We can choose to scale the mountains in our life with the weight of our inner critic slowing our climb—or release that inner critic so we are lighter and more free to climb higher. By ‘inner critic,’ I mean those voices in our heads that so many of us hear, making statements such as, “You don’t belong here,” “No one will want to hear what you have to say,” and “You can’t do that.” These messages are often deeply embedded in us at a very young age, and often exacerbated by societal messages, including limiting beliefs about what’s possible, power-over mentality as well as generational suppression. As an example of power-over mentality, it could show up in a message that says you can’t request a different meeting time with your boss that is better for you. The narrative could be based in the mentality that you are ‘supposed to’ to accommodate them, and therefore put their needs over your own.
Our inner critics were formed at one point to help us survive – either mentally, physically, or spiritually. They may have even protected our hearts from disappointment or failure that we felt we couldn’t afford. While at some point our critics were a critical part of us, we no longer need them as we grow older, but they just never got the memo! I’ll tell you a story from my own experience.
As someone born with a visible birth-defect called cleft-lip-and-palate, I had a voice that kept me safe from the heartbreak. This voice kept me from being vulnerable and introducing myself to kids I felt intimidate by, so that I wouldn’t feel rejected or disappointed if they made fun of me. As an adult however, as I scaled the mountains in a career in marketing, that voice made me (among many other things) a perfectionist, pushing me to go above and beyond so as not to feel ‘not enough.’ But this kept me playing small. I couldn’t see when good was good enough, and that it was most often in my best interest to move along in order to focus on accomplishing bigger things. This inner critic was a huge piece of luggage. The longer I carried it, the heavier it felt, and the more intertwined it felt with my true spirit.
Here’s an unfortunate truth about our inner critics – they can become louder and even more aggressive the closer we get to fear, uncertainty and the edge of our comfort zone. This becomes detrimental when we act on those voices because they keep us from doing big, audacious things! It can be easy to mistake this as your intuition for not moving forward, it’s quite the opposite. If you want to go higher, you must change your relationship with those inner critics. Say, ‘Thank you, I appreciate and love you, AND you are not needed right now. I’m doing this thing because I’m not here to stay stagnant – I’m here to go as far and as high as I possibly can.’
Are you ready to release your inner critics from the stronghold they have on you? Are ready to climb your mountain without the unnecessary weight on your back? Then get ready to greet the birds in the sky, for you will without a doubt, reach new heights.
Next, I’ll share three things you can do to start this work today. I must caveat this to say that this work is even more transformative when you work with a professional who can hold space for you in your self-discovery.
How To Release Your Inner Critics:
1. Deepen Your Awareness
While you may have some level of awareness of the voices that beat you up and make you feel bad, it’s important to become even more aware of what they are saying, in what contexts and around what people. Journaling / logging your internal thoughts are great tools for this, and I recommend doing this daily for two weeks. Here are some question prompts to consider:
- What unkind things did I say to myself inside my head?
- What thoughts did I have that put me in a bad mood?
- What did I decide NOT to do, out of concern, fear or scarcity thoughts?
After journaling, you may find you have more than one. For example, I once had a loud body image critic that showed up in the shower. She would say things to me like “You shouldn’t have had those fries last night” and “you look gross”. I had another one that had something to say every time I looked at my business financials, which said “you quit your corporate job and THIS is all your making now?!”. Understanding the differences can support you in untangling your automatic thoughts.
2. Recognize Your Spirit is Not Your Inner Critic
When you start to untangle the ball, you will discover that your spirit believes in unlimited possibilities and wants you to ALWAYS go higher! One technique for doing this is to differentiate your inner critic from your spirit by saying out loud, or in your mind, ‘My inner critic thinks that,’ every time the negative voice is telling you something that isn’t serving you. For example, if one of the tape recorders in your mind is ‘I don’t have anything to say,” then stop and add, “My inner critic thinks that I don’t have anything to say.” The key with this practice is to do it consistently and repeatedly. Unlock the hold it has on you, and you will start to see the outright lies your inner critic is feeding you.
3. Pick an Affirmation that Serves You
Now we’re getting to the good part. The part where we get to affirm TRUTH. We get to call in our dreams, name our superpowers and change the narrative in our head. Start your affirmation with I AM. You can choose statements that speak to things such as; who you are becoming (I AM brave), what you strive to accomplish (I AM a public speaker), or even a value you want to lead with (I AM open to possibilities). With affirmations, consistency and repetition are key. Rituals are also helpful, perhaps as part of your prayer or meditation practice or even on your daily walk with your dog.
In the pursuit of going higher, we must see the patterns in our life that are keeping us tethered to what is comfortable and what is our current status quo. Releasing your inner critics is one of the most powerful things you can do to transform what is possible for yourself. When you do, I hope that you take time to enjoy your new perspective and celebrate your climb!
Contact me to learn more about how I can support you in unleashing potential for you or your team by addressing the inner critics that are zapping energy and potential.
Note: Original publication in Wow Life Magazine