It lives with you and it won’t move out. No matter how many times you send it packing. Ignore it. Avoid it. Want it to just go away.
Sometimes (if you are very, very lucky) it goes on vacation (for some unknown reason), but you’re never sure when it’s going to return. But return it does. To kick you.
It’s your inner critic.
When what you really need is a friend – what you get is a voice in your head that distorts what you’re seeing with really non-specific and non-descript instructions for living:
You’re screwing up.
You do not have enough, do enough nor are you enough.
(I need not go on because that’s what the inner critic does … it goes on and on and on).
Maybe you’ve been wondering what you’re supposed to do when your inner critic is out of control? Or perhaps you’ve puzzled over how to live with your inner critic?
I know I have. And I know that I’m not alone.
Here are three steps that I use and teach for dealing with your inner critic in a really productive and hopeful way. (Psst … it’s part of learning how to become your own career advisor):
1. Accept that you have an inner critic.
The inner critic isn’t evil (really, it’s not – it just sounds that way). It genuinely thinks it’s helping you and trying it’s best to do so. Know this to understand that you can talk to it and get more information from it that might actually be useful.
Note: It’s not useful to ignore it, avoid it, think that it’s bad, or unquestionably right (without getting more information first).
2. Ask for details – really, really specific details. Then decide.
What does “do better” mean exactly? What would your inner critic consider to be “not lazy” right now? How does it personally define “stupid”?
The inner critic will reveal specifics – which you could then potentially do something about that’s actually useful.
Maybe your inner critic thinks you should be making more money.
How much exactly? Name a number.
You’ve been advised by the inner critic to “under promise and over deliver.”
Well, that’s nice.
What is the promised date and deliverable first? And then: What would you like to offer instead in an ideal circumstance that is over and above what is promised (being very specific of course)?
Now (for the crux move). In the light of reality, is there something useful in what the inner critic is offering?
Maybe or maybe not.
The fact remains: You live in your real life. The inner critic, on the other hand, lives in the comfort of your head. Maybe it’s time to seriously consider charging it rent for such luxurious real estate and accommodations?
Comedy aside, you ultimately decide what really serves your life (versus what diminishes it) – what’s realistic for you and how you could implement something that your inner critic suggests that you are ultimately in agreement with.
3. Listen deeply … for what’s really there.
What your inner critic chooses to say really represents feelings that you may not be consciously acknowledging. In other words your inner critic is likely trying to get your attention in the only way that it knows how.
And it will “up the ante” as need be. Not unlike a child starved for attention.
(And no, this isn’t silly. It’s serious. It’s the thinking that it’s silly that makes the inner critic’s existence more painful for you.)
Beginning with yourself – learning empathy through consistent practice is one of the highest purposes a human being can attend to. And when you know how to offer it to yourself in times of need by recognizing when it’s needed, you will have mental peace, not to mention clarity, confidence and the experience of joy.
Know that you will always have your inner critic with you, but it doesn’t have to take up all the space anymore. Just a little. It doesn’t want to be disowned.
Eventually it acts up just enough to remind you that you are in need of self- acknowledgement or self-empathy. Except the difference now is that you know that you have control over your inner critic, and that it doesn’t control you.
Where you fuel, re-tool and attune your imagination. Get your soul to work (on purpose). Ruthless compassion. Fierce gentleness. Sassy wisdom. And oodles of insight.