Make friends with your inner-critic
And change your life
Have you ever chit-chatted with your inner-critic, on the page or otherwise? If you haven’t, maybe it’s never occurred to you or perhaps you assume it’s an unchangeable part of you that you just have to work around.
Well, I’m here to tell you why you should and how you can do it.
Out of date messages
The inner-critic, and other voices or characters that live in our heads and incessantly whisper - or sometimes shout - in our ears, are generally parts of other people we’ve internalised, something we do without question as children; from parents to mean kids and everyone in between. Think of the negative messages you have about yourself, they came from somewhere.
And this is where journaling - writing with these parts of ourselves - can help. We can present new evidence to suggest that we aren’t ‘a waste of space,’ (my old favourite) or anything else that incapacitates us in the face of living a more fulfilled life.
I used to have an extremely active inner critic and was riddled with anxiety and doubt. They haven’t completely gone away (there’s more than one) but they’re much further away and come to call a lot less. I believe it’s in large part to having acknowledged and seen them, conversed with them and in some cases negotiated with them so that they’re happy and I’m happy. Think about a naughty kid in class kicking off - they need something, they want something, at the very least, attention.
The good news is that talking to your inner-critic - or dialoguing as it’s known in the journaling world - is actually quite simple to do, though of course that doesn’t mean it’s always easy and you may need a few go’s to get into it, so be kind and patient with yourself.
Let’s get chatting
If you can’t immediately access your inner critic, try teasing him/her/it out by writing about something you’d like to try/do/achieve. Nothing is more likely to jump start your inner-critic than going outside your comfort zone and stretching your horizons.
Once you're in touch with them, just ask simple questions like:
What do you need me to know?
What do you need?
Then, let them reply through your pen.
When they’ve had their say - and make sure you let them get it all out - you can now reply - make sure 'you' get enough time too.
Go back and forth as much as you need - I’ve had conversations that have lasted weeks, it’s not always a one-stop shop.
You may or may not want to get into a conversation straight away, if it feels right, just thank them for chatting to you and say you'll be back soon - and make sure you do return to them.
If the conversation gets going you can start to gently challenge what they have to say, discuss any evidence to the contrary. Sometimes you may need to reassure the critic that you can handle x, y and z now that you’re an adult.
In my experience the critic is happy to have some time off. They’re normally pretty knackered from keeping watch 24/7. If they’re anxious about having no role in your life, you can give them a new job, like finding the good things that happen during the day rather than keeping you overly safe. I’ve done this and it really works.
But really, there's no formula. All I’m saying is listen to each other and find out who wants what so you can negotiate a new relationship.
No-one is wrong/bad
Most importantly, please remember that no-one is wrong here or inherently bad. All the parts of us are just doing their best based on how they were programmed. You’re having a conversation to learn and understand not to accuse and shame. Being mean to your inner-critic is the opposite of what you need to do. So don’t interrupt, don’t criticise.
The Adult 'you'
The ‘you’ replying to the inner-critic is hopefully your Adult, the mature one that you’re generally operating from that’s in charge of decision-making and the like, but it’s not always the case.
My fear was running the show for a very long time but over time and after a lot of talking to myself on the page, I’ve taken back control and you can too. Along the way I’ve also got to know my inner-creativity, kindness, courage, fierceness and lots more.
The more you dialogue the more you’ll surface other parts of yourself. I’ve even had conversations where several other bits of me have chimed in, much to my surprise and delight. It can get a bit crowded, but if you keep an open mind, there’s room on the page for everyone to come out.
Ask for help if you need it
This can be deep work and you may need support, so trust yourself and what you need, be gentle with yourself and ask for help if you need it.
This is just one aspect of the dynamic and transformational act of journaling – it’s not just about getting your feelings out or recording experiences.
If you’re new to journaling, my most important message is that there are no journaling police. People are frozen into inaction by the idea that they may not do it right. You cannot do it wrong. Back of an envelope plus anything that makes a mark on the page is all you need. It’s just about tools to help you externalise your internal landscape. If you’d like a copy of my guide, ‘Write how you like!’ give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to hear more about how I can help you or your organisation use writing to tap into your inner resources, be more resilient, support wellbeing and be more creative, do give me a shout.
Photo by Giulia May on Unsplash