Have you noticed that trying to get rid of the inner critic never works? It just goes underground and pops up in the most inconvenient times.
Imagine instead having a heartfelt conversation with your inner critic. If you go in with open curiosity, you might find out that it wants the best for you. It’s likely trying the best it can to get you to all the love and success you want.
But the problem is that its approach was designed when you were quite little, with very limited resources and limited ideas about what would work.
In that heartfelt conversation, imagine asking the inner critic what it wants for you more than anything else. You can then work toward a win-win strategy that would work for both of you.
For example, in my work with clients I’ve seen virtually all inner critics thinking that criticism will inspire improvement.
Here’s an example that demonstrates the principles of appreciation, discovery, and supportive negotiation.
Jane: I’d like to talk to my inner critic.
Inner Critic: Me? Okay, I guess. What do you want?
Jane: I’m feeling oppressed by you. I’ve learned that you must have my best interests at heart, but I’m not sure I believe that. Why do you treat me so badly?
Inner Critic: I’m trying to get you to do well. If I don’t point out everything you do wrong, how will that happen? We modeled me after our critical Dad, to be sure we catch the problems before he did. I yell at you so he won’t ever yell at you again.
Jane: What do you really want for me more than anything else? Why do you care about me doing well?
Inner Critic: Well, if you do well, you’ll finally get the praise and love from Dad that you always wanted. And then you’ll finally feel happy and at peace.
Jane: I appreciate that you want me to feel happy and at peace. I’m good with that. But do you think your methods are working? Do I seem to be happy and at peace from your telling me I’m not good enough?
Inner Critic: Well, now that you put it that way, not so much.
Jane: If we could find another way for me to do well and get peace and happiness, that worked more consistently, would you be interested?
Inner Critic: That sounds intriguing. Tell me more.
Jane: How about we start tracking what I am doing right, and see if we can build on that to improve my performance?
Inner Critic: Well, I have my doubts, but I’m willing to give it a shot now that you pointed out that my method wasn’t working very well.
Jane: Great! Would you like a new job title to match this change in strategy?
Inner Critic: I’d like to be the Inner Coach.
Jane: Done! I look forward to working with you in this new way.
Inner Coach: But if you backslide and stop aiming for excellence, I promise I’ll start criticizing again.
Jane: Okay, fair enough! Let’s check in a week and see how we did. Thanks and catch you later!
Is it time to reorient your inner critic?