We all deal with it - that voice in our heads that tells us we’re just not good enough. Our inner critics show up as doubt, blame, anxiety, guilt, and self-deprecation. Some days we’re ready to lace up our boxing gloves and to knock out negative thinking. Other days we may feel that we don’t stand a chance against it.
So what do we do when the inner critic maintains all the power; when we can’t fight back? If our inner critic is going to show up, we might as well acknowledge it with curiosity. By engaging with the inner critic, you might just be able to learn that it is separate from you and that it doesn’t have that much power after all.
Here are a few tips for engaging your inner critic:
Write down the messages the critic keeps repeating to you. When phrases like “I’m not good enough” or “I didn’t deserve that” show up, take note of them. Tally them. You might begin to notice patterns or recognize what mood your critic will arrive in given the circumstances.
Create distance between you and your critic. This step involves adding a label those phrases in order to create a little more space between you and this voice that doesn’t belong. For instance, if the phrase “I can’t trust anyone” emerges, label it doubt. If you hear “I wish I would’ve done better,” label it disappointment. If you sense that “it’s all your fault,” is creeping in, call it guilt. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you’ve got a lot more power to respond effectively.
Turn the labels into names. In order to expand the space between you and your critic, give names to what you are feeling. Get creative. Thinking about characters in movies or books that represent what you’re dealing with. For instance, maybe you name judgment “Judge Judy.” Maybe self-deprecating messages are now called “Toby Flenderson.” And when anxiety enters in, you address it as “Piglet.” Not only is this comical, it can help you unpack the reality that it is not your voice. If it has a different name, it cannot be you.
Can you imagine a dinner party where Judge Judy, Toby and Piglet all showed up? That sounds absolutely exhausting and ridiculous. I’m not sure I could stand for it. And yet, I can think of plenty of parties where I allowed judgement, self-deprecation, and anxiety hang out. Here’s the key - it’s a whole lot easier to ask someone to leave when you know their name. So get to know your inner critic. Label it. Name it. And then decide how long it gets to take up space in your head.