Have you met your inner critic? You know, that not so subtle voice inside your head that provides a running commentary on all the ways you are falling short.
Our inner critic is ever present and ever busy, judging our circumstances, ourselves and other people. That voice can be harsh, aggressive, direct and unkind.
Underneath all of the criticism there are usually 3 basic thoughts:
The problem is when we don't recognize that our inner critic is just sharing thoughts, not facts. When we believe that what we're hearing is true, we may feel powerless to make changes (if changes are even needed).
Over time, my mindfulness practice has helped me to become more aware of the thoughts that my inner critic shares. As I notice the thoughts, I realize that there are steps I can take to silence my inner critic's harsh tone.
Here are 3 simple steps that I use to help quiet my inner critic when she's on a rampage:
1) Press pause - When you notice the harsh voice of the inner critic appear, pause and take a few deep breaths. Notice the air as it moves in and out of your nostrils, the rise and fall of your chest or simply label the in breath and the out breath. Bringing your attention to the physical sensations of the body brings you into the present moment and disrupts the automatic pattern of your inner voice.
2) Acknowledge the voice - Naming the voice provides some distance between you and the words that you're hearing. I've labeled my judge, Judy (a nod to the popular TV show Judge Judy). This allows me to have a conversation with her and recognize that these are just thoughts, not truths. There is also value in examining whether there is a useful message in what is being shared. Review the facts of the event that led to the inner criticism (without judgment) and reframe the situation to see if there are any lessons that may be waiting for you.
3) Practice self-compassion - Once you've acknowledged your inner critic, the voice won't be as loud. This is the time to listen for the softer voice of wisdom. This voice is kinder and more discerning. Offer yourself a little kindness by placing your hand over heart, or giving yourself a hug - physical touch releases oxytocin which is associated with warm and fuzzy feelings and lowers stress and anxiety.
So, the next time you hear your inner critic doling out harsh, unsolicited advice, use the 3-step process above to silence it and stop it in its tracks.
If you use this process, 'd love to hear how it works for you. Let me know in the comments below or if you want to share privately, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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