July is right around the corner. Yikes! This means that we are heading into the most intense time of summer and sometimes resistance can come out in full effect. For that reason, I thought I would focus on our inner critic because that just what may be what’s holding us back from obtaining our summer goals.
When I need to start a certain task (that I don’t want to do), I have to try a variety of tips and tricks to get stuff done: freestyling (which is starting each task, but finishing none), motivational music, talking on the phone while I work, compartmentalizing each project and even timing myself. But once I actually start something, sometimes my inner critic comes out with a vengeance. It becomes a wide range of ugliness including (but not limited to) a litany of my shortcomings, questions about my competence to complete the project at hand, doubts about the importance of the work I’m doing, undecidedness to scratch everything & start all over, or better yet, persistent pleas to stop working because nothing is turning out as expected. In short, my inner critic is judgmental, and burdensome. It’s no wonder that I resist getting anything done!
Thankfully, one thing I’ve learned from other people over the years is that I’m not the only one with a hyperactive inner critic. If all of this sounds familiar, then let me suggest some strategies you can try when your inner critic runs amok and threatens to shut your productivity down. They are all aimed to help you reflect on your negative internal messages, release yourself from a sense of powerlessness over your inner critic, and respond in a way that enables you to talk back to the critic’s negative messages. These strategies are intended to minimize the impact that inner critic has on your productivity while creating alternatives that motivate and empower you.
Track Your Inner Critic’s Dialogue
The first step to taming your inner critic is to record his/her negative messages. This doesn’t have to be cumbersome or complicated — just keep a few post-it notes close by and write down the messages your inner critic tosses out so freely. Do this for a week & you will have your critic’s full script. Seeing a week’s worth of data will enable you to identify your critic’s patterns and question the messages by asking: Are these things true? Are they consistent with the reality of my past performance? Are they simply a repetitious and exaggerated statement of my deepest fears? Where are these messages coming from? Also, take note if there are places and times that your inner critic comes out more strongly (morning vs. evening, private vs. public, etc.)
Personify Your Inner Critic
Once you can picture your inner critic as a person, you can engage in a relationship with him/her. You can ask her to leave when she’s not welcome, or you can tell her to be quiet, stop lying, and take her fear-mongering elsewhere.
Develop An Alternative
At some point, we have to create a new and positive script to replace the negative one that our inner critic keeps repeating. There are many different ways to do this and, of course, you can create your own based on what you feel comfortable trying. I’ve seen people successfully change the script by visualizing an alternative to their critic in the form of an inner angel/guide/protector/superhero that can talk back to the critic when she shows up. I’ve also seen people stop working when they feel overwhelmed by their inner critic and create an inner dialogue between themselves and their critic (or their hero and their critic). Others develop a series of positive affirmations to combat the negativity of their critic.
Invite Your Critic Into The Process
The thing about inner critics is that they aren’t completely negative or worthless. While critics can be destructive in some instances, they can also be quite useful when given a job other than tearing you down. Some people invite their inner critic by weaving those substantive insights into their work. Others encourage their inner critic to let loose when it comes to improving their work. The key is shifting all that intensity appropriately away from you and into your work. Ultimately, inner critics are at their most destructive when they work on us quietly and without notice. Shining a light on your critic, identifying her silly quirks and strategizing about how to work effectively with (and around) her, won’t make her disappear entirely, but these actions will diminish a significant portion of her power over you.
If you are regularly haunted by a hyperactive inner critic, I hope this week brings you the commitment to track your critic’s messages, the strength to question those messages, and the creativity to try whatever alternative is meaningful and empowering to you.
How do you quiet your ‘inner critic’?