How to Befriend Your Inner Critic

The inner critic, gremlin, nasty voice in your head – whatever you call it, you’ve got one.

Here’s mine.

She’s harmless enough until something I’ve done (or not done) gets her attention and suddenly…

She unleashes a torrent of judgment and furious opinion that leaves me reeling, some days weeping.

She’s me, not me. A tangle of stories and limiting beliefs accumulated over a lifetime.

She lurks, waiting for just the right moment to pull the rug out from under me triggering feelings of lack, disappointment, and doubt.

Her name is Medusa, and like her namesake who struck fear into the hearts of men, one stinging comment or look from her and I am immobilized.

And yet, I do my best to befriend her, to quiet her strident, demanding voice.

Some days this feels like an exercise in futility; other days I get through to her and the result is always worth the effort.

For Medusa (naming your inner critic is powerful) is not the enemy despite the frenzy she stirs up.

She exists for your survival (one more aspect of your lizard brain), ensuring you stay out of trouble, and she has one overriding goal – to keep you safe.

Everything else, including how you feel, is secondary to that goal.

She shows up, uninvited like an over-zealous friend trying to get her point across without regard for your feelings. You know someone like this; their intentions are good, if somewhat clouded by their questionable tactics.

One that serves a purpose, freeing you up from the spin of Medusa’s crazed, wild-eyed accusations.

 

Disarming Your Inner Critic

1. Challenge

Medusa is up for a debate any time, so stand up and challenge her! Question her logic. Interrupt her ranting, and disrupt her flow. If you wait for an opening you could wait a very long time as she is relentless.

Do what you have to do to stop the tirade.

What would happen if you stopped listening to your inner critic so intently and started questioning, challenging its authority?

2. Negotiate

It is possible to negotiate with the critic – it just takes time. Remember the critic’s job is to keep you safe. So instead of announcing a big, hairy, audacious goal to the entire world, share it wisely. A friend, a supporter, a coach – ask a trusted source for feedback before going public.

Here’s what that might look like:

Me:  I’ve just had the best idea for a new project! 

Medusa:  Are you crazy? You don’t have time for anything else. When will you learn? And by the way, who the hell do you think you are?

Me:  I know, I know, but just the thought of this project makes my heart race with excitement! 

Medusa:  Look, we’ve been here before and it didn’t work out. Remember what happened last time?

Me: I know, I know. I didn’t write the book like I said I would, but I’ve worked on it! How about if I promise to tell just one friend? She can help me stay on track and give me some feedback along the way.

Medusa: Fine. One friend, but make sure she doesn’t announce anything on Facebook. I’ll be watching.

Negotiate the terms, then get to work. Medusa’s got your back.

3. Imagine

The stuff your inner critic comes up with isn’t true. It’s mostly made up of your fears, and the limiting beliefs of a lifetime.

It’s all made up. So why not make up something good? Something that totally taps into how you want to feel!

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine something you really want. See yourself in your mind’s eye with the desired outcome.  Your imagination will fill in the details:  What do you see, hear and feel?  Pay particular attention to how it feels in your body. Your body doesn’t lie. Trust it.

Shift your attention from Medusa’s internal chatter to your visual brain. With practice, this exercise can become your most powerful ally.

“Every time a self-critical thought comes to mind, I will forgive the Judge and follow this comment with words of praise, self-acceptance, and love.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

4. Appreciate

If the critic is there for your safety and survival, that’s something to appreciate. I noticed that Medusa stays pretty quiet when I acknowledge all the awesome in my life.

Right now, in this moment look around, what do you appreciate?

5. Accept

Medusa isn’t going anywhere. When you accept your inner critic, you’ll feel a dramatic decrease in frustration. When you shift from beating yourself up to acceptance and even curiousity, you’ll be able to get her message without the prolonged suffering.

Relax, pull up a comfy chair and settle in for a conversation rather than a battle, and remember she’s truly on your side.