How can I overcome my inner critic?
Take a moment to reflect on your inner critic.
What sorts of things does he or she say? When is that voice the loudest? When did it start? Are the sorts of things he or she says things you heard in your childhood? Who’s voice is that? Is it yours or have you internalised the voice of other people?
Self criticism is not an easy habit to break. Your inner critic may have been there for many, many years. It won’t go away over night but one way you can manage it is to replace it with a different voice, a more compassionate, wise, and understanding one.
The compassionate voice
Next time you hear that inner critic ask yourself “would I say this to a close friend?”. Usually the answer is no. So why is it okay to speak to yourself in that way?
Next, ask yourself “what would I say to a close friend if they were in my situation?”. Practice saying that to yourself.
Then ask yourself what do I need right now during this moment of suffering?”. The answer could be encouragement, validation, or understanding. If you can reach out to someone supportive to get those needs met by all means do that. But also try to validate yourself. For example, you might say to yourself “of course you’re upset that you didn’t get the job you interviewed for, you were really hopeful about it and it’s hard not to take it to heart”.
Other times we need to self-soothe through an activity like a bubble bath, a nice meal, reading a book, taking a relaxing walk in nature, going to a yoga class, or whatever your version of self-care is.
But I’m scared to let go of my inner critic…
Change is hard for everyone. You might be scared that if you let go of your inner critic that you will become lazy, complacent, or wallow in self-pity.
Self-compassion is not the same self-pity or letting yourself off the hook when you do something that conflicts with your own values or morals. It’s about not adding extra suffering to an already difficult situation.
Pain is inevitable in life but suffering is optional.
When you fail to practice compassion to your pain you add to your suffering. It doesn’t mean you throw your hands up and say “there’s nothing I can do about it” either. Instead, you are understanding of your pain, recognise that it has real causes, and then you are moved to do something to reduce that pain.
Self Compassion in practice
Here is an example of self compassion in practice.
You’ve had a rough day and feel like eating everything in sight. The inner critic may take the stance of shaming or guilting you for feeling that way. On the other hand, the self compassionate part of you can validate the fact you are feeling upset, exhausted, or vulnerable. The self-compassionate part will also recognise that binge-eating might help you to distract yourself from your pain in the short term, but you will likely feel worse afterwards. Therefore the compassionate part of you isn’t focused on meeting just your immediate but also your long-terms interests and needs.
Let that self compassionate part of you take care of what you really need, let it acknowledge that your pain is difficult but that it has understandable causes. Then figure out what you can do from this place of understanding, support, and kindness. The compassionate part of you is also more than capable of motivating you to achieve your goals (plus we already know the downsides of the inner critic’s attempts at “motivation” so why not let this part have a turn for a change?).
If you struggle with self-criticism, low self-esteem, or perfectionism the friendly team at Your Psych Centre would love to help, please contact us to make an appointment.
For more information and resources about self-compassion please visit Kristin Neff’s website: https://self-compassion.org/