In cartoons I often smile at the image of the character listening to both the devil on her left shoulder and the haloed angel on her right. But in real life it’s no laughing matter when our inner critic starts whispering incessantly!
When we’re trying to create our flexible dream, striving to integrate what’s most important to us in all domains of our life, it’s busy! We’re working hard and it’s easy to allow negative thoughts to creep into our minds…..
“I’m not doing a good enough job”
“My body’s here with my kids but my mind’s far, far away..”
“What if I get sacked, then what…”
We need to STOP! These thoughts neither support nor motivate us, so what about re-tuning the radio station that our inner critic plays?
Our barbed-edge self-critical thoughts just don’t help!
So what to do?
Firstly, please check-in with yourself.
Are you looking after yourself and in reasonable shape to face your inner critic? I know that when I’m tired and hungry and haven’t moved much that day, I’m more likely to feel negative about a situation. And from what my clients tell me; I don’t think I’m alone in this. It doesn’t fix everything, but when your inner critic seems particularly vocal, it couldn’t hurt to
promise yourself an early night AND/OR
ask yourself if you’ve been skipping meals or skimping on healthy stuff AND/OR
simply get up and stretch a bit, walk in the sun for a few minutes if possible
Secondly, you can try these 3 steps to build self-compassion
Be gentle and understanding with yourself. Notice that it’s hard. Give yourself a moment to take some deep breaths. Don’t rush into punishing yourself for the accusations your inner critic is making.
Remind yourself that it’s not just you - we all go through this. Humans have evolved with a negativity bias that means we tend to pay more attention to negative emotions, negative information and negative experiences. This may have helped our cave dwelling ancestors to escape predators and stay alive, but it’s a lot less helpful for us!
Try to calmly notice and assess what your internal concern is. Try neither to ignore or exaggerate your feelings. A calm assessment of the words of your inner critic can help you take useful next steps.
We wouldn’t dream of saying to others what we tell ourselves!
Time to challenge your inner critic!
Once you can compassionately identify and assess your self-critical thoughts, you can start to deal with them. Say “that’s just not true!” to yourself and deliberately replace that thought with something that is both true and more supportive.
Replace “I’m not doing a good enough job” with a mental list of 5 things you did achieve at work or at home (and I do count remembering to pick up my daughter from netball training…. .!)
You can also manage your inner critic by choosing to take a little deliberate action.
Replace worries that you’re not present enough with your family with a firm intention to turn off your phone for an hour or so when you get home tonight and reduce the distractions that are around. Then you can enjoy the sense of achievement of having done it!
It is a journey
Our inner critic can truly be horrible and we know that taming her will be a journey - so we encourage you to use the ideas above to make a start. Please be proud of every step you take.
We’re in your corner,
Kate & Debra