My inner critic is fierce. She is bold. She remembers every single criticism that was ever thrown my way and whenever i want to take a risk, she yaks away in the background and tries to stop me. Writing a book is taking a risk. A big one. It takes you out of your comfort zone, especially if this is your first time.
The bad news is that your inner critic will never leave you alone. It is here as a protecting mechanism to keep you safe. It comes from the time we were cave men and had to be suspicious of the smallest rustle in the leaves because it meant that a hungry predator was here to turn us into their dinner. This mechanism was vital for the survival of the human specie. And my guess is that it will continue to “save” us from dangers. However, in our modern society, fake dangers are highlighted all the time which raises our alertness to danger, so our inner critic is on overdrive.
The good news is that even though it is here to stay, there are many strategies that we can use to deal with him/her
Tip number 1 – turn the news off
As we have just established that your inner critic feeds on negativity, the very first thing to do is turn the news off on social media, on the TV and your beloved newspaper. Not permanently, but until you become aware. I did this two decades ago and I had never turned back. In my parents’ time, the eight o’clock news happened, as the name indicates, once a day at eight o’clock in the evening. That was their dose of negativity for the day. The rest of the time, they could live their lives and be in the present moment, in their community, dealing with their own lives. I am not saying that they were necessarily positive people but they weren’t bombarded with negativity 24/7. It was one point in time, in their day then it was over. Fifty years down the line and our world has completely changed. We get the bad news every hour, sometimes more often than that. This is not only unnecessary, it feeds our inner critic which as a consequence, is thriving. We can now worry about things that might never happen in our lives. This is also fed by all the awareness campaigns about various diseases. I see awareness campaigns for illnesses almost every day. Your inner critic is not able to put things in perspective. It takes things very literally, so you need to stop feeding it so much. And you need to start now.
Tip number 2 – stop believing everything you think
This is an incredibly powerful practice. Our mind chatter away all day every day. This is why most spiritual practices encourage us to meditate in one form or another. But the worse of the chatter is not that it is happening, the worse is that we believe everything we think. My invitation today is for you to start questioning your thoughts. A lot of it is not even your own. Most of our thoughts are borrowed from others, starting from our parents. So perhaps you were told that you could never earn a living doing what you love. You might be thinking this on a permanent basis but not even be aware of it. Go on a treasure hunt, try to remember what your parents, grand parents, uncles, cousins, peers, teachers said on a regular basis, write them down and decide which ones you want to activate in your conscious mind. A belief is a thought that we keep thinking. But beliefs can be changed, with small consistent steps. The first step, however, is to see them for what they are. And to me, as a reiki master, I know they are energy. Thoughts that we keep entertaining become thought forms. So pick them up from your mind energy and bin them (the negative ones of course);.
Tip number 3 – recognise the voice of your inner critic
We have lots of different voices that speak in our mind. This does not make us schizophrenic. They are just internalised voices. Our inner critic is the sum of all the negative things that have been said to us, sometimes with the best of intent. Let’s imagine that a book coach tells you that your book has a great potential and they think it could become a best seller and your mind immediately brings up the thought “that is never going to happen”. Listen to that voice. Where is it coming from? Who would have spoken to you that way when you were younger? Or maybe last month? This is not your voice. This is a replay of someone else’s thought that you internalised because it resonated with you. The problem is that your inner critic lives in the part of your brain, called the reptile brain, which computes events and organises them in a belief system to tell a story. That story might be completely distorted from reality but it becomes your reality. This is how phobias are created and we, clinical hypnotherapist, know how to undo them by “plucking out” those beliefs under hypnosis and replacing them by more helpful beliefs. This is a short cut, but you can do it yourself.
Tip number 4 – engage with your inner critic
Most people call their inner critic by all sorts of bad names. They go at war with it. But by doing this, they feed the energy. So calling your inner critic your inner bitch does not help the situation. My take on it is that you need to engage with her. Invite her at the table. Listen to what she was to say but only give her five minutes per day. Say “OK, darling, I know you are scared. I know the world seems like a dangerous and hostile place to be. What is your problem with me writing my book?” And listen to what she has to say. I would recommend you pull your journal out and write it down. Once you have identified what her issues are (people are going to ridicule me, for example), tell your inner critic that you understand her fears. And then, try to soothe her. Say for example “I understand you are afraid for me and are trying to protect me because that one time in Year 9, when the teacher told me off for asking the wrong question in front of the whole class, I wanted to crawl under my desk and disappear. But I am not fourteen anymore. I am an adult now. I am not in school anymore. Those bullies and that teacher do not have that power over me anymore.” And then give her multiple reasons to stop worrying. “This is just an experiment. My life is not at stake. We are going to have some fun.” And you might just find out that your inner critic starts to soften. You have managed to soothe her. After you have engaged with her for fifteen minutes, send her off to do a job and get on with your day. If she comes back after an hour, just say “We have had our special time today, go back to your job, I will speak to you tomorrow at the same time.”
Tip number 5 – turn the thought around
This is an offshoot of the previous tip, and a powerful one: when a negative thought pops up, write it down, keep asking questions about it and then when the whole story is out on paper, turn it around. I love to use Byron Katie’s four questions to do that. First, ask “Is it true?”. Then ask “Are you sure?”. Then explore who you would be without that thought. And last, turn it around. This simple process is actually very effective. It helps to see that even thought something might be true, we have a choice every day to choose a different reality. We do not have to let our past define our future and not even our present. We can become aware of where we are and decide that our present is going to change. Change only happens when we are ready to let go of our story. Are you attached to yours? Maybe you have suffered a lot and are not just ready yet to let go of that pain because you want to punish the people who hurt you but in reality, you are only hurting yourself by hanging onto the story. Be willing to look at the story and ask yourself “Is this story serving me? Am I ready to let go of that story?” You might not. And if that is the case, it’s fine. At least you become aware of what the story is doing to you and you can perhaps start a journey of forgiveness to be able to release it later. That bully only holds power over you today because you are giving it power, by rehearsing what he or she said. At this point in time, it is all in your mind. Now your mind is yours. Why are you letting someone’s dirty shoes walking all over it?
These were my five tips to deal with your inner critic. Did you like them? Do you have any questions? Leave a comment on this post if you do.
To your writing,
(c) Ange de Lumiere 2018