How do you feel about your inner critic? The most common response I have heard when I ask anyone this is along the lines of hating her, she’s mean and annoying, or a wish to get rid of her once and for all. I used to feel like this until I came to the undeniable realisation that this way of relating to this part of myself just wasn’t working.
I’ll make the claim right now that I am an EXPERT in the area of the inner critic! Why? My inner critic and I know each other INTIMATELY. She makes multiple daily appearances in my life and no amount of shooing her away or wishing she wasn’t there makes ANY difference at all except maybe making her more persistent! She’s a part of me after all, she’s stubborn and clearly doesn’t like being told what to do! The reality is, she’s not going anywhere and wishing and wanting her not to be is, quite frankly, just a big waste of time and energy. I realised many years ago that if I wanted this relationship to be any different, I had to take a different approach. I decided to disrupt this internal battle and get to know the face behind the voice and start building a relationship with her.
That face is that of my inner child. That shy, timid little girl who used to be afraid of EVERYTHING! That little girl who didn’t know how to say no and just did what everyone told her because they knew better than she did. That little girl who was TERRIFIED of making a mistake, who was the ultimate perfectionist. The disempowered people pleaser. The little girl who was picked on and bullied because she was an easy target and never said anything back. Yep… that little girl. She was the voice of my inner critic. Naming her in this way and thinking about the little girl I was, I kinda felt a little sorry for her and it got me thinking as to how I treat her every time I hear her. Wishing her gone, hating her, hoping she’ll disappear. it’s just ignoring her all over again.
What if all that little girl actually needed at that exact moment she was being critical was a little UNDERSTANDING and ACKNOWLEDGMENT? I decided to try it out and goodness me, let me tell you… it is a GAME CHANGER!
Reality is, you can’t GET RID of your inner critic. She’s a part of you. But what you can do is relate to her differently. These days, when she shows up as that little voice in my head, I try to acknowledge her and actually THANK her for being there and let her know that she can relax and I, AS THE ADULT have got this (This is SELF-PARENTING 101). After all, I don’t actually think she is trying to be mean to me, I think she’s just scared and it’s her way of trying to keep me safe! This really does make sense as when I say I was scared of everything as a child, I pretty well was so it’s no wonder she shows up so often. She’s a little dynamite of consistency and has my back in the only way she knows how. By doing this little process in my head, my inner child is able to relax and rather than pushing her away, I have actually shown myself the love, kindness, compassion and acknowledgment I need to alleviate my fear.
Our inner critic isn’t just some random pop up in our own head that is trying to hurt us but rather is our own fear presenting itself. It’s a real opportunity for us to show ourselves love and compassion at a moment when we need it the most. This inner critic is an aspect of our inner child and we have to stop calling her mean and cruel and understand that she’s just scared. A simple acknowledgment (or sometimes two or three) really can transform your whole relationship with this aspect of yourself and will not only provide you with the ability to move forward in a moment but also deepen the relationship you have with yourself as a whole.
I’ve been using this compassionate approach for years now and it’s taken the charge out my relationship with this part of myself. I’ve moved from anger and disgust to compassion and empathy. Sure, my darling little critic still shows up, and honestly, her game is still pretty strong but I now have the tools to pacify and ease her fear rather than play into the unwinnable battle. The result has been a calmer, less anxious and more authentic version of me. Like any habit, it’s not easy to change, but the effort involved is far outweighed by the physical, mental and emotional result.