Do you know that feeling of going about your life as usual and noticing thoughts in your head down the line of:
'you will never manage', 'this is going to end badly', 'this is way out of your league'.
An unfriendly critic, personally attacking you, your value as a person and your abilities in all areas of life?
Because it goes via your thoughts it is far too easy to confuse it for a kind of inner knowing, a reliable truth, something you just hope nobody else will ever realize about you.
The negative emotions that arises by experiencing such thoughts can be nefarious, from discouragement to full blown depression also including hopelessness, despair and sometimes anxiousness and anger towards yourself.
The reality is that the negative and critical thoughts you notice in your head are not of your conscious personality center but are an expression of a part of you, often referred to as the inner critic. I'll tell you more about where the inner critic comes from in an upcoming blog.
For now it is important to point out that you are a centered individual, with many different aspects of the personality or parts navigating life with you. Each part can be activated to act in different situations in your life. You, however, are the only centered aspect that can become aware and learn to manage your every part, voice, aspect of your personality (many names are used to express the same thing).
The inner critic is one of these parts of your psyche. It is one of the most aggressive, one of the few that can greatly interfere with our well-being and functioning, however it is something you have, it's not you. Its thoughts are its, its opinions are Its. You can observe them from afar, realizing that they are not your opinions and thoughts and feel relief in this realization.
The first step in changing the relationship you have with your inner critic is exactly that, taking a step back and realizing that you are you and you have an inner critic. There is a difference between you and him and there must be an energetic space, a distance, between the two of you.
You can best achieve this by changing your inner dialogue:
Instead of saying to yourself
'I don't think I will make it'
'the inner critic thinks I won't make it',
'I already know it will end badly'
say to yourself
'the inner critic believes it will end badly',
'I'm an idiot'
'the inner critic thinks I'm an idiot'.
It may seem artificial and forced at first, however it is the best way I know to take that all-important first step and differentiate yourself from the inner critic.
If it seems too simplistic a method, in fact it is simple, and like so many simple things it works because of its simplicity. If you feel you can improve your quality of life by taming your inner critic, it might be worth a try.
You've probably lived so long with the belief that those thoughts were yours that it will take some time to look at things differently. Give yourself time and be patient with yourself.
How do you distinguish your thoughts from those of the inner critic?
My rule of thumb is: if he's criticizing you, it's the inner critic.
As you begin to step back from your inner critic and feel more and more what your thoughts are and what those of the inner critic are, you may notice that so many around you are influenced by their inner critic, in fact there are industries based on critical messages we receive internally from the critic (the cosmetics industry just to name one, the cultural focus on being thin is another example).
Realizing that you are not alone can be an important second step. If you are not the only one who is struck by the inner critic, you can conclude that there is nothing wrong with you in particular, and that would be correct. This helps to realize that despite what the inner critic may have suggested, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you in any way, it is just the inner critic speaking.
This is just the beginning of the story, there is more to know about where the inner critic comes from, how value can be found in his opinions and what the darker side of him is. All this in the next blogs.