You’ve got to get to know the inner critic.
Often when I speak with someone about their inner critic, they say things like, “I’ve just always felt that way,” or “I think I am bad at xyz.” The key element to notice is the claiming and ownership in those statements – this points to the fact that we tend to be identified with our inner critic rather than recognizing it as a distinct aspect of our psyche.
One of the first things to do is to make a list of the things your inner critic says to you. I phrase it this way intentionally — what your inner critic says to you — in order to externalize those criticisms. While sure, it is true that these are thoughts going on inside your head, it’s important to start to imagine them as external. If someone came up to you and said these horrible things to you, you’d recognize them as attacks. So it’s important to start to recognize them as attacks even as they only take place inside one’s psyche.
Make your list. Be sure to phrase it in the third person, as if someone external is saying it to you. It may go something like this:
You’re so fat.
You’re so stupid.
Why do you even bother?
No one cares what you do.
When you make your list, you may come to recognize themes. Most people have 2-3 themes that the inner critic rips them on regularly, be it appearance, intelligence, capabilities, or some other sore spot.
We will eventually make friends with the inner critic, but the first step is to catch it, to get to dis-identify from it – or more to the point: to know yourself as something more than it. As it starts to become clear that it’s just a part of you, you’ll realize there are other parts of you as well. As you come to hear it, noticing it rather than having it be the noise in your head that has always been there, you’ll either want to defend yourself, or feel more defeated by it. If you feel defeated and beaten up by it, imagine some bully coming up to your favorite little child. Imagine that the one being attacked is your own kid, your niece or nephew, or your beloved pet, or someone who stimulates your protective urges (could be a grandma), and let yourself feel the protective part of you. Let that protective part get inspired to tell that inner critic to take a flying leap!
We’ll explore this more next time.