Taming Your Critic

thinking by *jessica swift* So often I see women attempting to make changes in their lives, and then feeling frustrated, stuck and confused by their own self-sabotaging behavior.

They are deeply committed to cultivating a healthy lifestyle, but their old habits continue to resurface and take over.

Obviously there are a lot of factors at play in this kind of situation, but I’d like to focus today on one of the most common forces that contributes to that dynamic: aggression.

I’m not talking about the way you treat other people. I’m talking about the way you treat yourself.

There is often a harshness in our inner dialogue—an attitude of contempt toward whatever problem is at hand and toward ourselves for having the problem in the first place.

When this harshness is predominant in our psyches, our motivation for change is often rooted in self-judgment. We try to “whip ourselves into shape” or “attack” the issue. A lot of women treat themselves in ways they would never dream of treating others.

The thing is, if you try to aggressively force yourself into a lifestyle change, some other part of you is going to resist and rebel. It sets up an inner war.

Our psyches are like complex ecosystems with all sorts of psychodynamics at play. Aggressive tactics may temporarily repress parts of your being, but in moments of stress or weakness, repressed emotions can resurface and overpower even the best of intentions.

When we let judgment and harshness dominate our inner dialogue, our quality of life plummets. Even if we do achieve our goals, that satisfaction is not likely to last for very long because there is still a war going on inside of us.

There is this myth that if we reach our goal, we will be happy & our inner critic will finally let up. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The critic will just find new things to attack and new things to be dissatisfied with.

We don’t have a choice about whether negativity will sometimes be part of our inner dialogue, but we do have a choice about how to handle that negativity. We can give our inner bully center stage and full control over our lives, or we can consciously revoke its power… repeatedly, consistently & respectfully.

*love* by Robert HoganWe can recognize when that harsh, judgmental inner voice is active and choose to respond to it mindfully rather than reactively. We can decide to treat ourselves with love and respect.

Why is this concept of self-love often seen as being so cheesy? I even have moments of cringing when I hear that phrase. What is that about?

I have had so many clients initially roll their eyes at the concept of consciously offering themselves love and acceptance. And yet, when they begin practicing it, they start seeing major changes in their lives.

The thing is, when we start treating ourselves with love and respect, we are more capable of treating others that way. We are far more resourceful and we have way more to give. Rather than being divided against ourselves, we cultivate a new level of coherence and integrity.

If you find your inner critic dominating your inner dialogue, here are a few techniques to try.

Taming Your Inner Critic 

  • Practice accepting yourself exactly as you are. Rather than constantly trying to change your behavior, just practice being mindful. Try to see what underlying needs motivate the behaviors that you hope to change. See if there are other ways you can meet those needs.
  • Take the spotlight off of your critic. If you notice your inner critic taking over, consciously revoke its power. Slow down. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and say No. It may help to visualize a strong and wise part of yourself gently taking your critic down off of a stage or off of its soapbox.
  • Cultivate love and respect toward yourself. How would you treat someone you loved and respected deeply? As often as possible, try treating yourself this way, especially in moments of vulnerability.

 *Thinking* print above is by the fabulous Jessica Swift. *Love* print is by Robert Hogan.

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