Reprogram Your Inner Critic
The Inner Critic plays a key role in our ongoing evolution as a species. Whenever she pokes her nose into your daily business, it’s meant to protect you from embarrassment or disappointment. Haven’t you noticed how she instinctively kicks into action when she senses you’re in danger? She has a flaw in her system, however, where it has remained for thousands of generations: She thinks danger is binary, prompting her to be over-protective. If, instead, she understood that there are degrees of danger, she might have better discretion.
First, Identify Your Inner Critic
The parts of the brain where your inner critic resides are deeply connected to emotions, which are your exclusive “excerpts from life”. Think of when you’ve been ashamed, scared, or have felt helpless in the past. Those feelings are stored, and are deeply linked to the story you inter as the cause of such emotions. In confronting your inner critic, you must first acknowledge that the story is not based on facts.
Some of us subconsciously remember the embarrassment in our childhood of being called stupid or bossy. These memories are dragged with us into adulthood, where they’re still being administered. A case-in-point is my client Lisa, who suffered the not-uncommon challenge of becoming tongue-tied in business meetings. She had valuable information to contribute to the team, but she just couldn’t convince herself to speak up. An epiphany came when it was revealed she’d been deeply embarrassed by a former boss, who frequently cut her off, shot down her ideas, and growled whenever Lisa breathed. She had now identified the origins of her speechlessness! We then began to work on strategies to free her mental restraints, settle down that amygdala, and engage her prefrontal cortex. It was then that words of wisdom began to flow from Lisa’s mouth. The transformation was not instant, but Lisa was now on the road to full, unfettered workplace contribution.
Then, Start to Address Her
Do you notice when you begin to sense your inner critic inside your body? Are you aware of certain situations, people or moments that prompt her to rise to the occasion? Detecting when your inner critic is in the house is trickier than it sounds. I didn’t realize I even had one until my 30s. In an instant, I noticed a person perpetual yelling at me…from the inside! As the saying goes, “Once you acknowledge the problem, you can begin to fix it.” So, I taught myself to manage her, first by naming her…Eve (short for Evil). Now that she had a name, I could question her. WHY was she telling me I could never achieve this or I don’t deserve that? Was it all in fact true, or were the assessments based on something that happened decades ago, having been remembered inaccurately?
Finally, Reprogram Her
I now see Eve as a sounding board. When she begins to raise her frequency, I do a quick emotional scan. Am I anxious, judgmental, defensive? If so, why? Could it be I’m endeavoring in something new? Worrying about failing? Beating myself up over the past? In either case, bring it on, Eve! Tell me what you really think and then we’ll take a step back to assess.
When I conclude Eve is tantruming because she fears the unknown, my new mindset has me looking at it as an adventure. Failure now sounds like, “What can I learn from this” and “How can I leverage the failure to help others learn?”. Instead of beating myself up over the past, I now pivot to deep self-compassion, stroking Eve’s head and saying tenderly, “It’s okay, sweetheart. You did the best you could.” I then feel the flow of oxytocin creating positive feelings and a healthier body.
Eve and I might have to live together until a ripe old age, but we have come to an understanding about the house ground rules. When my confidence wanes, I’m quick to address her; but at times, she’s good at disguising herself. Once she’s spotted, it takes a bit longer to settle her down. Still, with perspective and practice, I remain in-charge. It’s called building Resilience, or the R in GRACE, which I will explore with you next.
Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Driven Professionals, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder ofGoldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide.