There are several ways to lessen your inner critic’s impact in your life.
If you use these tools, you’ll likely find that your inner critic will not cease to exist (sorry! it’s here to stay!), but it will visit less frequently, speak more quietly and garner less of your attention and mindspace.
1. Get to know your inner critic
Write your reflections on the following questions:
· What else does your inner critic say? Write down some of your inner critic’s most frequently voiced beliefs.
· Who from your current life or past does the inner critic echo or build upon when it speaks? Family members, old teachers, cultural messages?
· How would you describe your inner critic? Anxious? People-pleasing? Persistent? Pick five words that describe it.
2. Name your ensemble: Looking above, you may notice a few voices or flavors of your inner critic— a few ways your inner critic frequently shows up. Give each one a name and a character. For example, right now, my inner critic has four major characters who I have named, “Perfectionista” (the voice of perfectionism), “Disastra” (the worst case scenario obsessive), “Preparissa” (the fearful over-preparer who believes more preparing = more success), and “People Pleaser” — enough said!
You can give your inner critic fictional names, take characters from a book, film, or from your own life experience. You can use animals, mythical figures, or celebrities for inspiration. The inner critics of clients and colleagues include The Wicked Witch, Grumpy Pants, Miss Manners or The Skeptical Professor.
It can also be fun to think of this group of figures in a light-hearted way — the cast of a cabaret show, a sports team, a cast of characters from a comic book or soap opera. Get creative. As you do so, you put your inner critic into perspective and treat it with a light
heart. Both take away its power.
3. Recognize your critic when it shows up: Now that you know what the inner critic is, and what it sounds like, you can identify it when you hear it. That is the next important step. This means simply saying, “Disastra has showed up” or “I’m hearing the voice of Perfectionista. Hello perfectionista!.”
Consciously separate yourself from what it is saying. Instead of saying, “I get insecure” be more precise: “I hear Miss Manners in my head telling me I can’t do x, I’m different, flawed, etc.” This may feel goofy. This may be goofy. The thing is, it works.
Tell a partner or supportive friend about your inner critic, the character or name you gave it and its common refrains, so that they too can call it out when he or she shows up.
Recognizing and identifying the inner critic is more than half the battle. If all you do is use the tactics listed above, the power of you inner critic will lessen significantly. But there is more you can do to reduce its impact further.
4. Remove the critic from the scene. A great tool from the Coaches Training Institute is to use a physical ritual to put the inner critic away —to stand up and move him or her into the closet, put her in the corner. It can also help to envision a nice place you are sending the inner critic, a place that will keep him or her busy for a while. Send your inner critic to the beach. Send her mountain climbing. You then have some time and space with a reprieve from the inner critic. If this sounds silly to you, rest assured it sounds very silly to me too. The thing is, it works.
5. Compassionately see the inner critic’s misguided intentions: to keep you safe, protect the status quo, and ensure that you are not vulnerable to the kinds of attack and embarrassment it is afraid of. When the inner critic comes up, silently acknowledge its intent to keep you safe, and say, in some form, “Thank you but I don’t need you right now.”
6. Write a sincere “thank you, but no thank you” note to the inner critic. Here is an example:
Dear Perfectionism –
I feel your pain! Life can be so stressful, and I know you believe strongly that if we just work really hard, if we just do an excellent job, life will be safe, and people will like us. You have helped us get good results in lots of situations. And your work ethic is incredible! Right now, however, I am going to try another approach. I’m okay without you in this situation. Thanks so much for trying to protect me, as always. I’ll see you later.
7. Laugh! If your inner critic is like most, it is adorably panicky, unbelievably repetitive, persistent, and often irrational. What would it be like to take all its chatter lightly? Note it, laugh it off, refocus on your vision, and move on. Notice what is hilarious and absurd about your inner critic.
8. Check it out. When you hear your inner critic talking, question it with questions like these:
Is what this voice saying true? Do I have any real evidence? If so, is this the whole truth or just one small part of the truth? If I check in with my heart (or my breath, or my gut or my body), what’s the real truth? Does listening to this voice serve my goals or make me happy? If this voice and its ideas were absent from my mind, how would I see the situation? How would I act?
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