Listen to Your Inner Critic: It’s giving you tough love

As an advocate for positive thinking, I have spent a fair deal of time silencing my inner critic. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s a remnant from my willful dismissal of the outrageous thoughts I had  while suffering from depression; and secondly, it’s a fearful reaction of wanting to shut down negativity before it grows. These efforts have undoubtedly helped me to more fully appreciate where I am in life. Yet that nagging voice wouldn’t go away no matter how much I tried to ignore it.

In April I read From Business Woman to Housewife: My Journey to Finding Inner Peace by Mina Irfan. After many years of trying to silence this critic, Mina’s book introduced me to an entirely new way of handling this internal audience (a term coined by Dr. Doug Lisle). She writes, “Impressing our internal audience raises our self-esteem…. It’s almost ironic since this mechanism came to exist through millions of years of evolution so that we can make the right decisions when it came to impressing our clans, tribes, or communities, which increased our rate of survival. As long as we make diligent effort to impress our internal audience, our self-esteem will continue to rise, and it will matter less and less what others actually think of us.” She decided to listen to her internal audience and pursue actions that would take the power out of its criticisms.

My own internal audience has been brash about areas of my life for which I feel a desire to improve.  For example, as somebody who wants to lose weight, it is ruthless when I go on a bout of poor eating. Or if I skip a shower on a lazy Sunday and later find myself running an errand that can’t wait, it may be especially vocal about my appearance. Most cringe-worthy, however, is when it judges me for cutting corners on a project because I want to rush through it. Often when my internal audience delivers its accusations, I resist them, make excuses for my behavior and feel an undercurrent of guilt.

“Don’t you judge me,” I try to tell it – which is weird since this is all an exchange between one part of my mind with another part of my mind.

Back to Mina’s advice – she explains how after she chose to listen to this voice and consider it as constructive criticism, she experienced both its quieting and her increased confidence. She writes, “The more effort and inner work I do on myself, eating right, working out, spending time nurturing my soul and passions, the stronger and more unbreakable I feel.” It’s as though this voice gives tough love. It’s an aspect of ourselves that is hugely critical but with a desire for our improvement. It wants us to be happy and by integrating its feedback into our actions, we’re acknowledging an aspect of ourselves that is just as worthy of our appreciation as the part that tells us we’re attractive and smart and special.

I decided to follow Mina’s lead and I’m glad I did. I’m three months into this shift and it’s getting easier and easier. I’m putting in an extra load of laundry when I really want to kick my feet up. I’m checking in with friends as I get the urge instead of waiting for a more convenient time. I’m squeezing in an afternoon walk rather than sitting down and browsing the web.  All of this, because I’m listening to this critic and saying, “You’re right, I can do better.”

While I still resist some of the suggestions it makes (usually when I’m tired), I must acknowledge that there is much less bite to my inner critic’s tone. It’s as though that aspect of myself recognizes my earnest attempts to align with its advice and is more forgiving on the rare (and getting rarer) occasions when I don’t.  Unlike Mina, I’m not yet to a place where I feel unbreakable, but I do feel stronger. I’m curious to see how this plays out, so I’m committing to this path and I look forward to reporting my progress in a few more months. Stay tuned!

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