I hope you are savoring these final days of summer. Many of the flowers in my garden are still in bloom, attracting hummingbirds, and inspiring me each day. Regardless of the calendar, nature continues singing her song, seemingly without thought or worry of what's coming next.
That's not always the case with humans, is it? We often worry about what's around the corner, and frequently project the worst-case scenario. Why is this the case? Our brains. They are programmed to solve problems, and they will create problems to solve if we don't stop them.
That's why I decided to address the inner critic this month. I'm sure you know this voice. It may sound like someone from your past, or it may be a voice of your own concoction. Either way, it's a voice that's become internalized (hence the mirror image at the top of this page). It's likely to surface when we are considering something that pushes the edge of our comfort zone, telling us:
Left to its own devices, it will stifle our creative process, dampen our dreams, and paralyze us. Fortunately, there are ways to work with this voice and release its grip on us.
Here are three steps to try:
1. RECOGNIZE. Often we become caught in the grip of our inner critic without even realizing it. Its voice is so tangled with our inner truth, we can't tell the difference. The next time you find yourself caught in a negative loop, take a step back and RECOGNIZE the tension. Does your body feel tight and constricted? That's usually a sign. In my workshops, we'll take a big sheet of paper and record all the negative thoughts running through our heads. Just writing them down helps release the tension. Give it a try: grab a sheet of paper and do a mind dump of all the doubts and fears you have this very moment.
2. REFRAME. Now that these messages are on paper, their power is deactivated. This gives us the opportunity to take a closer look by engaging the critic a dialog. Here's an example:
Inner Critic: You can't do that.
You: Why not?
Inner Critic: Because you'll look like a fool.
You: Why don't you want me to look like a fool?
Inner Critic: Because people will laugh at you.
You: What's wrong with that?
Inner Critic: You'll be shunned and left out.
You: What happens if I'm shunned and left out?
Inner Critic: You'll be all alone. No one will love you.
As you keep drilling down, you get to the truth of the matter. You may realize, as in the example above, that the inner critic is really trying to protect you. It doesn't understand nuances. When something (such as a new behavior or creative risk) activates your survival instincts, it launches a full-scale campaign to keep you safe. Which leads us to the third step.
3. RELEASE. Now is your opportunity to tell your inner critic that you've got this. Thank it for trying to keep you safe, but this is something you want to do, and you have the resources to take care of yourself. Your life is not on the line here, but your dream is, and you want to pursue your dream. Tell your critic it's safe for it to go now. Then, notice how you feel as that voice leaves the room and fades away.
Click here to learn more about my upcoming workshop on this very topic.
Author and Branding Consultant
I am passionate about helping mission-centered business owners share their message through compelling written and visual content.
My memoir, What I Gave to the Fire, is available in both print and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.