Making Your Inner Critic Work For You
If my Inner Critic were a human, she would be sitting next to me, uninterested expression plastered on her face, telling me all of the reasons why this blog post is ridiculous. If she were to pry my keyboard out of my hands, she'd tell you how ludicrous it sounded for me to talk for her as if she weren't just a simple manifestation of my imagination. But she isn’t aggressive, so she wouldn’t do that.
She also doesn’t bring me down quite the way she used to, though she does have her moments. Instead, for the most part, she works for me now. For the most part, anyway. After years of trying to figure her out, I’ve developed three strategies for managing her chaos.
DISCLAIMER: Before I dive into these strategies, it’s important to note that there is no easy fix. My inner critic was and still is rooted in some deeply ingrained problems from my past that took me time to work through with a trained therapist. However, some of the strategies I’ve learned along the way are applicable now to help manage your most critical thoughts.
As I got to know Meg, my inner critic – to really listen to her fears and concerns – I realized that she was trying to help. With that realization, I was able to start anticipating the moments in my life that would trigger her appearance. This helped me develop strategies to manage her impact and enlist her help with big decisions.
Strategy 1: Awareness
When I hear Meg’s voice, I ask myself what she’s really trying to say. When she says, “Are you really qualified to talk about this?” I know that I’m dealing with imposter syndrome. When she says, “Are you sure you want to post that story?” I know I’m dealing with fear of judgment or ridicule. Sometimes simply identifying what’s underneath her criticism is enough to help me keep things in perspective.
Strategy 2: Validate and Negotiate
Of course, there are moments when the realization isn’t enough and I need to enlist her help. This is when I open the floor for discussion. I ask her to elaborate on her concerns and provide her rationale for why they are valid. During this exercise, I’m able to practice building my optimism by countering her negative thoughts with things that run contrary to her reasoning. This conversation might sound something like this:
Meg: This blog sounds a little out there and I’m worried that people might judge you.
Me: It is a little out there, but we both know it works. What worries you about the judgment of others?
Meg: That they might think you’re weird. Even you thought this kind of stuff was weird when you were first introduced to it.
Me: They might, but I think I’m a little weird too. And I did think it was weird at first, which gives me more credibility because it worked for me despite my skepticism. Don’t you think that’s important?
Meg: I suppose. It still might be a little difficult for some people to wrap their minds around. I’m not sure if it’s the best decision to post this.
Me: It will be hard for some people, for sure. It was hard for me too, but when I finally came around to it, I saw the impact. Doesn’t that mean it’s worth posting?
Meg: Yes, but maybe let people know that this isn’t an easy fix. I mean, you still haven’t gotten rid of me!
This is almost exactly the conversation I had in my head when I started writing this blog. My approach is always to keep Meg calm. I validate her feelings, but follow up with evidence to keep her worries at bay. When that happens, I’m able to show her that there is less to worry about AND I get her advice instead of her criticism.
Try it! The next time your inner critic shows up, validate its feelings and follow up with evidence-based questions to enlist their help.
Strategy 3: Ignore
While this is the harshest strategy, sometimes Meg must be ignored. These are the days where she pushes past my awareness and my reasoning and jumps straight to panic mode. Of course, there are times when this is valid, like when she reminds me to quickly spellcheck everything one last time before posting. But other times, her arguments simply aren’t useful, like when I’m deciding what I want to write about next. If I feel that she might get in the way of my creativity, I kindly let her know that her services aren’t needed. This is where the activity from the previous blog post comes in handy. If I know Meg needs to be ignored, I imagine her as a small figurine Meg doll from Hercules and I mentally place her outside. I only retrieve her if I think she might provide something useful.
No matter where you stand in your relationship with your inner critic, it’s important to build resources that allow you to work with it. Give some of these strategies a try and let me know how they go!
If you need help working through your Inner Critic’s negative messaging, please don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a FREE 30-minute consult!