I think we are all familiar with this voice. Just when we are about to find success somewhere or make a decision we feel confident about, the what about voice chimes in. The voice that says: What about how others will view you? What about all the other decisions you could make? What about if this is the wrong decision? What about if others will feel left behind in the wake of your success?
There is actually nothing wrong with having an inner critic. We all have one. Sometimes the inner critic gives you an idea about what the opposition (if you have any) may say about a decision or idea that you have. An awareness of potential opposition to one of your ideas or decisions might help you develop a strategy that ensures its success and neutralizes the opposition. Some people use it as a sign to remind themselves that they are doing well and taking good risks because they have discovered that the inner critic shows up during these times.
Two things to know about the inner critic.
First, The inner critic is just a voice that likes to talk. We all know someone like this, who just goes on and on and on and seems to have an opinion on everything, but their own life. They are not intentionally critical. They are just working hard to avoid dealing with some of their own hard truths.
Second, much like a young child who talks excitedly, you cannot quiet the inner critic by telling it to shut up. In fact, the more aggressively you try to suffocate this annoying voice, the louder it gets. It cannot help it. It is not grown up. Our inner critic is afraid of taking chances or doing anything that sets us apart as different from others. Like a small, scared child, it can get our blood pumping, but we love it anyway.
How do you quiet this inner voice? We befriend it, acknowledge it, and bring kindness to it.
When kids make too much noise and we want them to quiet down, we engage with them, and often play the quiet game. While it seems like an adult trick, it also comes form a place of love and connection (the opposite of what can be understood from telling someone to shut up). So we hear the inner critic and say, “let’s see who can be the quietest. Starting now!” Then, we acknowledge it, and how hard it is to make new decisions without judgment. With this in mind, we bring kindness to our experience, which often translates to giving ourselves permission to make decisions that are not easy. We give ourselves this permission because tough decisions put us on the path towards our goals. Being on the path not reaching the end is all we can control, and thus our only responsibility.
So acknowledge your inner critic. Step outside and be an interested, nonjudgmental observer. Befriend the inner critic. Bring kindness to your experience. If it is coming up, you are probably doing something right to move towards your goals. Continue to make tough decisions to move towards your goals. Simply allowing yourself to take healthy risks will be good for you now. Trust your decisions because this faith will only grow your confidence in your ability to live a meaningful life and persevere no matter the results of a decision here or there.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 19. In the Books.