We’ve all got that incessant voice in our heads that speaks up when we do things like try on new clothes, make a mistake, experience a perceived failure, or consider branching out of our comfort zone to try something different. And this internal diatribe occurring inside us tends not to be in the nicest of tones, am I right? This voice is our inner critic.
Often, the voice mimics our internalized version of criticism from a primary caregiver in early childhood. It tries to keep us safe – urging us to avoid pain and disappointment – but not in the best of ways.
If you’re ready to send your inner critic into early retirement, grab a writing utensil and a journal and follow these six steps. (You can certainly do this activity on a mobile device or computer if you prefer, but I find that there’s so much more power and connection in writing important things out by hand!)
6 Steps to Retiring Your Inner Critic
1. Pick a behavior you would like to change. For example, “I want to exercise more,” or “I want to eat healthier foods.”
2. Now, write yourself a letter from the perspective of your inner critic. Let him or her tell you how they really feel about this behavior. Give your inner critic full permission to let loose and let it all out!
3. Notice the tone, language, and overall feel of how your inner critic speaks to you. How does it make you feel? Does it actually inspire you to want to change, or does it simply make you cringe with guilt or shame?
4. Next, write yourself a letter about this issue from your innermost compassionate voice. Write to yourself like you’re writing to a dear friend. How would you encourage your friend to make the change they’re trying to make? How would you support them? What would you say to inspire them and let them know how capable they are?
5. Observe how different it is to receive input on this issue from a voice of compassion versus one of criticism. Which inspires you more? Which most moves you to make a healthy change? Which is most likely to lead to sustained healthy action?
6. Write your inner critic’s termination letter. Acknowledge all the years of hard work your critic has put in. Give a nod to your critic’s good intentions, as hurtful as the methods may have been. Acknowledge that their form of “pushing” doesn’t work for you when it comes to making real change and embodying your healthiest, happiest self. Assure your inner critic that you can take it from here, and send them on their way.
BONUS: If you hear your inner critic hopping in for a final word as you move forward with your life, allow yourself to notice this is happening and call upon your new employee to handle it: your inner compassionate voice!Life Falls Apart, But You Don't Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos
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