“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” – G. K. Chesterton

Quick. Think of your most important relationship. Is it partner, kids, an inspiring friend, a parent, a mentor at work? Think again. What about the relationship you have with the voice in your mind? How harmonious is that relationship for you? Kudos if you have developed an equally great relationship with your inner critic and your inner champion.

If you’re like most of us you probably want to give that critical voice a Xanax and move on. What a trickster and killjoy it can be! But when we don’t develop a good relationship with this voice it starts running the show. We cut ourselves off from what we’re capable of. It stops us from reaching out to other people. It preaches perfection.

I think what GK Chesterton is arguing is that most of life doesn’t require all that much precision. It’s better to show up regularly with a decent effort than to flame and then crash. There’s a lot to be said for doing “just enough” for your responsibilities and saving some time for restorative and nurturing pleasure. Your inner champion knows this.

Who’s Voice?

How does your inner critic treat you? Does the voice show up to remind you that you’re not all that and stop you from exploring your talents? Maybe you are acutely aware of critical comments people make about you. Do you remember every slight or casual comment as a barb? Or perhaps you have mindlessly followed the path others have laid out for you, unsure of yourself and your ability to choose the right path for yourself.

Over the years women have shared their inner critic stories with me:

  • My inner critic is a gorgeous model in fantastic shape. She is organized, energetic, motivated and great at everything she does.
  • Mine is a crazy wild child who is somewhat spoiled. She is loud and spontaneous. When she wants my full and undivided attention she sings loudly.
  • Mine lives on a farm. She’s always trying to rope me in and keep me from “going for it”.
  • Mine is an old woman, 30 or 40 years years older than me. She’s always complaining that I have neglected her dreams, desires and wishes.
  • Mine is a doctor, forever evaluating and assessing. She’s looking for what is wrong to fix it. All she sees is the worse case scenario.
  • Mine often tells me if I can’t do some thing perfectly, then it’s not worth doing.
  • Mine is a stern pinched judgmental old woman who is always taking me to task for making poor choices or not being perfect in every way.

Doesn’t that make you tired just reading it???

Sadly, ignoring the critical voice just doesn’t work. First, it falls out of touch with reality. You locked it away and it hasn’t watched you grow up. Remember when you were a kid and your parents’ friends came over. They couldn’t stop themselves from saying how much you’d grown, how tall you were, how grown up you were now. You’d roll your eyes and know, with the pure conviction of a child, that you were never going to be that lame when you grew up.

Guess again. When you don’t stay in relationship with your inner critic it turns into one of those lame adults. When you don’t really take in your accomplishments and share them with the voice you are not integrating everything you learn in life. The voice needs new ways to get your attention. It has to get really loud to catch your attention. And when loud doesn’t work then it gets nasty.

Signs that you’ve been ignoring the voice for too long

 

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Get to Know Both Voices

It may not seem like it but you can influence whether you hear your inner critic or your inner champion more clearly. Your inner critic is louder so you have to listen harder for your inner champion.

Acknowledge your inner critic

Thank them for keeping you safe, even if they overdo it sometimes. More gold stars if you can learn to give thanks for your inner critic and how they may have stopped you from doing something really stupid at least once.

Check your stress level

Your body may already under a lot of stress. Perhaps you notice that you’re craving more sugar or drinking more coffee. You may be snappish with people around you and feel like you’re under more pressure than usual. Your inner critic is going to be louder and more negative when this is going on. Do some breathing exercises and coax your mind back into calmness. Then see if you can take a break, go for a walk or schedule some R&R. Your inner champion goes under cover when you’re stressed.

Explore what’s triggering your inner critic

What is your inner critic trying to protect you from? There’s an underlying seed of something that is triggering it. Do some journalling about where you are stuck. See if you can put some behaviours together with your inner critic. Do you procrastinate? Avoid new challenges? Avoid certain people? See what you’re not doing because you want to avoid your inner critic.

Remember what’s important to you

Keep a reminder of your big picture nearby. This is where your inner champion knows the score. What is the real contribution you’re trying to make? Who will it help? What do they really need? Keeping in touch with your own personal why can help you tiptoe through the stories and consequences that your inner critic is throwing around.

Who says?

Maybe your inner critic is worried about you breaking the rules. We’re taught a lot of rules along the way that we realize later are just opinions. Or maybe the rule that was important once but not now. When you pause to ask ‘who says?’ it gives you a moment to sort through whose rule this is and whether it belongs to you anymore.

Create an advisory board

Find some of your biggest supporters — your outer champions. Find people you admire and aspire to be like. People whose values you admire. Form an informal advisory board that meets in person or just in your head. When you have something big to do and your inner critic is getting in the way you can turn to them for advice. They can give you a balanced perspective on your strengths and weaknesses.

Image: Listen to your inner voice by BrewingColors under Creative Commons 2.0

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