If you’ve read, ‘The Inner Critic (part 1) – what it is and what are the first steps to managing it,’ you will have an understanding of what the Inner Critic is, and recognise it needs to be managed, if we are to grow and experience more of our potential and experience more freedom, joy and fulfilment in our lives.
Here are 6 steps that have worked well for myself and hundreds of clients I’ve worked with:
Recognise what’s going on in the body/body scan/mindfulness
Recognising the voice of the inner critic is an important skill to develop. Sometimes, it’s so sneaky, we can’t make sense of or recognise a critical voice or narrative. The first step is to become aware of what we are feeling. It can often show up as anxiety. Ongoing shallow breathing can be another symptom, together with tension in the body or certain parts of the body.
For me, I carry a lot of the tension in my shoulders and when it’s a strong narrative, I feel a lot of pressure in my head. We can use awareness of tension in the body as an indicator of criticisms that may be happening in the mind. It also brings in more mindfulness in the body which is a great resource when dealing with the Inner Critic.
Remember to breathe
When we notice shallow breathing, we can disrupt it by taking a few deep breaths. It’s often a way I work with clients when they come to coaching sessions feeling stressed or they might show up seeming a bit manic. My invitation to them is often to take a couple of deep breaths with me. Then, throughout the conversation, we regularly check in with the depth of breathing, and how they are feeling in the body.
It’s not always comfortable. In fact, it can initially feel quite uncomfortable to become aware of stress and tension we are carrying. This is why keeping busy and feeling manic can almost feel better than pausing to take stock of what is truly going on inside. I promise you though, it’s worth the pause and if you apply these steps and tools well, you can regularly get to a more peaceful, more resourceful place inside yourself. You can then enjoy calmness instead of the hamster wheel of mania and chaos that follows an intense Inner Critic narrative.
Catch the criticism
What is the underlying message? For many people, it’s ‘I’m not good enough’, or ‘I don’t have what it takes’. I sometimes hear clients, when we get to the crux of the message, say to me, ‘but I know logically, that’s ridiculous’. Sometimes, just by having this awareness, we can drop the criticism right then and there, and it’s great when that happens. Other times, you may need to bring more awareness and insistence before you can get the narrative to stop.
Give yourself a reality check
If it’s a judgement like, ‘you have no business speaking in public, leading a team, making this kind of money, having a holiday’ etc, sometimes all it takes is an acknowledgement of this negative voice. Your Inner Champion can say ‘Well I am actually doing it and I have been doing it for some time’. ‘Is there any evidence I can’t do that effectively?’
The challenge with this one is it can become a back and forth, game of tennis argument. Have you ever found yourself doing that? Arguing with yourself in your own mind? It’s comical we do it and even more comical when we admit to it. So, with this danger in mind, be aware you have a choice that you can let it go. Maybe do a quick reality check and then intentionally drop it. Just end the game of tennis by calling it ‘love-all’ and you can drop the inner argument right there.
Befriend the beast
After admitting we talk to ourselves in our heads, you won’t be surprised to learn, you can actually talk to the critic and respond to the judgement like you would with a friend or colleague. You can say ‘Okay, I hear your concern. Thanks for sharing’. Then follow on with whatever you have planned to do.
On occasions, an advanced Inner Critic will surface at this time and say ‘…but, what if this happens?’ You can then satisfy these concerns and fears by working through the probability of that happening and/or discuss the situation with a coach, colleague, partner or trusted friend.
Slay the beast
If it’s a particularly loud, shouty inner critic attack, we may need to draw on some internal strength. We can respond in a powerful way by telling it to shut up or if you’re comfortable with stronger language, you can insert expletives here.
For some, who are quite disconnected from their personal power and who are not connected with healthy aggression, this step may be the most challenging for you. Some reading this may even feel this approach is wrong but think of a mother bear protecting her cubs. We have this in us, and we can access our anger as a resource to protect our authentic selves. It is important to recognise that sometimes we need to protect ourselves against our own destructive thoughts and Inner Critic attacks.
I can attest, it is truly worth doing. You are worth defending and protecting. Facing and dealing with the Inner Critic can be intense and is not to be underestimated. It’s powerful, life changing work and will support you to live your life in a way that is more meaningful and fulfilling.
For more inspiration on working with the Inner Critic, I have included a list of resources below or you can contact me to book a FREE 20 minute conversation, or Personal Coaching package around this theme, or register your interest for our next ‘Managing the Inner Critic’ workshop.
- Freedom to Be Yourself: Mastering the Inner Judge – Avikal E. Costantino (2012)
- Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning Self-Criticism Into a Creative Asset – Hal and
Sidra Stone (1993)
- Freedom from Your Inner Critic: A Self-Therapy Approach – Jay Earley and Bonnie
- Tame Your Inner Critic – Claire Bowditch (2020)