Curb your inner critic – part one

I am a coach and not surprisingly, I believe in the merits of coaching. Hence, I have hired my own coach. I love these sessions: it is all about ‘moi’  (not often the case in our busy midlife years). In one of our sessions I described how I feel overwhelmed at times by trying to balance my work and my family, both who I cherish and enjoy, with my need to ‘recharge my batteries’ and having some time to myself. There seem to be always too few hours in the day. Focusing on myself means cutting time playing with my daughter, planning for my next workshop on networking techniques or having a date with my husband.

An inner voice is relentlessly fueling my sense of guilt: “You are being egocentric, work harder, pampering yourself should come last”. My coach labels this inner voice my inner critic.  It is born the moment we develop concepts about the world, establish habits and add experiences to our life portfolio. At times, the inner critic can serve a purpose in your life, it can be the voice of protection: “Don’t write this email now in the moment of anger – wait until your emotions have cooled down.” Then there is the negative self-talk, and some of it can be vicious: the inner critic might tell you not to quit a job that you hate, because quitting is for losers; it might prompt you to postpone stepping on that treadmill for yet another week (every week this repeats itself); or it might convince you to favor monetary gains over finding the job that you love. At times it weakens our ability to take meaningful action and to lead a fulfilled and happy life.

“We are what we think about all day long.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Clearly, quieting your inner critic is important. And the good news is that you can. There are a number of interventions you can use and excellent guides you can read to master ‘taming your gremlin’ as the author of the same name book, Rick Carson, put it so powerfully. The first step to reduce the impact of the inner critic is to become aware of it.  Secrecy is its greatest weapon. Phrases containing ‘‘ought to”, “should”, “must”, “need” (rather than “want”) and “you don’t deserve” are typically a tell-tale sign that your inner critic is speaking. Take a step back and listen to its chatter. Distancing yourself from its voice and realizing that you are not your inner critic is a major step towards taming its impact. You are well on your way!