Quiet your Inner Critical Voice

1.  Breathe. 

Take four deep breaths.  Each time you inhale, visualize your breath flowing into the parts of you that you deem “not enough”.  Imagine your breath is caring for these parts of you.  As you exhale, imagine releasing and letting go of all expectations from others. 

2.  Show yourself compassion.

Be tender to yourself.  Stop judging yourself.  Instead, simply allow yourself to be.  Imagine how a loving friend or pet may might act toward you and treat yourself the same.   

3.  Get curious.

Ask yourself: why is your inner critic activated right now?  What triggered these negative messages?  When do you remember first hearing these critical statements?  Whose voice from your past does the inner critic remind you of in particular? 

4.  Forgive yourself and let go of perfectionism. 

Give yourself grace when you do something foolish or embarrassing, because you will!  You are imperfect and imperfections are simply a part of life.  We often think that if we are harder on ourselves we will do better.  In fact, the exact opposite is true.  Be kind to yourself and you will stay motivated and the shame and anxiety will subside. 

5.  Practice Healthy Entitlement and Healthy Communication.

What are you feeling right now? Practice saying aloud the emotion you feel. For example, "I feel angry" or "I feel hurt". Now identify what behavior activated this feeling in you. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid and just as valuable as anyone else's. Just because someone is loud or aggressive does not make their experiences more significant than yours. You have a right to your feelings and your entitled to communicate them 

6.  Treat yourself like a close and caring friend. 

Offer the same compassion, empathy and patience you would give to a close friend who is feeling rejected or attacked. 

7.  Recognize that many of your feelings are not connected to the present situation. 

We often feel the pain from past rejections when someone says something hurtful to us. When a co-worker insults us, it feels rejecting.  When we make a small mistake in front of a group of acquaintances, it feels embarrassing.  These types of situations can cause an overwhelming amount of hurt and humiliation and the inner critic begins attacking, “you are not enough, you should have done better”.  This is usually because we are experiencing old shameful emotions from early childhood experiences.  The situation with the co-worker may have called for “10” units of pain but we felt “1,000” units of pain.  When you feel powerful and intense feelings of frustration, rejection, fear or shame, recognize that these emotions are most likely old feelings; remind yourself that the co-worker or acquaintances are not your parents.  The powerful emotions are usually connected to an event that already happened to you.  Remind yourself that the childhood experience is over and that the current situation is not the same. You have already survived the old situation and you are safe and can handle the present situation.

8.  Take a walk and repeat a compassionate and uplifting phrase.  

Create your own or say something like the following loving-kindness meditation:  “May I be well.  May I be safe and protected.  May I be healthy and strong.  May I live in this world peacefully, joyfully and with ease.”

9.  Envision yourself as a small, young child. 

Picture that child being attacked by your inner critic.  What might you say to him or her? Don’t you want to communicate love and tenderness?  Say something similar and nurturing to yourself. 

10.  Write down what you fear. 

Write on a piece of paper what it is that you fear the most.  Writing it down externalizes the fear.  The fear is no longer hidden in the fog of your unconscious.  Now that it is outside of you, it holds less power.  Tell yourself a statement of validation and compassion, such as:  “Of course you feel scared, you are human and life is a difficult journey.  You are allowed to feel fear and terror; these are natural parts of the human experience.  Your willingness to acknowledge your fears takes great courage.  You are a brave soul.”

11.  Recognize that vulnerability is courageous.

Express your authentic feelings to safe people.  Contemplate the times when someone has shared the deepest, most painful and frightening feelings.  How did you experience the person?  Usually, we are extremely impressed and moved when someone is vulnerable.  However, when it comes to ourselves, we see vulnerability as a sign of weakness or shame.  This is a terrible lie.  Expressing your feelings is the path toward freedom. By articulating your feelings, you learn to tolerate your fears.  You also discover that being exactly who you are is more than acceptable and more than “good enough”. 

12.  Remind yourself that bad things will happen. 

Sadness and disappointment are an inevitable part of the journey.  Life is not easy or free of pain for any of us. 

13.  Tell your critics to leave you alone. 

We often have several different critical voices.  Tell your inner critics: “Please be quiet. I know you are trying to protect me, but you are no longer helping me.  What I need right now is compassion.”

14.  Do some sort of healthy self-care every day. 

Get a massage, a pedicure; listen to relaxing music; watch a good movie; take a relaxing bath; go for a long walk somewhere new; cook an amazing meal; sit on the beach with a blanket and journal; make a collage about you; paint, draw – it does not matter if you are naturally talented – create anything; exercise; find a favorite spot in nature and go there once a week; take a nap. 

15.  Give back the critical message to the person to whom it belongs. 

Inner critical voices about being “not good enough” usually begin with real people from our childhood.  We internalize that real person’s message and begin to say it to ourselves.  If you can identify the person whose voice is responsible for your inner critic’s negative message, you can start to give that message back.  For example, if your father called you “stupid”, or your mother told you to “Stop acting like a baby!”, imagine yourself handing back these messages to them.  Tell your internalized parent, “feeling ashamed and inadequate are your disowned wounds; I do not need to carry your burden for you anymore."

"Let everything happen to you Beauty and terror Just keep going No feeling is final”   ― Rainer Maria Rilke

"Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

― Rainer Maria Rilke