Do you have an inner critic that can be mean, harsh, bring you down, and just plain make you feel awful about yourself?
Rather than resisting it or getting mad at yourself, here are 3 ways to handle your inner critic when it comes around:
First ask yourself, where is this voice coming from? Is this how I was spoken to in the past from a parent, coach or someone else? Is this voice helpful? Why or why not? How does it make me feel? Does it build me up or get in the way of feeling good about myself?
Think about a person in your life—currently or in your past—that inspires you. It could be a teacher, mentor, coach, caregiver, close friend, sibling, or even an imaginary being.
Now, think about a time when you were down on yourself. What did they say to you? (i.e., I believe in you, you can do it, you’re doing your best, or keep trying) How did they say it? (i.e., softly, kindly, calmly) What did they do? (i.e. did they give you time, patience, a place where you could be yourself without judgment?)
Next time you catch your inner voice being harsh and critical, try to channel that person’s voice and manner as inspiration. Try to validate your feelings in the same way that your important person would. Say to yourself, for example, “it makes sense you would feel this way because _____________”, and try to think of 5 reasons. Try to allow the feelings just to be there without judgment (we all have feelings!), and give yourself a comforting message, encouragement or reminder that you are doing your best.
It might feel weird at first. You might wonder, If I say this to myself, won’t I just be saying it’s okay to stay where I am? How could I ever achieve my goals? It’s a common misconception that we need that “tough coach” to push ourselves harder, but it’s not true! Think back to that inspiring teacher or coach or parent that made you really want to do or be your best. Did they take a negative approach?
When we’re criticized, or put down, that makes us feel worse. When we are recognized for our efforts and achievements, believed in, cared about, when we feel safe to make mistakes, it makes us feel better. It makes us want to do and be better. Try treating yourself this way. Remind yourself, “I am doing my best AND I can do better!” If you’d like to learn more strategies around the power of being kind to yourself, leading researcher Kristen Neff wrote the book on self-compassion!
If your inner critic has been around for a while, it will take time, practice and patience to dim the voice and shift it so it speaks in a kinder, gentler, more self-compassionate way. The key is to accept that the voice is there and that it may have been around for a reason in the past, while also reminding yourself that it’s not helpful now and there are different ways you can talk to yourself. Try it out!
For more detailed information and exercises you can use to practice self-compassion, try the tools at self-compassion.org
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This article was written by Lisa Schwartz during their time at Shift Collab.
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