Silencing the Inner-Critic
It seems human beings tend to beat themselves up, a comparative one-sided dialogue that goes on in our head – ‘I am not a good <insert noun> ‘mother’, ‘partner’, ‘employee’, ‘boss’’, ‘I should be <insert adjective> ‘healthier, ‘happier’, ‘confident’, and on it goes.
Women seem to excel at it, many of us possessing strong inner critics. Let me ask you, what inner dialogue do you get hooked into? Would you talk to your best friend, partner, family, colleagues the way you talk to yourself? I doubt it, yet it is exactly what we do.
How can we break the mental cycle?
Dr Kristin Neff discusses the power of self-compassion and its positive impact on our wellbeing in her thought-provoking TED talk. She asks this question: Why shouldn’t we treat ourselves with the same compassion we might treat someone we care for, with encouragement, understanding, and patience? Neff defines self-compassion as “a way of relating to ourselves kindly, embracing ourselves as we are, flaws and all.”
It’s something worth thinking about…
Do a quick Google search and you will find plenty of advice about the inner critic – how to silence it, how to overcome it, how to combat it, how to tame it. Now, think about those words – the language used evokes confrontation and suppression.
What if instead, we considered it from the perspective of mindful self-compassion?
Here are definitions by Dr Neff about self-compassion:
- ‘Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.’
Fighting or suppressing the painful emotion or thought exacerbates our distress.
- ‘Self-compassion involves recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience.’
We are all in this together, it is part of our existence.
- ‘Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.’
Freedom of the mind can be found in accepting not holding on to negative thoughts and emotions, through preparation and observation, with clarity, openness, and mindfulness.
For the last 40 years, Psychologist Chris Germer has integrated mindful self-compassion into his practice: ‘Self-compassion provides emotional strength and resilience, allowing us to admit our shortcomings, forgive ourselves, motivate ourselves with kindness, care for others, and be fully human.’
Isn’t this a much nicer way to relate to our inner critic rather than fighting with it?
So now it’s your turn
This exercise will help you change your critical self-talk over time forming the blueprint for changing how you relate to yourself long-term. Remember to be kind to yourself and get in touch with me to take things further.
Celeste Tramonte is a founding member of the FlexCoach panel of career and executive coaches. As a career and leadership coach, she helps people reconnect to what matters in their work-life and organisations realise the benefits of positive career development.
Celeste combines coaching with the practical tools and resources people often need when crafting a career: strengths, personality, and other career assessments help with Resumes, LinkedIn profiles, interview preparation, job search strategies, negotiating new roles and job-offers.