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My Inner Critic VS. Self-Compassion

A Reckoning

Many of us have lots of practice seeing others through the eyes of compassion. We don’t judge others when they make human mistakes like flaking on plans, breaking their diet, or giving a less- than-perfect presentation. We have some perspective about what those mistakes mean about the people who make them. Unfortunately though, we tend to have much more practice saying nasty, ugly things to ourselves. We say that being late is just another confirmation that we’re irresponsible, that we didn’t get the job means we’re unworthy and giving a mediocre presentation means we’re about to be found out as imposters.

And a natural response is to turn the hate on your inner critic. Seriously, she’s so unhelpful. Sometimes even paralyzing and embarrassing! Maybe the solution is to try to MacGyver a plan that allows me to avoid her altogether. Like if I can stop taking risks, I don't have to hear what she's nervous about all the time. BUT... what if there's a better way? How about instead of pushing her away, you let her talk? Really, what would happen? Let’s try some of that self-compassion we talked about earlier. Yes, even for those parts of ourselves that seem to only make things worse. I know, sometimes they show up like toddlers wanting to “help” cook dinner- obviously inept and just making things sooo much messier. Imagine though, maybe our inner critic is just trying to protect us from feeling vulnerable at all costs. Here’s a reenactment of how it went for me-

“So- inner critic- You're driving me nuts here. I’ve been trying to ignore you but you're not getting the hint. I’m exhausted with you and I'm honestly really mad because you’ve been making a huge mess and you seem not to care. So I'm forced I to give you space to say your piece. What’s going on?”

She is exasperated that I’m finally listening given she’s been tantruming for so long now to no avail. Finally she says “I’m helping you! You've been ignoring me so I keep trying harder and harder. You hate people getting close- remember?- because they hurt you so I’m making sure they stay away. I know the worst feeling in the world is being judged so I’m making sure no one sees who you really are and then they definitely can’t judge that part.” She says the last part with such earnest pride and obliviousness, I realize I've been misunderstanding her this whole time.

Face palm. Are you serious? She's not my most sophisticated part, that's for sure. But she's sweet and committed and really thought she was helping. Ok, deep breath. Thank you but let me explain why this is not going to work. I tell her “It’s ok, I’m safe, thank you for trying to help, but you don’t have to be so worried right now.” So I ask her to please take a step back for a while and let me handle things. And she does.

So for me, I've tended to procrastinate in tending to my critic until it is too loud to ignore. But 100% of the time I've stopped and dug deeper, what I find isn't as scary as what've I've imagined I'd uncover. Give it a try!

First, where do you feel your inner critic in your body? Really let it express itself for a few breaths.

Now, just ask- what is it you’re trying to do?

And remember that all our inner critics are actually genuinely trying to help.


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