curb your inner critic – part two

07/18/2009

by anne lueneburger

2

The first step towards overcoming the influence of the inner critic is to become aware of it, to notice it. You are not your beliefs about who you are, you are not your inner critic. Both are a part of you, but they are not who you are. Take a step back, distance yourself from your inner critic and simply observe it. This already takes the punch out of it and diminishes its hypnotic grasp.

There is no need to fight it. In fact, it is not productive, as it drains your energy. The second step is to work with it, play with it, and consider using one or several of the following interventions:

O Visualize

Do you like to draw? Go ahead and sketch your inner critic. Are you not sure what your critic looks like?  Google images linked to keywords your inner critic uses and you are bound to find one that fits. Print out the image. The process of visualizing your negative voice allows you to externalize it and separate from it. If visualizing is too difficult, name it. When it raises its voice, lock it in a drawer, shred it, erase it or simply mentally discard it, whatever feels most natural for you. Some clients of mine literally take the drawing or print out and put it away, in a closet, in another room, in a bag.

O Affirm

Look at the negative voice’s message. Rewrite it, taking a positive stance. Think of your true values, your accomplishments. Don’t hold back, indulge in exaggeration and allow yourself to detail it out, have fun with it. For example, if previously your inner critic told you “you are not likeable as you are”, you may now tell yourself “I am tremendously popular, people enjoy speaking with me and would love to have me be their friend. It is so much fun to be so in demand.” Replacing negative chatter with positive self-talk is bound to make you feel better, and when applied over time, often results in a true transformation. No worries if it feels ‘fake’ at the start, this is a very personal project and you can savor this all in private.

O Role play

As a coach, when I notice my client engaging in negative self-talk, I acknowledge hearing the inner critic. Together we take a step back and observe. If so inclined, we role play, the client plays the inner critic, I am the sensible voice: “What is your inner critic telling you?” The more the client uses the inner critic’s voice, the more it usually becomes obvious how absurd or unreal its message is. Next, we look at “What can you say to that critic?” This allows you to distance yourself from the message and your negative voice. If you do not have a person to work with, you can also use monologue, speak it out loud and hear as a natural observer what the message is…you will likely come to the same conclusion.

O Investigate

What does the negative voice say? When does it talk? Is there a pattern you can identify? Does it get loud when you are tired, are with particular people, when you are stressed? One client of mine had a critic that would get vicious around 11 pm almost every night. It would rob her of hope and optimism and all that seemed left was apprehension and fear of the future. Once she discovered that pattern, she developed a number of tactics that set her free: she worked on being asleep before 11 pm, she started a journal where she recorded at least three things that made her optimistic about the future or sometimes she would hold a monologue, focusing on the sensible voice.

O Modify

You have the option to change your thoughts or behavior – important is not to become rigid about it. If you lose the playfulness, you risk replacing one negative voice with another. Take for example my client Erin: she truly suffered from not being able to take appropriate credit for her accomplishments at work, she felt unappreciated and taken advantage of by her colleagues. The inner critic would tell her to ‘be modest’ and that tooting your own horn is not a good quality. When Erin worked on eliminating this chatter in her head, she became extremely focused on being ‘bold’, replacing one critic with another. So the key is to modify, shine a light on old habits and concepts, experiment with new behaviors.

As you can see, there are a good number of strategies to manage the inner critic. Find the method that fits best with who you are and your life style. Curbing your inner critic will provide you with the strength to move forward, towards a centered, balanced and fulfilling life.

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