I confess that I’m very hard on myself. Whether it’s because I’m the oldest child or a Capricorn or any myriad of other things, it’s just a fact of me. And because of this, when I fail to meet my own (often ridiculously) high expectations, I sometimes say unkind things to myself. I use mean, rude, awful words that I’d never dream of saying to anyone else. And I don’t just say these things once, let it all go and walk away. I often repeat them, berating and punishing myself.
During one berating spree, I happened to catch the television drama, Parenthood, and a character said something I needed to hear: “Life will knock you down more times than you can possibly imagine. Don’t knock yourself down.”
Why is it that we are almost always harder on ourselves than we are on others? Why can’t we give ourselves the same compassion and understanding that we give others so freely? And why do we even listen to ourselves when we get like that? Author Natalie Goldberg said “We follow that voice inside us as if it were God. But it’s really just a thought.” It’s so true: those awful things we tell ourselves really are just thoughts. So how can we silence them? I don’t know all the answers, but here’s what I’ve been trying.
Realize you’re being critical. Sometimes these reactions are so automatic we don’t even know we’re doing it. Like breaking any bad habit, realizing you’re doing it is the first step.
Tell yourself it’s just a thought and tell yourself to stop it. Just because you’re saying it to yourself—and just because you’re buying it—doesn’t mean it’s true. When you realize it’s just a thought, it deflates the intensity and the power it has over you and it’s easier to tell yourself to stop. By the way, I recommend telling yourself these things aloud if doing it silently doesn’t work. You may feel a little crazy at first talking to yourself, but it brings a conscious awareness that’s sometimes more effective than saying it silently.
Imagine what you’d say to a friend and say it to yourself. When you change the words you say, you change the energy being directed at yourself. That inner critic cannot thrive in that more loving kind of energy. And I recommend doing this one out loud for effectiveness too if needed. The weird stares you may get are totally worth the effectiveness.
These are the steps I’ve been trying that are helping me silence my inner critic and grow on my spiritual and emotional journey. I hope these tips help you too.