I know a thing or two about doing battle with my Inner Critic. I’ll share an experience I had 6 months ago, well actually 2 experiences. After I decided to leave my corporate job and pursue Counselling and Coaching full time, I had great ideas of offering my counselling services to companies, counselling their employees, offering coaching and various well-being programmes. I finally plucked the courage to contact various companies and one particular lady who owned a HR consultancy was so keen and interested in meeting with me to discuss how we could partner together. It was a freezing cold Monday in February and she suggested we meet up for lunch on the Friday. I emailed her my brochure, website details and kindly asked her to confirm she had received the email so we could correspond. Anyway, long story short, she didn’t respond back. By Tuesday morning I was starting to feel a little bit nervous, but still ignoring that familiar negative voice. I call her Mrs I.C. By Wednesday, I couldn’t ignore Mrs I.C’s voice any longer. She had taken over and was bombarding me with full force.
“So, you thought she was really interested, did you?”
“Of course she isn’t”
“She was just trying to get you off her phone”
“Why would she want to work with you?”
“She probably went on your website and laughed”
“You are nobody, just a phony one-woman band trying to act all corporate”
“Who do you think you are anyway?”
I am sure you get the picture here. By this stage I believed Mrs I.C. She was right. Of course she was. Why would this woman be interested? It never even occurred to me to pick up the phone and call her to check she received my email. Fear of more rejection would not even allow me to call her. So I decided to move on from the experience and made other arrangements for the Friday.
And guess what happened…
To my shock and surprise, the lady emailed me on Thursday evening to arrange our lunch date for Friday!! By then it was too late, I couldn’t cancel my new plans for Friday. So I emailed her my apologies, and gave some feeble excuse about how I had assumed the meeting would not be taking place because she hadn’t responded to my email. Her reply left me really embarrassed, feeling very unprofessional and… well let’s just leave it there. I tried grovelling to redeem myself but the damage had been done.
I learned a very hard lesson that day. I had great ideas and great potential. By great ideas alone don’t manifest fruit and rewards. If my belief in myself is not aligned to push forth and sell my ideas, then my ideas, will remain just ideas.
When it comes to sales, putting myself out there proactively and being visible, it has always been a huge struggle for me. I remember when I had a bag business selling to shops and retailers, I would shake and shudder when I had to call buyers and request meetings to showcase my products. I always expected the answer “No, get lost”. Despite the fact that I had regular purchases from decent retailers across the country, and people loved my bags and accessories. But I always questioned, doubted and second-guessed myself.
So no surprises this same Mrs I.C was rearing her ugly head again. The other experience was when a good friend of mine set up a lunch meeting with a partner of top firm for me to get some ideas as she (the partner) also had started out as a coach in the corporate sector. When she expressed interest and asked me to send over some of my work, I assumed she was just being nice and not really interested. So of course I didn’t send it… until I had a reminder email from her!
Six months on, I have learned to confront and challenge Mrs I.C. She is a liar, whose goal is to undermine me and stop me from taking risks. Why? Because Mrs I.C. really is a part of me which has internalised criticism through harsh experience of it. Mrs I.C criticises and undermines me because in her warped mind, doing so will prevent me from further judgemental, hurtful and shame filled experiences. Except that, so doing robs me of living my True and Authentic self, being liberated and empowered to be all that God has called me to be.
What is your Mrs. I.C?
Unless you have lived in a world of true and genuine love, with no conditions attached. A world where Criticism and shame were non-existent and certainly not used as a motivational tool to condition you into thinking and behaving right. A world of no judgements, where people accept you as you are. Where you trust with no holds barred. Unfortunately for the majority of us, this has not been the case. We live in an imperfect world, raised by imperfect parents and carers, taught by imperfect teachers and rivalled by imperfect siblings and friends.
The key to conquering your inner critic is to first understand, following the steps below.
7 Ways to Conquer Your Inner Critic – by Dr Lisa Firestone
1: Notice this voice
Pay attention and become more conscious of the moments when your Critical Inner Voice starts having a go at you. What is it saying? “You can do this” “You are a mess” “You are useless” “You are Stupid.” People often listen to their critical inner voice without realising it. It comes through almost as background noise, so they just accept much of its commentary as reality. It’s important to become more conscious of the moments when your critical inner voice starts nagging at you. Try to notice when its undermining insults and instructions chime in throughout the day. It’s worth noting that this voice can be really mean, but it can also sometimes sound almost friendly and soothing. “Just stay home. You don’t need to worry about seeing anyone tonight.” Then, the minute you listen to its instructions, it starts to take the upper hand. “Alone again? You’re such a loser.” Don’t be fooled by the voice. Whether it sounds gentle or harsh, its main objective is to bring you down, to take you back to an old, familiar sense of your identity that continues to limit you.
