This month we explore how to transform our relationship to our “inner critic,” that voice in our head that makes us feel bad when are less than perfect, don’t live up to real or imagined expectations, or disappoint others. Our “inner critic” develops in childhood when we internalize the judgements of our caretakers, teachers, peers, and society. The more oppressive our environment is, the more relentless and merciless our inner critic becomes. Left unchecked, it can inhibit our learning, our healing, our ability to have healthy relationships, and our potential for success.
As we become aware of this voice, we begin to see how we created it to stay safe, avoid shame, and stay in the good graces of the adults on whom we were entirely dependent as children. As we witness how this part kept us safe, but now oppresses us with fear and negativity, we develop compassion for ourselves, soften our hearts, and embrace all of ourselves with loving kindness.
This month’s video takes us through a process of meeting and transforming our relationship with our “inner critic” to live more dynamic, free, and connected lives.
Client Success Story
“For a long time, I held the familiar barrier of my inner critic around me. My desire for growth never subsided, but was filtered through the lens of lack and negativity rather than love and support. This barrier grew in me like mold, eventually infesting my everyday life with self-doubt and crippling thoughts. Understanding why this inner critic part of me became so loud in its attempt to protect me was like bringing light and air into a dark, moldy room. By bringing loving awareness to this part of me, I’ve learned to bring compassion to the little girl I was, who was hurting, but created this voice to make sense of the world.” – Adriana
Adriana explored how her “inner critic” took on the pain of her difficult childhood and invented ways to keep her safe. She expressed how there was a bulls-eye target on this part of her that took the blows from others and kept her safe through isolation (Image 1). She explored how this part of her developed a life of its own, fueled by pain (Image 2). Finally, she imagined connecting with and honoring this part of herself, and imagined her life more stable, rooted, and connected (Image 3). She experienced compassion for this part of herself and felt relief and calm after the experience.
What are ways in which I can reduce the power of my “inner critic” that seems to come out of nowhere to hijack my days with negativity?
This is a great question. The “inner critic” is tied to shame, and when we are in a shame spiral we lose our ability to nurture and care for ourselves.
In addition to doing the above visualization that brings compassion to the critic, some other practices that may help include:
1) Tune in, breath, notice what you are saying to yourself and label it: “Oh, that’s my inner critic right now.”
2) Notice the feeling you are having – sadness, fear, loneliness, etc., that is covered up by the inner critic’s harsh voice, and give yourself permission to feel the feeling rather than listen to the harsh voice covering it up.
3) Separate your larger observer self from the inner critic and ask the critic to please step aside, “thank you very much, you can relax, I’ll take it from here.”
4) Create a symbol that personifies the critic – Create a puppet, a clay figure, make a mask, sculpture, etc., and get to know the messages of the inner critic. Dialogue with this symbol and see what the deeper needs are.
5) Imagine putting all the inner critic’s thoughts into a container, or toxic waste can…separating these thoughts from more constructive, helpful thoughts.
6) Imagine the critic going off stage, into the darkness, becoming less and less present, its voice becoming softer and softer.
Be creative, loving, and kind towards yourself in this process no matter what you choose to do in daily practices, therapy, self-care, etc.