Your inner critic can be very helpful – or hurtful. The inner critic can help you to become a better person / manager / partner; or can keep you from growing -letting life and opportunity pass you by. The difference? How you connect with, relate with, and respond to your inner critic. Take the critic and make her an ally.
Just as you would develop a relationship with a friend, connecting to and turning your critic into an ally takes time and deliberate focus. The result is a more creative, innovative, and healthier you!
How to develop a healthy relationship with your inner critic
1. Acknowledge and name your inner critic.
Not that I’m proposing you create an imaginary friend, but I find it helpful to give my inner critic form. What I can name and visualize is easier to connect with, relate to, and control.
Exercise: Sit down with pen and paper. Write down a goal you have for this year. Start writing your thoughts about this goal, your progress so far, what you have yet to accomplish. As you write, your inner critic will most likely appear. She’ll be the one that is judging you for the lack of progress or how you are approaching your goal. Welcome these thoughts and write them down. Acknowledge that this is your inner critic.
Now, describe your inner critic in words. Write down her name, describe what she looks like. Giving her form will help you to develop the strength to turn her from foe to friend.
2. Learn to recognize when she shows up.
If you don’t already know her M.O. you soon will. The critic is the one that says;
- who do you think you are?
- you’re too old to do that
- you don’t have the experience to do that
- the boss doesn’t care about your project
- you’ll just fail, so why try
- you call that a report?
Her goal is to stop you from taking chances, doing anything different, growing and developing. Her intentions may be good – to protect you from harm – but most often they do more harm than good.
Exercise: For the net 7 days, observe and write down how many times your inner critic shows up. Notice when she shows up (what event or thought preceded her entrance) and what she is saying. At the end of the seven days you’ll be able to review your notes and see a pattern. This pattern is a clue to be able to anticipate her arrival.
3. Be the leader of your inner critic:
Once you know when she shows up, you can better manage your relationship with her. When you start to hear statements in your head like those above -stop. Say “Thank you for your concern, [insert critic name here]” and then do it anyway!
Exercise: Think about a person (a real one!) in your life that is a critic. Someone who challenges your ideas at meetings or looks at the risk more than the benefit. How is your relationship with that person? Do you let him lead your decisions and actions? Or do you lead your own decisions and actions? How is this similar or different from your relationship with your inner critic? Your answers will shed light on your self leadership skills.
The Choice is Yours
Why bother connecting to your inner critic and making her your ally? Because you’ll never be able to get rid of her completely, and you don’t want to. Your critic can be helpful by challenging you a bit more than you would without her. So it’s ok to hear her concerns, make some small improvements, and move forward. But DO NOT let the critic rule your life! DO NOT let the critic stop you from making that call, setting up that appointment with your boss, making a suggestion in a meeting, or learning something new. Build a healthy relationship with your inner critic. Be your own leader.