The most important person you will ever communicate with is yourself. In fact, you may not even be aware that you have a constant dialog going about yourself to yourself, and a lot of it, sometimes all of it, is a loop of relentless chatter that has you stuck in the past and afraid of the future. Unless and until you become aware of and silence your inner critic, you will not be able to fully and authentically communicate who you are to yourself and others.
You know that inner critic. We all have one. (At times it feels like a whole group of naysayers.) It’s that voice inside your head that beats you up constantly: You’re not __________ [fill in the blank: good enough/smart enough/good looking enough/creative/interesting….] The inner critic loves to take direct aim at your communication skills because it knows how important they are to your success in school, socially and professionally. That’s why it says things like: You don’t know how to express yourself/You are not outgoing enough for public speaking/You’re going to bomb the presentation/Your resume is lame/Your cover letter sucks…. No one is going to hire you.
Sometimes the inner critic shifts to the inner ruminator. The inner ruminator pulls you back into the past so you can relive pain or regret over and over again, which is pointless and painful. Sometimes it shifts to the inner worrier and gets you worked up about the future, which is pointless and painful. Meanwhile you miss out on the present time of your life where all the magic happens — where your senses are engaged, where you are awake and where all creativity is sparked.
That inner critic is relentless, clever, nasty, and unfortunately, very good at communicating with you. It’s so good that the lies it tells you sound exactly like the truth.
We are often at the mercy of this harsh inner critic (or several!) or we are pulled out of the present moment by reliving painful past experiences or by worrying about the future. I had chronic anxiety for many years. I was a chronic worrier. I used to have panic attacks. I know what it’s like to feel helpless against irrational thoughts, so I understand this hell and I can assure you, if I got out of mine, you can get out of yours. Though my inner critic has now largely been tamed through a daily mindfulness and awareness practice that includes simple daily deep breathing, body awareness, tapping/EFT, writing and journaling and regular exercise and vitamins/minerals. It also includes therapy when I have needed it and medication for anxiety and depression when I have needed it, and I’m not afraid or embarrassed to admit that, especially to my students.
I still have moments when I worry about what something thinks of me or I “lose it” and get upset and do or say something I regret later (the inner critic loves regret), but now I am much more aware when this happens. I know this voice is a natural part of the ego, and it’s only your enemy if you let it speak to you freely and without having some resources to deal with it. It will always try to get my attention, always try to get me to leave the present moment but the more awareness I build, the less sway the inner critic has over me.
The activities and resources below have helped me to build awareness and keep the voice mindfully in its cave, and I hope they will help you too! Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think and/or let me know of a resource that I should add!
Resources for Mindfully Slaying Your Inner Critic
I am amazed by the power of simple breathwork and can honestly say it has transformed my life by helping me connect with my body. When you have anxiety, you spend a lot of time out of your body and in your head. This article from WebMD explains how to do the simple 4-7-8 breathing pattern. I try to stop what I’m doing and do one or two cycles twice a day. Before bed, I have worked my way up to seven or eight cycles before bed, and it’s incredibly relaxing.
Your inner-guidance system is always your best resource. Go to that well of knowing in you and draw from it. One way to tap into it and to find out what you’re really thinking and why, is through journaling. Try writing in a journal (computer or notebook) for even 15-minutes a day or a few times a week for a month and I can pretty much guarantee that you learn a lot about yourself. Writing is not just an expression of your thinking, it is a form a thinking! You will learn a lot about yourself, and it’s a great space to challenge the beliefs your inner-critic has tricked you into believing.
Here’s a very helpful article about the benefits of journaling by Jana Alrayes in Her Campus. #5 is my favorite. See which one of her tips resonates with you!
Books literally saved me when I was in middle school, high school, college, and graduate school, and they are still saving me today. Set an intention to ask for support and/or to find what you need to learn, then go to your library/bookstore/Amazon and search for books about mindfulness/self esteem/overcoming negative self talk. Be open to getting help from the universe or your higher power. There is a larger intelligence at work in our lives, but we have to believe in it in order to take its guidance and to receive its abundance. Here are two books that changed my life and one I am recommending cold:
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer. I have read it about 12 times over the years and I never stop learning from this game-changing book. This is the book that exposed my Inner-Critic and has helped me overcome believing in it. This is also essentially about living mindfully.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz. My son read this when he was 16 and said one of the agreements helped him see things in a whole new way. This is very easy to read and may change the way you interact with others and yourself!
I haven’t read this book, but this looks good. Your library branch can request it for you: Mindfulness for Teens in 10 Minutes a Day: Exercises to Feel Calm, Stay Focused & Be Your Best Self by Jennie Marie Battistin MA, LMFT (Author). If you read it, please let me know what you think.
Psychology Today Article: Steps to Overcoming Your Critical Inner Voice by Lisa Firestone
Gratefulness.org – What is Gratitude?
Guided 10- Minute Meditation with Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe free on YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/embed/oVzTnS_IONU?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&start=6&wmode=transparent
Here is Andy’s Ted Talk: All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes. (It’s hard not to love Andy!)