We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the Harsh Inner Critic, how it developed, and the role it plays in your life. It is important to remember that it is usually not right. You can build skills to find relief from its influence. Your life does not have to be controlled by these painful, critical messages.
You are not going to be able to banish or destroy these messages. However, you can learn to not allow them to dictate your moods or run your life.
The Harsh Inner Critic developed early in your life and is a part of you. To “kill” the messages it sends is to “kill” a part of you. A large part of the healing journey is learning about your true self. It is about learning to love and like yourself, and to make peace with yourself.
It is important to remember that the Harsh Inner Critic developed these messages to help you survive. They were formed based on your circumstances in childhood, and usually are not helpful when you become an adult.
The task is to break the power these messages have over you. This is a process of Mindfulness and dismissal.
- Fighting the messages will not work. Every time you engage with the Harsh Inner Critic it reinforces the message and makes it stronger.
- Mindfulness is key. Mindfulness is a skill you can develop to help you stay awake and aware. That makes it possible for you to listen to the words you say inside and identify the messages.
- Learn the difference between perfectionism and healthy motivation. Perfectionism sets standards and goals you can never obtain. It reinforces the messages of the Harsh Inner Critic because perfection is impossible. Healthy motivation stems from your own desire to grow, change, and achieve. These goals fall within your abilities.
- Separate the unhealthy messages from the facts. The Harsh Inner Critic’s only goal is to criticize and make you wrong. It will twist the story and the facts because it wants you to believe you are the cause of everything that is wrong. List the facts on paper and get the help of a friend to find out the true story.
- The Harsh Inner Critic does not play by the rules. Listening to your Critic is like playing cards with a young child. They do not fully understand the concept of following the rules, and will change the rules to fit their need to win.
In many ways, the Harsh Inner Critic is like a 2-year-old. The best method for keeping a 2-year-old child content is distraction. They want what they want, and when they don’t get it, they may throw a tantrum. The best way to avoid this is to find something shiny and interesting to captivate their interest.
Distraction is the most important skill you can learn to use with the Harsh Inner Critic. It will prevent replaying the old message about how bad you are, thereby not reinforcing the criticism. To learn anything new, you have to use repetition to reinforce what you are learning. This takes time and patience with yourself. Practice is the key.
In next week’s blog, I will talk about how to create positive distractions.