I hear a lot of coaches talk about the battle against our “inner critic,” that little nay-saying nag that lives in our heads whose sole purpose is to convince us that we suck. Admittedly, I was one of them. And until somewhat recently, I thought that was pretty sensible. After all, why indulge the bitch living in my brain? Shouldn’t I fight against her?
So, I prayed on it. I threw affirmations at it. I meditated on it. I therapized at it. I pretty much hit it with every self-help trick known to man.
And that’s when I decided to try something new. Why? Because a different approach yields a different result. Would my new strategy be better or worse? I was prepared to find out.
I decided to (consciously) indulge and hear her out. What did she actually have to say? Could I listen to it without getting emotional or telling her to f*ck off?
I invited my inner critic to lunch. It was kind of like those “let’s make peace” lunches you see on the Real Housewives of ______ (insert your closest city here) where the meeting of the minds either leads to a resolution, or at the very least, an entertaining episode.
And so we engaged in a dialogue.
It went something like this:
“I think it’s time I take things to the next level.”
“WTF? Are you nuts? You’ll never be any good at that. Why try? You don’t have what it takes. BTW, who do you think you’re kidding with that push up bra. You’re not fooling anyone, honey.”
(Right about here is where I’d normally throw a drink in her face)
“Thanks. I know you’re here to keep me safe. To make sure I never do anything that makes me uncomfortable. I know you like to protect me from being scared. And for a while, that was helpful & super comfy.”
“So why rock the boat? It’s safer to be sensible. Just keep doing exactly what you’re doing. Change=Bad. ”
“Cause I’m no longer comfortable being comfortable. I’m tired of playing small. I’d rather take a risk and move forward, than be safe and stay in the same spot.”
The battle continued with snark thrown from both sides, but you get the point:
I engaged. I thanked her for her role. And I non-judgmentally stated my case.
Ultimately, your inner critic is a strength that’s dialed up too high. It existed at one point to help you obey rules and color inside the lines, but as adult, it no longer serves you. If you deny any part of yourself, it will eventually come out in a bitchy and/or maladaptive way. For example, I have a friend who is scared shitless to communicate his feelings. His inner critic tells him that if he does, people won’t stay in his life. So instead of talking things out, he waits until it builds up and erupts. Not surprisingly, his relationships look a lot like Pompeii.
So, instead of rejecting your inner critic or letting any one voice be louder than the others, get curious and hear each part of you out.
No decision is one sided. Allow each voice in your head to have a turn to speak: the angel, the devil, and everything in between.