Whether you like it or not, your actions and words are constantly judged by your own mind. Often these voices are quite harsh and hurtful and can leave you feeling drained. Learn how to transform self-judgment by installing some easy habits and restore self-trust.
Why does self-criticism exist? Where does it come from? Philosophers and psychologists have come up with several names for the inner critic: ranging from Jung’s ‘The Shadow’ to Robert Bly’s ‘The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us” and Bill Plotkin’s “Loyal Soldier’, to terms like the saboteur, the judge within, or the superego. For nearly all of us, this voice inside is our fiercest critic, leaving us discouraged or hurt.
Our first instinct may be to judge the inner critic as the bad guy, one who needs to be locked up, shut up, or otherwise silenced. However, if we consistently tap into the underlying positive intent, and integrate its message, we uncover an untapped resource that exist with the sole purpose of protecting us.
Where does the inner critic come from?
The inner critic is an ancient survival mechanism and is based on emotions. Emotions are physical and instinctive. They have been programmed into our genes over years of evolution and are hard-wired in our brain. Their general purpose is to produce a specific response to a stimulus. So far so good. However, emotions are carried out by the limbic system, our emotional processing center. This means that they are illogical, irrational, and unreasonable because the limbic system is separate from – sitting literally behind – the neocortex, the part of our brain that deals with conscious thoughts, reasoning and decision making.
The neocortex can do things like flexible, adaptive, coherent, energetic and stable thinking. When it speaks to you, it sounds a lot like Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter; calm, wise and enigmatic. However, when the limbic system speaks, it sounds more like a militant, crazy, aggressive, cruel Professor Snape, which is, you’ve guessed it right, your inner critic.
Why does it exist?
Important is to remember that for a healthy, happy, long Harry Potter life, you need both Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape. They compliment one another in knowledge, wisdom and insight. Even though they use a very different tone to get their message across, both have valid points worth your consideration. So if you want to ditch self doubt and learn how to trust yourself, below are 5 simple ways to engage the inner critic to find the benign message behind.
Habit 1. Raise Your Awareness of the Inner Critic
Notice when your inner critic pops up, become aware of its patterns, and describe what it looks like. You may do a quick sketch, use some colors to paint a symbol, make a representation out of play-doh, or simply think of a color that best represents its attributes. Then, give it a name. Labeling the feeling will help you detach yourself from the emotion, remind you that you are not your feelings, and will help you better execute habit #2.
Habit 2. Engage the Inner Critic
This one feels counterintuitive; we really want the disruptive inner critic to just go away and leave us alone. However, despite the harsh words, the inner critic always has a desire to serve us in some way, to protect us and keep us safe. The next time your inner critic pops up, simply direct some empathic socratic enquiry toward it. You could say something like ‘Hello inner critic, what are you trying to do for me?’, ‘Why are you here?’, ‘What is your concern?’, or ‘What need am I not honoring within myself’? Be patient and gentle, and focus on the message underneath, channeling your intuition to find the key point the inner critic is trying to make. Remember, the limbic system is not rational and the key point may be very different from the loud criticism it whispers in your ear.
Habit 3. Calibrate the Message
Even though the inner critic might say things like ‘You are ugly.’, ‘You can’t do anything right’, or ‘Nobody likes you.’, the message is not that you are ugly, can’t do anything right or that nobody likes you. Instead when the inner critic whispers ‘You are Ugly.’, it might just be concerned about how much you let other people’s approval or your own body influence how you view yourself. When it says ‘You can’t do anything right’, there may just be a skill that you know you need to develop in order to get that dream job, but you have been putting off additional training, and that is hindering your progress. When it says ‘Nobody likes You’, it might pick up on an underlying loneliness that indicated that you need to get more good, like minded people in your life. So take time to resonate with the message. Does it feel right? Say it out loud and play with it. Let it fade into the background, throw it up in the air, and set it sail, and see if it changes. Give it time.
Habit 4. Honor The Inner Critic
When your have found the message, give your inner critic respect and appreciation for keeping you safe. This can be the first step to integrating your inner critic, transforming its judgement and seeing it as a loyal soldier who is always there for you to protect you from harm. By considering and honoring its core message, it will eventually calm down and find a softer tone of voice to warn you of impending doom. Alternatively, the more you try to ignore the inner critic, the louder, the more obnoxious, more disruptive it becomes.
Habit 5. Install the change.
Honor the need that wasn’t met. Restore the self-trust. Learn that new skill. Join that new meetup group or start one yourself. And thank your inner critic for looking out for you.
Unleash The Power Of Your Mind
You were born with an inner resource that, if nurtured, integrated and cultivated, has the potential to help you self-determine and self-direct to create the life that you want. By embracing the inner critic, you no longer need approval and guidance of others. Instead by unleashing the power of your creative mind and your fear center, you learn to trust yourself and turn to yourself for difficult decisions on complex problems. So keep it up with the 5 habits, and if you get stuck, you know where to find me.