Take a Holiday From Your Inner Critic

Delighted to share this Guest Post from my friend and colleague, Tana Heminsley, over at Authentic Leadership Global.

This Holiday season, we invite you to step back from the sometimes frenetic pace of the visiting, the baking, the cooking, the shopping, and invite a little more ease and compassion into your space, into your inner world, into your relationship – with YourSELF.

One of the most insidious aspects of personality or ego that I’ve come across in my career as a coach, is the critical inner voice that hides deep within each of us. As distinct from our intuition, which is helpful in it’s guidance in our lives, Sarita Chawla, in this video shares how the inner critic can misguide us by keeping us small or holding us back.

It’s the inner voice that goes beyond constructive to be cruel and mean. It says “You’re not good enough”, “That was stupid”, “No one will like you” or “Work harder – you’re lazy”.

I think about the effects it’s having – on individuals, their families, their teams and organizations. And I imagine the possibility of a world where the mind naturally is kind in its orientation, rather than being naturally negatively oriented, as the author of Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hansen Ph.D., reminds us.

The inner critic, or the superego as described by A.H. Almaas in the workbook called “Working on the SuperEgo”, is a psychological construct – merely a thought.

It develops in our mind when we, as children, get a reaction where we feel shut down or shamed. It’s too painful for us to experience this reaction coming from others who love us, so we create a critical voice internally, “doing it” to ourselves first, which is less painful.

The Inner Critic feeds the individual and collective painbody and thus perpetuates negative energy in the world.  Eckhart Tolle talks about the unresolved, unhealed energy as the pain body in his blogpost in the Huffington Post (Eckhart Tolle, “Living in Presence with your emotional painbody”, Huffington Post, 10/6/2010.)

“There is such a thing as old emotional pain living inside you. It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a “painbody,” an energy entity consisting of old emotion.”

What can you do about it?  How can you take a holiday from your Inner Critic?

It’s totally possible and worth the investment of your time.

I’ve been aware of and actively engaging with my Inner Critic for the past 10 years and here are a few things I’ve found that help:

  1. Cultivate resiliency – it will help to keep your inner critic at bay. On the days I have had a good sleep, eaten the right foods to build my energy rather than drain it, done a short meditation practice to quiet my mind, I notice I have much more perspective and can notice and more easily let go of the critical voice.
  2. Stop the cycle – as quickly as you become aware of the messages when they arise, become aware of what it’s saying, how it feels, and then see it for what it is. It’s just a thought – one you can choose in the moment to let go of.
  3. Self-manage to choose a different thought – Byron Katie’s groundbreaking work on the inner critic, focuses on reframing in the moment using 4 simple questions:
    • Is it true?
    • Can you absolutely know it’s true?
    • How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
    • Who would you be without that thought?
  4. Find your own way to take a holiday from your inner critic – for some, it’s helpful to be compassionate with the voice, once they become aware of where it came from (well-meaning parents, teachers or others who influenced us). For others they need to scream at it inside their mind (and sometimes out loud if they are in a place where they can yell), for others it’s about laughing at it as they realize how it no longer fits with their quest to be their authentic or best self.
  5. Imagine what your life would be like without it – reflect on how much energy you spend on managing your inner critic currently. How different would your life be if you spent just 10% less time on it. What would you do (or not do) with that unleashed energy and time?
  6. Practice daily – talk to yourself like you talk to your best friend. It says it all. Be kinder to you and you’ll be kinder to others.

Imagine a world where we all let go of our inner critics more of the time – that’s the world I’m striving for.

Tana Heminsley

Tana is an executive and entrepreneur with a passion for building businesses and developing leaders. As the founder of Authentic Leadership Global, Inc. she supports authenticity and emotional intelligence as business differentiators for 21st century leaders. Tana is also the author of the recently published book “Awaken your Authentic Leadership – Lead with Inner Clarity and Purpose