“Your idea isn’t anything good.”
“Starting your own business is too hard. The economy is bad.”
“You’re too old to do this.”
That’s the voice of an Inner Critic. Specifically, mine.
Are you acquainted with the Inner Critic? It’s that niggling little voice in your head that brings discouragement, disappointment and defeat every chance it gets.
There isn’t a person I know that hasn’t done some hard time with their I.C. Even the most beautiful, accomplished, intelligent people battle negative thinking that threatens to undermine their self-confidence. And while it’s not my intent to analyze where that Voice comes from or who it sounds like (Moms already get blamed for more than their fair share), I do know a few things about it:
Inner Critics (ICs) don’t fight fair! They practice Guerrilla Warfare, pouncing on us when we least expect it and are most vulnerable, like at the start of an important project, a healthy habit, or a new relationship. ICs are Thought Terrorists, and 72 virgins mean nothing to them! They get off by sabotaging our success.
Inner Critics try to convince us that we’ll never be any good, in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Ever just post a great piece of writing and the rave reviews are pouring in, but you find yourself thinking, “Oh, they’re just being nice to me. I’m not that good.”?
Not only is negative self talk illogical, it shows no mercy. It’s primary objective is to create feelings of shame and guilt, so it attacks our underbelly: who we are. Attacking what we do is secondary.
Inner Critics prey upon our vulnerabilities. They know all about those sensitive areas we try to keep hidden from the rest of the world (and, at times, ourselves): Insecurities about our skills. Embarrassment over our weight or age. Fear about our lack of experience. And the Mother of All Weak Spots : Our past.
The Inner Critic is the Queen of Mean and she has a very long memory. Those 10 unfinished projects staring you in the face? She’ll bring them up. How about the scathing critique you received on your new book? Uh huh. Or what about when that person you really liked, maybe even loved, rejected you? She’ll throw THAT crap up in your face like a handful of napalm!
Inner criticism is relentless at using real or imagined “failures” to try to accomplish its main objective: to kill our dreams and stop our progress.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from these painful thoughts? We can
H.A.L.T. THE ASSAULT!
HONOR your journey thus far. One of the best – and kindest – things we can do for ourselves is to stop feeding the beast inside of us by rehearsing the failures of the past. Forgive yourself for any mistakes and missteps you’ve made. EVERYONE screws up. Remember: You may not be perfect but you are unique and exceptional and of great value. Don’t fall into the comparison trap by measuring yourself against others. Everything about you – the good, the bad, and the fugly – make you the person you are today. The past doesn’t exist anymore. Why carry yesterdays trash into fresh field of potential called Today?
ACCEPT that the inner critic is there. Granted, there are a few unusual people out there that appear to be free from tormenting self-criticism. I say unusual because the vast majority of us ordinary folk have to deal with this thing. Trying to ignore it, and hoping it will go away, is a recipe for disaster. Remember, whatever we reject about ourselves, we end up projecting onto others.
If you do not tell the truth about yourself
you cannot tell it about other people.
~ Virginia Woolf ~
So embrace your Inner Critic. Invite it to lunch, and acknowledge its existence. Accepting is half the battle and gives us the power to change it. Denial is a dead-end street.
LET it go. Seriously! Just let those thoughts go right on through! We are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are like birds flying across the sky of our awareness. Sure, they may stop momentarily. But we don’t have to let them build nests in our hair. When the thought, “I’m a terrible writer” flies in, shoo it away! If you latch onto it, then replay it over and over and over again, it will hunker down and embed itself. Show it the door as soon as it appears. It takes some practice to do this, but practice makes… well, you know.
TALK to yourself. No, not in that “Crazy Aunt Martha” sort of way. Practice affirmations. Say nice, uplifting things about yourself and about where you want to go in life. Put little Post-it Notes around that say things like “I know I can accomplish my goals” or “I am a creative person who enjoys great success” or my personal favorite, “I am equipped with everything I need to fulfill my destiny!”
Nothing shuts up the Inner Critic faster than a well-rehearsed Love Fest. It’s like a force field of positive energy surrounding us. I like to write my affirmations on the bathroom mirror in lipstick. How many times a day do you look in the mirror? Turns out it’s actually a pretty terrific place to remind myself of my worth and potential – right there where I can look myself in the eye and sweet talk that b**** into submission. It’s something I’ve done for years and, since this seems to be an ongoing battle, will continue to do. Even my daughter does it now!
It’s my belief those negative voices in our heads can be silenced (or seriously stifled) with a little practice and lots of Self Love. We can HALT THE ASSAULT, and turn the Queen of Mean into our very own Fairy Godmother. Hers can be the voice that inspires and motivates us to do our best work, to keep pushing forward, and to achieve our goals.
So how about it? Do YOU have an Inner Critic that needs to be silenced?