ladybird through a looking glass

Healing the inner critic

In Insight and Experience by Darren WeissmanLeave a Comment

How do you get rid of the Inner Critic of Impossible Perfection and encourage your Inner Coach to come out and play? Even further how can you transform the pressure of perfect into a passion of practice?

Emerging into the new year it’s not hard imagining what most people’s inner voice is telling them.

Did you really have to eat that third piece of pie? Do you realise how fat you’re getting? How could you have said that to _________ (fill in the blank – your boss, your Great Uncle Harry, husband, sister, child, dog et cetera) at the party? What were you thinking!? And are you ever going to get your desk straight? And what about that report you said you’d finish last month. And  …

Blah blah blah. We all have voices in our heads. And they’re usually not very complimentary. When was the last time your Inner Critic said something nice about you? Exactly. That’s why it’s called the Inner Critic and not your Inner Coach.

People ask me why it’s so much easier to get sucked into believing the negative self-talk of the Inner Critic than it is to believe the Inner Coach (if s/he can ever get a word in edgewise). And that’s a complex question with a multi-dimensional answer. The short version, however, can be boiled down into two parts:

Part 1

All the bad stuff we’ve been told about ourselves over the years hurt. Mum’s crack about your ‘big bottom’ or Dad’s remark about not being smart enough to get into a good university—whatever the comment was—created emotional pain.

Criticism comes with an emotional punch that, quite literally, sears the voice and words of whoever is dressing us down into our brains. It’s the emotion that does it. Pain and hurt feelings trigger a powerful cascade of biochemicals that courses through the body, making the words indelible.

Over time, whenever we think back to that moment and those words, the emotions they conjure stimulate even more negative thoughts that match the original pain and feelings of low self-esteem, creating the release of even more biochemicals tuned to negativity.

Take Dad’s remark about being dumb, for example. It’s still inside, deep in your subconscious. So when your boss points out some slight error in your work one day, what happens? It delivers an emotional punch way out of proportion to what the situation warrants. You freak out. Every associated memory that resonates to feeling stupid shows back up—your dad’s words, every ‘C’ on a report card, every inner hope of success that died, no matter how small. You’re so stupid,the Inner Critic whispers.

And down the tubes you go.

So what about the times you were praised? The times you heard, “Well done! I’m so proud of you!” What happened then? What did those words do? Strangely, praise is less emotionally powerful than criticism.We get complimented on our work or on how we look and what happens? We duck our heads, suddenly shy, murmuring things like, “Oh, it was nothing.” Or we say, “Oh, please, stop. You’re embarrassing me.” We say the things we’ve been taught to say lest we appear prideful.

So—just how much of a chance do you think the good stuff has of sinking in compared with the ‘bad stuff’?

Not much.

Part 2

The second half of understanding why the Inner Critic is so much more available to us than our Inner Coach lies in realising that we (as a species) believe in something called perfection. We act as if there’s a set-in-stone standard of beauty, smarts, wealth, kindness, spirituality, generosity and performance that we must somehow live up to. We believe if we’re not an Olympic athlete, or a glamorous movie star, or filthy rich—better yet, all the above—that we’re somehow substandard, that we’re not good enough.

One thing to realise to help get a handle on the critical side of yourself is that perfection doesn’t exist. And beauty is relative. If you live in Kuwait or the Tonga Islands, obesity is a sign of wealth and beauty.

The whole concept of perfection is ridiculous.

So, now that you’ve got a little background knowledge, how do you get rid of the Inner Critic of Impossible Perfection and encourage your Inner Coach to come out and play? Even further how can you transform the pressure of perfect into a passion of practice?

First off, it’s important to realise you’ll never get rid of the Critic. That voice (or voices) is part of you, made up of memories and emotions buried deep in your subconscious mind. The more you wrestle with the Inner Critic, the more you wish it would go away, the more you worry about it or hate it—the stronger it gets.

“What we resist, persists.” And it’s true. When we do battle with the Inner Critic, life becomes all about … you guessed it: the Inner Critic. We end up feeding it by reacting to it. We end up making the Inner Critic real by taking it so seriously.

Yes, the Inner Critic is a bitch, but the thing to realise is that the Inner Critic isn’t you. It’s not real. It’s just a memory. An emotionally-driven trigger mechanism—a voice in your head—a program that gets fired in your brain, like hitting the Excel or PowerPoint icon on your computer screen.

Somebody says something and bam! the program comes up … the neurons in the brain fire the pattern, the memories flood out, the emotions trigger the release of a biochemical cocktail that drowns you in sorrow (again)… and suddenly your whole life is back to being about how your Big Bottom kept you from getting Good Grades and into a Good School.

Is that really what happened? Of course not. Do you really believe that? No. But somewhere in your subconscious mind there’s still a little girl (or boy) who does believe it, and that’s okay.

The Inner Critic is just a part of life—it’s something that everybody deals with. It’s not a big deal unless we make it one. And a large part of inviting the Inner Coach to come take its place is consciously recognising that fact.

Once you’ve put the Inner Critic in its proper place (or perspective) you’re ready to take the next conscious step, which is to catch the Inner Critic at the start of its rant. Before you get emotional and start down memory lane, notice when the voice(s) starts banging on about something. Catch yourself starting to get upset about something you’ve done ‘wrong’ or whatever the voice(s) is attempting to tell you.

Stop. Step back. Take a moment and breathe. Put the Critic in its proper place. Then, as dispassionately as possible, simply look at what it’s saying. Examine it as if it were a bug.

Congratulations! You’ve caught yourself in the act of listening to the Inner Critic and put it in the right perspective, which means now you’ve got a choice. If you feel a big emotional reaction to the voice brewing, take a few minutes and dive into what the Inner Critic is saying and process it by asking yourself the truth question. Would you choose to be ruled by an inner critic? Hell no! This simple question will empower you to acknowledge that isn’t a conscious action is a subconscious reaction.Something is triggering you to react, and this reaction is a gift in very strange wrapping paper.

As Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you view things, the things you view change.”

The Inner Critic is just a program. It does have value, however, in that the voice can point you towards old subconscious emotional programs buried deep inside, but once you’ve got the conscious tool to process and shift those programs; once you’ve consciously realised the Inner Critic isn’t really you; once you can remember to interrupt the voice, mid-rant, and think to yourself, Hey, wait a minute … stop— you’ve already turned the corner.

You’ve already set your Inner Coach into motion.

Next step? Ask your Coach how best to approach the situation you find yourself in. Let’s say you’re in the previous scenario where your boss pointed out an error you made. You’ve caught your Inner Critic. You’ve put it in its place. You’ve invited your Inner Coach onto the playing field. Now ask yourself, “How would I coach a friend to respond to valid criticism of their work by the boss?” Or, “How would I coach my child to respond to valid criticism from their teacher?”

And then take your own advice.

An internationally renowned physician, and developer of The LifeLine Technique, Dr Darren Weissman is author of The Power of Infinite Love & Gratitude and Awakening to the Secret Code

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