The Inner Critic. We all have one. That chattering voice in our head that inhibits our ability to change our situation when we know change is what we really want or need. The one that assures us that we're not good enough. That it's a bad idea.
That we're just fooling ourselves.
A voice that can be very assertive at times, and quite loud.
Are you wanting to make a change in life? Wanting to try something new? Or gain greater success or fulfillment? Have you made efforts but find yourself rooted in place by that incessant voice, no matter how hard you try to ignore it?
In my coaching practice, this Inner Critic is often a constant companion of those I coach. Oftentimes, it's the source of the obstacles that have brought them to me in the first place.
So, how can you silence it? Or, at least, put it in its rightful place? How do you take command of your Inner Critic so that it doesn't command you?
1. Understand why it exists
Take its measure. The first step in dealing with any challenge is understanding what you're up against.
The Inner Critic is the preacher of Ego. Above all, Ego desires safety and certainty. It wants to maintain the status quo at all costs. Begin to push yourself beyond those walls, and the Inner Critic's voice will make itself heard. The more you push, the louder it becomes.
It's our psyche’s natural response to anything that threatens change.
2. Accept that it's not serving you
While Ego has some beneficial aspects, it's a fine line. As noted by Roger Gabriel of the Chopra Center, "the ego loves to organize things, but unfortunately, it also loves to control not only your life but also the world around you."
Ego - and its partner in crime, the Inner Critic - wants you to believe they're there to protect you. But do you really want their protection? If it keeps you rooted in what's known, fearful of change and what lies beyond, is this really serving you?
Rather than move you outside your four-walled comfort zone to where learning, fulfillment and success exist, it strives to keep you a prisoner within.
3. Choose to take back control
Respond with emotion to an interpersonal situation and we give up our control. It's the same with the Inner Critic. Allow your emotions to rule in its wake and you will only feed the demon.
Understanding where it comes from can help you approach your Inner Critic with compassion and acceptance. Accepting it for what it is but not giving it the power it craves is a critical aspect of limiting the impact it has over your life.
4. Show yourself compassion
In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of taking time out for reflection. Reflecting on your experiences and responses to those experiences has many benefits.
One of these is self-acknowledgment. The Inner Critic will make it seem that you're floundering. That progress is not only minimal, but that it will likely remain so in future.
Reflection counters this by highlighting the small wins. These may be examples of forward movement, or personal learning that you're receiving from your endeavours. Without a reflection habit, these small wins can easily be overlooked. Caught in the din of the Inner Critic.
In this refocusing on the positives - and acknowledging your progress - reflection also provides an important opportunity for you to show self-compassion and gratitude. Before we can show true compassion toward others - and toward our Inner Critic - we must first learn to be compassionate toward ourselves.
5. Tap into your vision
Step back and recenter on your vision for your future. Visualize clearly the ideal outcome you've imagined for your journey - how will it feel when (not if) you've arrived? Visualize the benefits of success.
Intention and vision are powerful motivators. Use them.
If you're finding that you're lacking clarity around what you really want, take some time to crystallize this. The Inner Critic will be given stronger voice in the absence of a meaningful vision. If needed, get some external support such as from a coach. Your focus on this will be well worth the effort!
The Inner Critic is an ever-present extension of our ego. It becomes not a question of whether we have one, but how much we permit its voice to be heard. How much we allow it to prevent the change in life we want.
Learning to still its voice is difficult but can be done. And, in doing so, you increase your ability to move beyond your comfort zone to embrace change and create the fulfillment and success in life you really want.
Glenn Case is a Leadership, Executive and Team Coach in Vancouver, Canada.