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Retraining The Inner Critic Into Inner Champion

Retraining The Inner Critic Into Inner Champion

The inner critic -- refer to it and everyone nods their head knowingly. But ask what it is and what it does and few have an easy reply. Exploring what the inner critic is and how it operates, can help us make it our inner champion.

Most people experience self-directed inner negativity – thoughts that come into your mind quickly and repetitively after you do or say something you wish you hadn’t. Thoughts such as “Why did I do that?” or “Why did I do that…again?” or “What’s wrong with me?” and “What was I thinking?” are common.

Perhaps your negative thoughts are a little different, but you likely have them – in some form. They are usually demeaning. For some, these thoughts are pervasive, and occur all day long in response to thoughts of the past or projections about the future.

These inner messages are what make up the inner critic.

The inner critic develops outside of our conscious awareness when we are very young. No one sets out to have a negative inner voice, but we all encounter uncomfortable events in childhood that we do not understand, and we strive to avoid their repetition. As children, we experience ourselves as the center of the universe, and so naturally we ascribe causality to our actions. “If I don’t do that again, Mom and Dad won’t get mad,” and so forth. But Mom and Dad being mad (or feeling and expressing another negative emotion) is not always about us, and so our developing minds have a hard time pinning down the -- often non-existent -- pattern.

Because we are not yet mature enough to understand paradox, double binds, and simple misdirected emotion, our self-preservation instinct begins to apply internal scolding -- “Don’t do that again” -- to things that are beyond our control in an attempt to avoid conflict. And since we do not talk about our internal processes, no one puts things in perspective for us, leaving this self-deprecatory instinct to develop unchecked.

As a result, it never really matures, and it uses the same strategy of attempted protection forever. Because we respond to the inner scolding, the inner critic part of the mind registers it as effective. But the response is not usually helpful. Instead we just feel bad. The inner critic is a like fussy 6-year-old that likes to tell us what we did wrong, but never offers any constructive advice.  And it is very persistent.

Imagine for a moment that you can ask that part of you to be nicer, to try some more productive strategies, and that it will listen.

You can. And it will.

This isn’t magic. But over time the results are pretty magical.

You Can Stop Your Inner Critic with These Easy Steps

The first step is to tune in to what is going on internally – in your mind and body. Set the intention to notice when you feel bad.

Next set the intention to notice what sort of internal messages you are experiencing during these times. If they are some form of “you messed up” or “you are not good” or “you are going to screw up” then your inner critic could use a little help growing up!

Internally, turn toward that part of you. Speak to it -- gently.

Most people, when they initially realize they have a negative internal voice want to block it out or cut it off; they want to get rid of it.

The inner critic is a part of you. As such, it deserves to be treated with the same kindness, gentleness, respect, and generosity that every other part of you deserves. If you just tell it to “be quiet!” you are dropping to that same 6-year-old level. If you cut that part of yourself out, you will end up with phantom pain.

Instead, be a partner to your inner critic. Help it out, like it has been trying so hard to help you all this time -- and yes, it is there to help you. It has been trying to keep you safe, but it is over-protective and not good at predicting the future. If it were, it would tell you not to do things instead of scolding you after the fact. It would tell you how to avoid messing up, not that you are going to.

With some help, the inner critic can become a positive support for you, not just a nag.

How to Talk to Your Inner Critic

What follows is the language I suggest to people when introducing this concept, but please do not feel like you have to use it – find what works for you.

“I recognize that you have been working really hard for a long time to try to help me, but the way you are doing it has not been very effective.

Is there anything new here that you are trying to tell me? If there is, I want to know. Otherwise, please take a break from working so hard or try a new positive strategy.

You have been using the same strategy all these long years, and the outcome is always the same. I know you are working tirelessly to try and help me, and I would like to work together. I would like to share some new strategies with you that might be more useful.”

You might not be surprised to hear your inner critic respond that it will not work, or that it does not know what to do instead.

Tell it that it will work, and that you will be patient as it learns. Offer it some alternative things to say -- things you’d actually like to hear. Like, “Good Job!” or “You’re getting better at those sort of interactions” might be good places to start.

Your job is to be ready to remind the inner critic when it forgets that it is trying something new. And it is likely to be pretty forgetful.

Why does it not just change once you recognize you want it to? For the same reason that most things take more than one try – we are changing previously unconscious mental habits. It is a habit to let the inner critic talk negatively and unchallenged. It takes creating a new and conscious habit to change that.

Every time you recognize it is happening again you are in the process of changing it.

When you notice a repetitive or negative thought arise, remind your inner critic you are working together to change, and ask yourself if there is any new information. If there is not, make a choice to think about something positive. This is not running away from the negative voice, but making a discerning choice to think positively. Even if it only lasts for a moment, you are doing something different and on the way to a new inner outlook.

With practice your inner critic will soften. It will become less persistent and more reasonable. Use a little loving kindness and it can even become your friend!

For more information about changing the inner critic, you can check out "Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself: 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life" by Lori Deschene.


Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a naturopathic or medical doctor.

About The Author - Geoff Walker


The aim of Geoff's work is to encourage people to create their own opportunities and to find their own personal path to wholeness. He is committed to helping people draw out their strengths in organic ways; to helping them see their defenses as misguided but re-directable strengths, and to learn to have comfortable conversations about both…with themselves…closing the gap between what we are inside and what we show the world.

Geoff is a Depth Hypnosis practitioner, Life Coach, Shamanic practitioner, an artist, and a musician. His graduate work was in Expressive Arts Therapy at CIIS in San Francisco. He brings creativity and light to all his work. Each person has the necessary skills for self-healing and development. His job is to help people figure out how to find them!


Tags:Geoff Walker, inner critic, psychology, self help, negative thoughts, critical inner voice, inner voice,

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