All of us have an inner critic. But for some of us that inner critic is especially loud.
You’re enormous. You’re too small. What the heck are you wearing? Wow, you have to be the stupidest person on this planet.
You actually think that looks good? You need to sprint to the gym after that meal. No one will love you like that. Ever.
In her beautiful book Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life author Dani Shapiro talks about her personal struggles with the inner critic.
This is what her inner critic whispers or shouts, “depending on her mood”: “This is stupid. What a waste of time. (Condescending laugh) You really think you can pull that off? So-and-so did it better.”
Over time, Dani has learned how to live with her inner critic. One way involves not fighting with her. Which makes sense, because for some reason, fighting with our negative thoughts only seems to fuel them.
(Plus, it’s frustrating and exhausting.)
Instead, Dani acknowledges her inner critic — “oh, hello, it’s you again” — and accepts “our coexistence.”
I especially love this part: “The I.C., once you’re on a nickname basis, should be treated like an annoying, potentially undermining colleague. Try managing her with corporate-speak: Thanks for reaching out, but can I circle back to you later?”
I love this part because it suggests we treat our inner critic with a sense of distance. We don’t get up in her face and fight. We don’t engage her in an argument or a debate.
(Again, this just gets tiring.)
We aren’t cruel or rude in return. We don’t yell or hiss “shut up, already!”
Instead, we treat her as a pesky person who just wants attention, someone who whispers annoyances in our ear, annoyances we know aren’t true or meaningful.
Oh, there she goes, again. Yapping per usual. Yes, I hear you. Thank you for your concern. But I’ll have to return your call. I’m busy at the moment.
Maybe we treat her like a bug buzzing in our ears, and we simply shoo her away.
We react in a kind of neutral way. We don’t get wrapped up in what she’s saying. Instead we issue a standard memo, and get back to work.
We get back to taking care of ourselves. We get back to working on appreciating our bodies and ourselves. We get back to savoring our meals.
We get back to playing outside. We get back to enjoying our lives.
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Last reviewed: 26 Apr 2014