The inner critic: that voice that provides a running commentary on what you didn’t do right in the past, what you’re failing at in the present, and what mistakes you might make in the future.
For some of us, it’s such a dominating presence in our thinking that we accept it as normal, or worse — we misinterpret it as inner guidance, there to keep us on track and ‘safe’.
The truth is, the inner critic only serves one purpose: to limit you. Criticising yourself for how you look or how you act, doubting your ability to do something well, and making choices based on other people’s opinions, are all examples of how the inner critic can govern your day-to-day thinking and how you live your life.
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Know this: you didn’t come into the world with an inner critic, it’s something you’ve developed over time. In recognising it as learned behaviour, you can choose to unlearn it. Speaker and facilitator of consciousness and change, Dr Dain Heer shares how you can silence your inner critic.
Step 1: Pause and ask, “Whose voice is this?”
Anytime you criticise yourself, take a moment to consider where this has come from.
From an early age we pick up on the judgements of others: our parents, our friends, the media, and society as a whole. We’re inundated with messages about what we should wear, the shape we should be, the career paths to follow, the partner to choose, and all of the fun we should be having while we’re doing all of this. It’s so exhausting, time-consuming, and somehow — convincing.
What if we were to recognise that some, or all, of the expectations we put on ourselves aren’t ours at all? Would we start to choose differently?
When you realise that the opinions of the inner critic may not actually be yours, you are effectively unmasking it, dissociating from it, and crucially, realising you don’t have to listen to it.
Step 2: Taking back your power
For some, ruminating on past experiences as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ takes up a huge amount of head space. Letting go of all notions of good and bad, so that every choice you’ve ever made up to now was simply ‘interesting’, allows you to look back on your past from a neutral place. This is useful because when mistakes are no longer mistakes, they’re just part of your life experience. From this point you develop a peaceful acceptance of the past, thankful for every aspect of it because it led you to where you are right now.
Here’s the key: it’s when we take the idea of ‘interesting choices only’ into how we perceive our present and future that we dissolve the inner critic’s power completely. With nothing to remind you of, warn you against or make you feel bad about, it has no purpose.
Respond to the inner critic with an attitude of, “Interesting point of view, I have this point of view,” and watch it wither. This stance is effective because there’s no fight or resistance in it; you’re accepting the inner critic is there with its own point of view, you’re allowing it to be there, and you’re choosing something else. You’re taking your power back.
Step 3: Gratitude as the antidote
There’s a reason why psychologists the world over recommend the practice of gratitude, it works! If judgement were to have an opposite state it would be gratitude. The more you practice it, the less your inner critic has to say to you.
There are a multitude of ways to introduce gratitude into your day. On waking, take a moment to list everything you’re glad to have in your life right now: perhaps a warm bed, a job to go to, a healthy body to take you there. In the mirror, appreciate the features you like rather than inspecting the ones you don’t. Keep a daily gratitude journal, noting one thing each day. Simply – do whatever works for you.
If you find self-gratitude tricky, ask yourself: “What’s right about me that I’m not getting?”
A question allows you to see a situation in a new light. “What else is possible here?” is useful when you feel stuck or unsure how to move forward. Ask from an open mindset and allow your inner awareness to surface. Unlike the inner critic, your inner awareness is an innate part of you.
Trust you have a deep and natural knowledge of what’s right for you and about you. The inner critic can only keep you from your natural greatness if you allow it to. Liberate yourself, look under the monster’s mask and see there’s nothing to fear. Let go of judgments and you’ll stop fuelling the voice altogether.
Soon, it’s a distant memory, and every choice you make is yours and yours alone.
Where will your choices take you?
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