About six months ago, I got the idea that I wanted to get a painting that signified Mother Earth to put in this particular spot on my bedroom wall. So I did some Googling online and I found some pictures that I really liked … but they were done by an artist in the States, which got me thinking, why didn’t I just create the painting myself?
Enter the inner critic
“Who do you think you are? Look at those beautiful images. You’ll never do anything as great as that. You’ve never had any training as an artist. You’ve never even worked with paint! What are you going to do, make a crayon drawing?”
My inner critic immediately started laying into me … and I haven’t done anything about that painting since! But I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you just how powerful that inner critic can be. We all have things in our lives — often on a daily basis — that sets her off.
She stops us from putting ourselves out there. She stops us from taking risks. She stops us from saying things to our spouses. She stops us from saying things to our children. She’s generally nasty and tiresome … and I’m saying that you should love her.
Here’s the thing. While your inner critic is great at tearing you down, it’s important to realise that she’s also incredibly helpful, and she very often has great intentions. You see, everyone’s inner critic has a different job based on their personality. But her job is pretty much to criticise you into being perfect before anyone else gets the opportunity to criticise you. She wants to keep you safe from hurt and rejection because if you fix whatever the problem is, then no one else gets the chance to reject you.
What’s more, she wants you to be great. She always knows when something isn’t to the highest standard, or when you’re doing something that’s not in your highest path. And while she usually lets you know that by telling you what an idiot you are, there’s friendship underlying it. And if you can start to recognise her for what she is, then you can work with her and actually take advantage of what she’s trying to do for you.
Step one: get curious
The first thing you need to do is simply to get really interested in your inner critic and to figure out when she likes to show up. What triggers her? Is she turning up when you’re at a workshop or a seminar and you want to raise your hand and ask a question? Does she show up when you’re dealing with your staff or your children? Does she show up when you make a mistake of some kind and is it any particular kind of mistake that she finds exceptionally exciting?
Step two: get compassionate
Once you recognise all of that mind chatter for what it is — your inner critic — you can also start to see the victim of the inner critic, which is that little vulnerable child within you. It’s that hurt child, that stupid child, that vulnerable child who got hurt when she was really young that the critic really lays into.
So in response, you need to be the Mother. Try to identify that little child in you who’s just been bullied to hell, step into your Mother archetype and tell her she’s loved. Just say, “You’re fine. You’re OK. You’re doing great.” Send her love.
Step three: acknowledge, thank, and dismiss
After you’ve done that, it’s time to step into your Queen archetype and have a little chat with the pixie. You can do this literally, especially at the very beginning — make a sock puppet or draw your inner critic out and have a conversation with it.
From the Queen archetype, ask the inner critic, “What are you so worried about?” And when the inner critic replies, ask her, “Why are you so worried about that?”, and keep going until you get down into the real reason, whatever’s underlying that.
Once you understand what’s really motivating the pixie, say to her “Thank you so much for looking out for me. I really appreciate that, and I’ve listened to you. I’ve got this now.”
When you can get into that space, the inner critic can then go, “OK. You listened to me, we’re OK now.” And from there, you can go on to develop a really very helpful, close relationship with your inner critic. It definitely takes practice — but it’s absolutely worth it.
I’m curious … what does your inner critic look like? Mine’s a pixie with a little green hat and pointy ears. Tell me about yours in the comments!