We all have one, the infamous Inner Critic. Many of us think the way to overcome this is to get rid of it all together or to ignore it and do anything to shut it out of our minds. I have learned that by pushing it away we simply make it stronger and sometimes even end up in a mental war between the inner critic thoughts and the part of us trying to convince ourselves otherwise. This is exhausting and to be honest, not sustainable.
What if we learned to be curious about the Inner Critic and see it as a part of us that's there to try to teach us something and maybe even there as a way to protect us.
Research says that if we build a relationship of curiosity with our Inner Critic and learn about it in the way we would when meeting a new person, we end up feeling more integrated, less anxious and more productive. The goal is for the Inner Critic to become background noise, which provides us the opportunity to step back and observe the voice, and how it may be serving us in the here and now vs. fighting it and taking ourselves out of the present moment. When we bring a sense of curiosity to the voice, we're able to dis-identify with it and therefore, use to when it's helpful and set it aside when we discern that it is not serving us in the moment.
So how do we build a relationship with the Inner Critic based on curiosity? Here are some steps to help create the shift:
1. Name it. "Hello Inner Critic (or whatever you choose to name it). I hear you. I'm aware of your presence in this moment. Thank you for showing up to protect me."
2. Be curious. Learn about it's function: how long it's been there, when it was born, who's voice it's taken on (e.g. is this how someone else has spoken to you before?), what it looks like, how it feels in your body (e.g. tight chest, shallow breath, disconnection from body, tension, etc.)
3. Address it's needs. What does it want, what are it's fears, how can we ease it's fears in a more functional way?
4. Look at the role of negative beliefs. What are the beliefs that the Inner Critic believes and tells us to be true? Do I think them to be true when I look at them? Again, be curious.
5. Be patient. Our relationship with our Inner Critic doesn't change overnight. Many of us have lived with it since we were young children. Remember, progress over perfection. Remember, the goal is to not get rid of it but to face it and discern it from our own thoughts and beliefs and explore it's presence with curiosity and compassion.