This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. – Rumi

You’re excited about a new direction for yourself – improve your health, get better sleep, look for a job that is more in line with your evolving self, figure out what foods really work for your body. This idea is lighting up your life. You’re ready to put in the work to align the outsides of your life to a new awakening that is coming from within.

But put a toe on the start line and there’s this voice that pops up in your head, reminding you of how you’ve tried this before, how it didn’t work then and how it won’t work now. The voice can be nasty or sometimes it’s oh, so concerned, but it’s still telling you that you’re not capable of this job.

Hello, Inner Critic

What you’ve done is awoken and frightened your inner critic – that protective voice that rings from the past.

Its self-appointed job is to keep everything steady. It wants to keep you from changing. It doesn’t want you to get hurt, or embarrass yourself, or feel like a failure.

Living in harmony with your inner critic means something uncomfortable. To disarm your inner critic you have to embrace it first. To see where it protects you. Then you will gain clarity to see where you have grown and it hasn’t.

So Persuasive

Your inner critic has been with you for so long that it sounds just like the voice of reason. It lives to point out all the hills you’ll have to climb and the dangers you’ll fall prey to. The voice distracts you with its chatter and exhausts you with its circular logic. The voice isn’t seeing something important though. That’s the experience you’ve had and how you’ve succeeded. It also doesn’t get that today is a different day.

One of the reasons we’re so drawn to small children and animals is that they don’t have that inner critic running the show. They are instinctive and in the moment and they allow us a few moments of grace if we are able to join them in their world.

Tilda Keeps Me Company

My inner critic is Tilda Time-keeper, always sure that whatever I’m doing is not the exact right thing. She’s sure I’m not doing it fast enough, either. Tilda has many strong points and certainly moves things along – the only problem is that she often has no idea where she’s going. She’s briskly efficient – kind of like those interior designers on HGTV who breeze into a place, fire off a number of ideas and orders, buy some lovely pieces and then wave goodbye to the adoring home owners.

Unlike those successful designers, my Tilda often has no idea about how it’s going to look at the end. She’s harried and anxious because she is making her decisions based on fear. She’s always trying to prevent bad things from happening – not trying to create good things. So when Tilda starts agitating I know it’s time to sit quietly and revisit my vision for the future. Then I put together a timeline and list of chores for Tilda to cross off every day. She’s thrilled that someone has FINALLY started paying attention to the bigger picture and she’s off doing what she does best.

Who’s Your Inner Critic?

So how do you recognize your inner critic? It’s the inner voice of your fear.

Sometimes it’s the voice of someone in your life who was really hard to please. Your inner critic take something unkind or thoughtless they said and replays it whenever you are near the edge of your comfort zone. They were probably looking to keep you safe too, but it came out sounding like a criticism. Or it was something said along the way to keep them safe. Your inner critic puts it on continuous loop.

How do you disarm your inner critic? Mindfulness. Become aware of that voice and those relationships. Observe the voice, how you feel when it speaks, and think about whether it’s advising in your best interests. Embrace it for how it protects you. Maybe it needs a little space to grow too.

Posted by Deirdre Walsh

Image: Mouthing Off by Demi-Brooke under Creative Commons 2.0

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