Transforming Your Inner Critic - And Become A Better Parent

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Transforming Your Inner Critic - And Become A Better Parent 

How often do you notice an inner voice saying things like, “I'll never be able to get this right,” “I’m just a fraud,” “There's something seriously wrong with me,” “I'm a bad person,” or any variety of self-criticisms? 

Inner critics are like thieves. When some part of you buys into these self-criticisms, you are robbed of emotional resilience, motivation, and energy. As inner critic voices weaken your connection to self-compassion, they also reduce your capacity for compassion towards others. And, the longer you try to ignore your inner critic, the more likely it is that judgment and defensiveness will define the quality of your interaction with others. Because of this, taking time to skillfully focus on your internal experience isn't selfish or self-indulging, it's actually a central part of living your intention to interact from wisdom and compassion. Doing this opens a door to inner freedom and growth, as well as connection.

Specifically, you are more likely to criticize in another any characteristic or behavior that you criticize in yourself. Without meaning to, you might suddenly find yourself saying something critical of another. For example, if you tend to criticize yourself about not keeping your house tidy, you might find yourself blurting out a comment about tidiness when visiting your friend’s house. 

To make things worse, when you make comments like these, you potentially activate another inner critic that shames you about not being kind and compassionate. If you don’t interrupt the shame attack, it can become excruciating and block your connection to others.

Let’s look at a couple of ways to interrupt the inner critic and find your center— a center in which you know you are deeply and thoroughly good. The moment you recognize the inner critic's voice is speaking, take a full conscious breath, sit still, close your eyes, and begin naming and observing your experience. This might sound something like this, "A self-critical voice is speaking and triggering pain, shame, shut down, (name the feelings you notice). I am having these feelings because a part of me believes these critical voices. This is painful AND I can be with this, it's okay. This is a reactive pattern running itself, it's not who I am. I am an ever-changing flow of aliveness and beneficence (have something memorized to say to yourself here as an identity anchor). This is an experience passing through, I don't have to fight it. I can relate to it with kindness and acceptance."

Once you establish mindfulness through this process of naming what’s happening, grounding in a supportive identity, and accepting your experience, you can make empathy guesses for each critical voice. Every critical voice is an attempt to meet or protect a need in a tragic way. The most common needs that an inner critic is trying to protect for you are: safety, belonging, support, integrity, authenticity, and acceptance. Make these guesses slowly and mindfully. Watch for changes in your body and emotions. The needs that a critic is trying to protect for you may not make sense. It doesn’t have to make sense mentally. When you connect with the need behind a criticism you will feel a softening.

This softening helps you to see a broader perspective and opens creativity, helping you find a new way to care for that need. In this way, with practice, you replace tragic strategies of self-criticism with empowering and supportive strategies of self-care.

 This week, practice writing down everything you notice your inner critic is telling you. Then, whether in the moment or at the end of the day, find the feelings and needs present with that voice. Can you connect with compassion to the needs it's trying to help you care for? Watch for a softening in your body as a sign that you identified the needs behind a particular critical voice. If not, give yourself a little more time to explore. Once you know you've connected with the central need, reflect on how you might attend to that need in the coming days.