For many of us the inner critic is loud and relentless. It hurls insults. It stops us from voicing our concerns and exploring our dreams. Why would we explore or pursue them? We’re not good enough or smart enough or X enough, anyway. We don’t have the necessary talents or skills… so your inner critic says (or maybe even shrieks).
While we can’t eliminate the inner critic, we can quiet its cruel comments. We can get curious and listen to its concerns. (Because our inner critics are really just trying to protect us — though in a very unhelpful, harsh way.) We can even get playful and not think of it in such serious doom and gloom ways. I know this isn’t easy. But we can practice seeing our inner critic through a lighthearted lens, at least sometimes.
We also can remember that our inner critic isn’t the end all, be all voice on who and how we are.
Here are some ways to approach or interact with your inner critic. Some are super silly and might feel weird. Others focus on exploring our inner critic and its concerns and acting anyway.
- Have a conversation with your inner critic, where you both try to understand each other. Write it down. (Of course, this might feel weird at first. And during…and maybe after…but try it anyway. It might be very revealing. It also might help to get those thoughts down on paper.) Instead of letting this turn into a battle, assume you both have good intentions. Your inner critic is just going about it in an ineffective way. That’s why you’re going to talk things through. Ask your inner critic questions like: What are you trying to protect me from? What do you want me to know? Tell your inner critic what you’re thinking and feeling. Simply start with: I feel _______ after hearing your comments. Tell them how and why their words aren’t helpful. Have a back-and-forth dialogue.
- Make your inner critic into a silly-looking monster. Draw this monster. Any time your inner critic starts churning out critical comments, picture this silly monster, who’s filled with hot air, and really just afraid themselves. A monster who’s just as vulnerable as anyone else underneath their big, hairy-scary exterior.
- Write a story about a protagonist who’s struggling with the same self-doubts. How does your protagonist navigate these doubts? How do they act on their dreams anyway? What do they learn?
- Pretend you and your inner critic are in a dance-off. Dance your heart out to your favorite songs (even for just a few minutes).
- Make a list of all your inner critic’s comments. Then draw a big volume dial. Take your hand over the dial, as though you’re lowering the volume. If it helps, keep drawing other volume dials of different sizes. And make the same motion with your hand of turning down the noise.
- When your inner critic is especially loud, simply start doodling, drawing or coloring. You can channel your feelings into the images you’re making. Or you can simply get out some crayons and sketch.
- You and your inner critic are having a big misunderstanding, similar to the big (and classic) misunderstanding of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” Create a funny exchange, which could be based on a mean comment you hear often.
- What ways does your inner critic ask you to hide? Tell them you appreciate their protection, but you’re good. You don’t need or want to isolate yourself, your core self. Draw a self-portrait. Talk to someone you trust about what’s on your mind. Share something vulnerable with them. Or share something vulnerable in your journal. Be honest with yourself. Don’t hide. Again, your inner critic just wants to be your shield from potential danger (whatever this looks like — embarrassment, shame, uncertainty). But you don’t need to hide. Also, think of other ways you can express yourself, your core, your true self. Then do these things — despite the negative words you hear.
- Put your inner critic in a time-out (so they can pause and self-reflect). Sketch what this time-out looks like. This isn’t a punitive time-out, but simply a break to think. Is the time-out in a specific room? Is it a meditation cushion? Is it a field? Underneath a tree? On the beach? Then from your inner critic’s perspective, write out what they’ve learned during this thoughtful break.
- Take a favorite quote from this piece. Use it to create a print for your office to help you connect to your courage (because you’ve got lots of it).
- Create a funny quote about your inner critic, and make it into another print.
When it comes to our inner critics, it’s important not to bash or try to banish or obliterate them. Because after all your inner critic is part of you. It’s not a pivotal part. But it is one part. As Tara Mohr writes in her book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, “We don’t ever want to make a part of us the enemy, to go to war with a part of ourselves.”
Instead, it’s more helpful to approach our inner critic with compassion, curiosity, humor, creativity and even a sense of play.
What helps you deal with your inner critic?
Thanks so much to everyone who shared their inspirations in this post! I picked the winner randomly using random.org. The winner of Meera Lee Patel’s beautiful journal, Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration, is Stacey A. Congrats! I’ll be emailing you shortly. 🙂