Let's start with the bad news: getting rid of your inner critic is not really an option. There are no exercises or practices that will make this voice disappear. But wait, there is also good news! You can live a very pleasant and peaceful life WITH this voice inside your head. And although getting rid of your inner critic is not a possibility, detaching and liberating yourself from it certainly is. Here are 3 key insights that will help you do this.
Insight 1: You are not your inner critic
Very important. Super important. Incredibly important. This. Is. Not. You. You are not this voice. It’s a mechanism that is born out of the accumulation of your past experiences, the things you had to do or be (or specifically not do or be) in order to keep yourself safe, or receive (fragments of) love, appreciation and/or recognition. For example: ‘If I am nice, know how to adapt, and ignore my own needs (you know, if I’m a good girl/boy/kid), appreciation is on the table. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s there. Check. From now on, if I am not being ‘good’ (enough) or if I’m taking up (too much) space, I will intervene and bring myself back to safety.' And even the words this voice utters did not originate within you, you’ve picked them up from your environment. Think of a small child that suddenly starts shouting ''fuck'' all day long. They probably did not exactly wake up one day and decide to let their inner gangster out, they just heard someone else say it. Same for this voice.
So, in conclusion, your inner critic is a result of conditioning. In other words: NOT. YOUR. FAULT.
The existence of your inner critic is not your fault; but it is your responsibility to learn to work with it.
Insight 2: Your inner critic means well
Very hard to see and even harder to believe, I know.
Once upon a time, when you were just a little you, this voice was created because you wanted the best for yourself - a good life, with as much warmth and security as possible. Even though, now, it often causes you to keep yourself small, to hold back from standing up for yourself, to constantly procrastinate because perfection is unattainable, your inner critic has the very best of intentions. And in those particular circumstances back then, its mechanisms worked really well. So well, in fact, that you still carry them with you.
Can you try to show some compassion for the intention of your inner critic and how this part of you is - with its limited toolbox (read: judgment, disapproval and criticism) - trying to arrange a good life for you? You have your best interests at heart and you’ve simply learned that this is the way to get there. That is (very!) shitty, but not wrong, it's not bad. It's okay. It is.
Insight 3: You have no control over this voice
You now know that your inner critic is working properly and means well, but it is still bothering you, very much so. You may still feel quite powerless in the face of this internal voice, but you are not. Because, even though you have no say in when this voice gets triggered and what your critic is going to cry out this time, you do have the freedom to choose how to respond to it. That’s the only thing you have any control over; your reaction to your self-criticism. You don't have to fight it, you don't have to get angry with it (because then you often get angry with yourself - more about that in this blog post), you don't have to go agree with it, you don't have to believe it. You don't have to do anything with it at all.
Focus on the only thing you can control
So, the only thing you can really do is try to accept this voice. And choose again and again not to resent, reject or blame (this part of) yourself. No matter how loud the critic may shout. And no, this ain't easy. This requires a lot of courage and stamina. But you can do this. You can decide that as soon as you become aware of your self-judgment, you will no longer participate in it. In those moments you might, for example, say something like: ''Thanks, but no thanks. I am not going to blame myself for what you are trying to make me believe. It's bad enough as it is, and I'm not going to make it any worse.''
Getting rid of your inner critic isn’t the answer, collaborating with it is
The goal is to collaborate with your inner critic. Every moment is the best moment to (re)find that compassion within yourself. Even if you have been berating yourself for days (weeks, months, years), now is the time to stop making it worse than it already is. This voice does not have to quiet down, change or disappear – it belongs to you and your current experience. It's on you to keep reminding yourself that you are empowered to choose how to deal with it, you can decide how you respond to your inner critic. Coming home is always just one decision away.
Tag: mindset & identity