Are you aware of what your inner critic is saying? Here's why it's important...
Are you aware of what your inner critic is saying? Here's why it's important...

We all have an inner critic. Typically we don't want to accept our inner critic. We view it as a source of negative talk, pain, and difficult emotions. It means we try to avoid managing and dealing with it. It's also common that our inner critic rises up at times we don't want, need or expect it too. Mine rose up this week... It went something like this: "you aren't worthy and you aren't valued" It was like a gut punch. It felt like I was in an emotional daze. I got really down on myself. These are old narratives of mine, old beliefs, that have built up over years of repetition. The good news, I can recognize when they are present, in the moment. I am very aware of it. It does not mean I can stop it... In fact they come speeding in like a lightning bolt AND as they do, I hear my inner voice saying "hello critic, I see you". Were you secretly hoping that I was going to say I no longer have an inner critic? I would only be lying if I said mine was gone. I can tell you honestly that I now know how to identify mine, manage it, and often times appreciate it (WHAT?). We are our own worst critics and often times the judgment we place on ourselves is more severe than anything anyone else could come up with. That's a fact. It's important to get to know our inner critics better so we can learn, understand and manage. I know from experience that it takes time and intention. Here's an exercise you can do to start to understand your inner critic better.

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Take a moment and pause. If it feels okay, close your eyes. While you do, ask yourself this question: What does my inner critic most commonly say? Think about it for a few moments.

When you open your eyes, write down whatever showed up. Write down everything. Allow yourself to experience the narrative you know; for example, "I am not loved or maybe, I am not worthy". It's important to acknowledge that you may encounter some negative emotions and sensations in your body. Note these down as well. The act of writing and connecting to our inner critic is releasing and healing. It forces us to move our inner critic into our conscious awareness and accept them as being present. It moves us to turn inwards and explore.

People often ask me why is our inner critic so apparent? There are a few reasons we develop this inner critic. One of them is rooted in safety. Usually our inner critic will rise up if it is perceiving there is danger even if the outcomes they are choosing to use are unproductive (Neff and Germer, 2020). Our inner critic will act to motivate us to improve, give us a false sense of control and minimize our pain in the face of difficult emotions. In fact we can say at times, our inner critic has value.

While value can be present "it's important to remember that sometimes a critical inner voice can be internalized shame from early caregivers, or from cultural oppression, and can have no redeeming value whatsoever." (Neff and Germer, 2020). Additionally, our inner critic is often driven from our beliefs; negative ones that are rooted in our belief system that has been a part of us since we were young. We are often unaware of these beliefs, they are part of our system of being. Until we begin to explore and understand them, they can often go ignored for years, even decades. Once we begin to understand the root of our belief system we can better understand the narrative of our inner critic. A perfect example is what I shared above. My belief that I am not worthy and I am not valued. Those are real beliefs that began when I was 5 years old. I never realized that was when they began until I did some digging to understand the origination of where the story's work that has transformed my life.

EXERCISE #2: Take what you wrote down in exercise #1 and go to a mirror. WARNING this exercise can bring up some difficult emotions. Read what you wrote a few times to yourself. See if you can memorize your inner critic narrative. Now look in the mirror and recite what you wrote to yourself. Pause after each statement. Notice what you see and what you feel. Label the emotion and say it out loud. I feel sad, I feel angry, I frustrated. Now take a very deep breath in and exhale loud and deep. Now look into your eyes and with a loud voice say "I see you and you are not welcome here, not right now". Breathe.

Connecting to your inner critic is not meant to be done once and left alone. It is a journey that requires repetition, observation and a willingness to be open. Are you willing to understand your inner critic?

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