Every once in a while that little voice that lives in the back of your mind pops up to highlight the least glamorous parts of who you are. It pinpoints physical flaws and obsesses over perceived character flaws and personal failures. This inner critic is always ready to jump into action when you’re at your lowest, and if you’re not careful the snowball effect can come into full swing. You’ll find yourself feeling low about how you look when you were originally disappointed about bombing a presentation.
Over the years, I have been able to rein these thoughts in, but by no means have I become an an expert. Yes, over time it is easier to recognize when the snowball effect has set in and that that the two aspects of myself being criticized have nothing to do with each other, but that doesn’t take away the negative feeling. Typically by this point, the inner critic has become a habit. Whether it was a behavior gleaned from others’ examples, directly told to you, or implemented through your own doing, you have accepted and reinforced this thought pattern.
That’s right. You have been doing this to yourself, and understanding why this thought pattern began is not as important as realizing that its persistence is all your own doing. There is no one in your mind telling you what to think, except you. I know that sometimes it may feel like you have no power over these thoughts. They just crop up at the perfectly negative moment. If there is one thing that meditation has taught me, however, it is to watch my thoughts…and let them go.
Low moments will never disappear. There will be a time when you are heartbroken, disappointed, or simply exhausted, but that doesn’t mean you need to make it worse by letting this inner critic run free. Of course this is easier said than done, especially when you have been doing this to yourself for months, years. It takes practice and consistency.
In such moments where my inner critic pops up to add some spice to my low point, I remind myself to stop. I literally tell myself, “no, I do not need to make this worse.” I then remind myself of the facts of the situation. “What actually happened?” “What are the actual implications?” Most often, it’s just a learning moment with nothing to really feel negative or anxious about.
Again, overcoming the inner critic takes time. I have done the above to stop it in its tracks, but sometimes I do let it get the best of me. That doesn’t mean I stop working on improving. I remind myself to stop, and I ask myself the questions above, and I move forward.
It will be a work in progress, but it will get better with time.
Have you ever grappled with your own inner critic? How have you dealt with it?
All the best,