How To Deal With Your Inner Critic

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on August 9, 2010

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C.

So, I try not to get too political in these posts, but I’ve noticed a particular turn of phrase that conservatives keep using to defend the Bush tax cuts.  They say the following:

Everyone knows that you don’t raise tax cuts during a recession.”

It’s a nasty and brilliant little trick.  Because (a) everyone doesn’t know or certainly agree that raising taxes (particularly on the top 2% of earners) during a recession is a bad idea and (b) it’s an insidious way of saying that anyone who doesn’t know this or disagrees with it is not very smart.  In other words, statements that start with “everyone knows” have a veneer of truth and give you the feeling that you’re stupid for trying to think other wise.

It’s just the kind of nasty and brilliant trick that your inner critic loves to use.

Your inner critic is that voice that tells you, “No, don’t wear that, you’ll look stupid,” or “Why bother exercising if you’re still going to be fat?” or “How could you possibly think that so-and-so likes you?”  It’s that voice that keeps you from moving forward, making changes, and moving beyond what you’re accustomed to.  It gets louder at certain times in your life, and quieter at others, but it often strikes at those moments when you’re moving beyond your comfort zone and trying something new.

For example, I’ve recently got into practicing yoga again, thanks to Abby Lentz’s wonderful DVD’s.  For nearly a week, I did the full hour Heavyweight Yoga 2 DVD every single day.  I hadn’t planned on keeping to that schedule, I just woke up every day and really wanted to practice yoga.  Around the 6th day, I had a particularly busy day, and I didn’t get to the DVD until pretty late at night.  I got through the stretching portion, which lasts about 20 minutes, and then decided that I had had enough for the night.  As I was resting for a moment on the mat, my inner critic voice piped up loud and clear, “You know that you’ve totally screwed up your schedule, right?” it said.  “You were on a roll and now that you think you can just do half the DVD, you’re never going to do the full DVD again.  You’re probably never going to use the DVD again at all.”  I tried to just acknowledge the voice and let it go, but it didn’t stop.  “You really screwed up,” it said.  “You can’t do 40 more minutes of yoga?  It’s not even a really hard yoga DVD.  It barely even counts as exercise.”

I know!  It was awful.  I had been feeling so good from all the yoga, I was ready to go to sleep, and here I was berating myself instead of congratulating myself on listening to what my body wanted by practicing yoga daily and then taking it easy when I was really tired.

But that’s the problem with your inner critic.  It knows just what to say to you to keep you in line, it knows how to shame you into keeping with the status quo, and it makes you feel wrong about your choices, actions and desires.  As a result, your inner critic can prevent you from taking important risks, making positive changes, and feeling good about all that you do.

But there are ways to deal with your inner critic.  So here are three tips to get you started!

1) Acknowledge It — Spend some time keeping a journal of what your inner critic tells you.  What does it say to you?  When does it get particularly loud?  What triggers it?  Does it sound like anyone you know?  After doing this for at least a week, let it go.  You’ve heard it, acknowledged it, and you’ve learned some of your triggers.  You don’t have to fear it because you’ve already heard it all.

2) Remind Yourself That Your Inner Critic Isn’t Always Right — Very often, when we start making changes in our life and having more positive thoughts about ourselves, that inner critic will come in and shut the process down.  For example, if you’re practicing the affirmation “I’m beautiful,” that negative voice may come in even louder and say things like, “That’s a joke!  Affirmations are stupid! You’re okay at the most, but definitely not beautiful.”  When this happens, we usually find ourselves agreeing with our inner critic.    But your inner critic isn’t right, it’s just been with you longer.  It’s a voice and an opinion that you’re used to.  So stop believing that the negative voice is telling the truth.  It’s not.  It’s just keeping you in your place.

3) Affirm, Affirm, Affirm —  Take some of your most negative thoughts and turn them around into affirmations.  For more help with working with and creating affirmations, check out this post.

We’ll be talking about dealing with your inner critic and more in my latest FREE Teleclass — How To Feel Good In Your Skin (coming up August 19th) ! For details and to register, click here. Can’t wait to “see” you there!

P.S.  I tried SO HARD to find an appropriate picture for this post.  So instead, I’m sharing with you the song “Downpressor Man” by Peter Tosh.  It’s not really about your inner critic (obviously) but it may have your inner critic on the run…

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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