2: Write your “voices” down in the second person
A powerful exercise you can do on your own is to write down the negative thoughts you have toward yourself. First, write them down in the first person as “I” statements, i.e. “I’m not fun. No one finds me interesting.” Then, next to each of these “voices,” write the same thoughts as “you” statements. “You’re not fun. No one finds you interesting.” This process helps you start to separate your critical inner voice from your real point of view, so you can see it as the enemy it actually is.
3: Think about what or who these voices sound like
Is there a connection between the voices and someone in your life, perhaps from your past? Usually when you start to list your negative thoughts, more and more tend to spill out. As this happens, especially when you switch these thoughts to the second person, these voices can start to sound familiar, like they actually come from someone else. This has been my experience and those of clients. They often remark, “I felt like it was my mother talking to me” or “that expression is exactly what my father used to say.” When you make these connections, you can start to piece together where your voices originated and separate them from your current sense of self.
4: Challenge your critical inner voice
respond to these statements from a realistic and compassionate perspective. Write down a more caring and honest response to each of your critical inner voice attacks. This time, use “I” statements. “I am a worthy person with many fun-loving qualities. I have a lot to offer.” It’s very important when you write down your voices not to let your self-hating or self-shaming thoughts take over. As you do this exercise, be diligent in shutting out any rebuttals your inner critic tries to sneak in. Make a commitment to keep writing about yourself with the respect and regard you would have for a friend.
5: Connect your voices to your actions
Try to think of the events that trigger your voices and how these voices, in turn, affect your actions. Try to identify patterns and recognise self -limiting behaviours you engage in based on these voices. Your critical inner voice has plenty of bad advice to dish out. “Don’t ask her out. She’ll just reject you.” “Don’t speak up. No one wants to hear what you have to say.” “Forget about relationships. He doesn’t really love you.” “Have another piece of cake. Who cares if you’re healthy?” These statements can come through loud and clear, or they can be more subtle and suggestive. As you get better at recognising your critical inner voice, you can start to catch on when it’s starting to influence your behaviour. Did you all of a sudden shut down emotionally? Get quiet? Push away a loved one? Lash out at a friend?
6: Alter your behaviour
Being mindful of how your Inner Critical makes you behave. Once you see how your inner critic can throw you off course and change your behaviour, you can start to consciously act against its directives. This will likely make you uncomfortable at first. The process of tuning out your inner critic and tapping into your real self can be uplifting, but it can also cause you a lot of anxiety. These are deep-seated beliefs you’re challenging, and at first, the critical inner voice will often get louder. However, the more you actively ignore it, the weaker it will ultimately become.
7. Self – Nurturing and Self- Compassion
Throughout the entire process of dis-empowering this internal enemy, there is one thing we need to practice as an opposite action that will strengthen our real self, and that is self-compassion. Unlike, self-esteem, which still lends itself to comparisons and evaluation, self-compassion focuses on self-kindness and acceptance over self-judgement. It offers a gentle way to guide ourselves back to who we really are and what we seek to be. By challenging our self-shame and cultivating our self-compassion, we establish a much stronger, more reliable view of ourselves. This point of view is not shaped by the limitations of our past but the true essence of who we are in the present and what we want for our future.
Write Affirming Statements and place them all around you for you to recite and empower yourself to believe what is true of you. Here are mine:
1. I am an Incredibly gifted and talented woman
2. I am Good Enough
3. I am Worthy
4. I am the Righteousness of Christ
5. I Matter
6. I am Purposeful and have a Purpose
7. I am Happy with who I am
8. I am Unconforming to the worlds standards
9. I am Good
10. I am Lovable
11. I am Loved by me and many others
12. I am the work of Christ and can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
13. I am NOT Fearful. I have power and authority over the devil and his schemes
14. I am Beautiful inside and out
15. I am an Empowerer and giver
16. I am Special
17. I am Unique
18. I am Successful just where I am
19. I am Qualified by God
20. I am a loving Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister and Friend