Do you have an inner critic? You know, the voice in your mind who tells you you’re not good enough, reminds you of times you’ve messed up, compares you to others who might be doing better, and generally makes you feel smaller than you actually are?
In the Ascend program, we talk a lot about the “committee in your mind.” This is the set of voices that we all deal with on a constant basis, every single day. They chatter at us constantly, and some of them are incredibly unhelpful.
For many of us, our critical inner voice is an extremely loud committee member. But, have you ever considered whether our inner critic is a good thing?
If the Bee Gee’s are currently playing in your head right now, you’re welcome!
As we explore this ridiculous-sounding question, it’s important to remember a basic principle of our mind: it’s job is to keep us alive, while expending the least amount of energy possible.
To accomplish this, our mind relies on a very small toolkit of tactics that attempt to keep us from doing anything that is:
- Bigger than we’ve done in the past
It does this by sending us a slew of anxiety-producing, self-doubt-producing, unhelpful chatter….many times, in the form of our inner critic.
So, from that standpoint, your inner critic actually has your best interest at heart. It’s trying to keep you safe. It’s trying to direct your thoughts and feelings in a way to positively shape your life experiences.
Build Your Relationship
Trying to keep us safe or not, for many of us, our inner critic isn’t all that helpful. We set a big goal, speak up in a meeting, talk to someone new, pursue a new project, and our inner critic steps in to deter us.
And here’s the thing, you can’t stop it from happening. Contrary to what internet gurus will try to tell you, hard science shows that we can’t control our thoughts. (Bee Gees, Bee Gees, Bee Gees….see!)
But, even though we can’t completely silence our inner critic, we CAN decide the relationship we want to have with them.
In the case of your inner critic, think about what kind of relationship would be most HELPFUL for you to have with this roommate in your mind who isn’t going anywhere.
Many of us naturally gravitate toward a relationship where we’re somewhat of an employee and our inner critic is a boss figure. This is why our inner critic controls our behavior so easily.
But, what if you took a different approach? What if you cultivated a parent-child relationship?
What if you are the parent and your inner critic is a 2-year-old child? What if you responded to your inner critic’s chatter in the same way you’d respond to a 2-year-old’s tantrum. You’re aware of it, but you’ve simply decided not to engage with it or give it any more fuel.
Or, yet another example, what if you decide that your inner critic is your paranoid friend? They love you and have your best interest at heart, but you just don’t put a lot of stock in their cautious warnings.
Choose Your Relationship
You can see how each of these examples shifts the power balance from your inner critic holding all the power to you being in a position of power over your inner critic.
They still squawk at you constantly, but your relationship with them is different. You don’t give as much credibility to what they’re saying. And as a result, they have less real influence over you and your behavior.
You get to choose the relationship you have with this inner voice who is just trying to save you from yourself.
Maybe you don’t need saving.
Try It Out
As with any psych strength building exercises, this one won’t work unless you do it. So, try it out!
Decide now the relationship you want to have with your inner critic. Then, the next time it gets loud, respond compassionately from the position of this new relationship.
Tell it, “Thank you. I know you mean well, but I’ve got this. I really can handle myself.”
Try this out and see how you feel. And check out the Ascend program if you want to know more about the “committee in your mind” and how to lessen their impact on you.