her duty to protect us all wrong! She mistakenly thinks that by criticizing and shaming, she’s going to keep us motivated to do better and be better.
Unfortunately, her efforts do absolutely the opposite. I have lots of research that proves human beings do better, perform better, reach their goals faster and feel better when criticism is OUT of the picture. Love and understanding are the keys to motivation. But our poor inner critic doesn’t know this!
Start to understand (and lead) your inner critic.
Understanding what is happening and why it’s happening can make all the difference when you hear inner criticism. It gives you the power to decide whether to believe the harsh words or not. In my own journey, I found this to be true. Once I understood that that critical voice in my head was generally trying to help me, I was able to make a conscious decision to stop living in shame, guilt, and suffering and accept the fact that I was imperfect and that’s ok! (Because, really, so is everyone else. I do not want to be the only one who is not human!)
One thing that helped me was to write my inner critic a letter. Yes, I know it’s cheesy, but seriously, when you actually do it, it is powerful! My clients find it funny and awkward at first, but after a few minutes, you can start to feel how freeing it is to talk back to a voice that has been so loud in your head. It’s empowering.
My inner critic and I get along quite well now. She sometimes gets over-worried and harsh with me and I sometimes get flustered, but most of the time I lead her through whatever hard thing we are facing together. This is what self-compassion is all about and it’s such a kinder and gentler way to live life!
I’ve shared my inner critic letter with you in hopes you’ll be inspired to write your own! You can even copy mine and substitute phrases that mean more to you, or you can start from scratch. Just remember the tricky nature of criticism as you address your inner critic. Be firm, but understanding. Your message is love and compassion, not harshness. Don’t let that tricky critic steal your pen and make this another exercise in criticism! 🙂
So, really, go get some paper and write the letter! Actually, physically doing it creates a new neural pathway in your brain that helps you build a path of compassion. The more you travel that self-compassion path over time, the less self-criticism you will experience. This will allow you to fully be who you really are.
Though self-criticism can make you feel broken, I promise you-you aren’t broken. You are just human. Once you know this, you can start to hear your inner critic’s words and complaints with different ears. You have the power to not take everything she says as truth. It’s okay to just roll your eyes and say “Oh my goodness, my inner critic is on one today!” and then give yourself permission to be human, give yourself an internal hug, and go right on being that awesome, imperfect, beautiful soul that you are!
Dear Inner Critic,
I know you are just trying to help me.
All the mean names you call me are really just you being afraid and not knowing what else to do. I know you think that it’s helping me when you point out my mistakes and focus on my weaknesses. You are getting so good at being the loudest voice in my head.
But I have to tell you, it isn’t really helping me at all. You’re actually really scaring me into believing that something is wrong with me.
And that just isn’t true.
I know you mean well, but you need to know that I’m not going to listen to you if you are going to be mean. There is a better way to keep me motivated. I’m ditching the all or nothing thinking and remembering that everyone makes mistakes and that trying and failing at things is part of how I grow.
I’m not going to abandon you, so don’t worry. But I really am serious about not listening to you when you get mean. You don’t have to be afraid. I actually have enough love to take care of you and help you when you’re feeling scared. We aren’t alone in this! Every single human on the planet is in the same boat!
So, get ready to do things a different way and I will remind you if you forget. It’s really better this way, I promise!
Thanks for all your good intentions.