Writing blogs for a wellness or mental health business is weird. We write about mindfulness or the many different ways to support positive mental health, but rarely do we write from our personal perspective… sometimes, sharing topics a bit closer to home is nice. So, I thought I would share a blog about a topic that’s close to me: the idea of having an inner critic.

Everyone has an inner critic of some kind. For some people, their inner critic plays a prominent role in their day-to-day lives, and for other people, the inner critic or inner negative voice, or whatever you might want to call it, isn’t so prominent or isn’t so loud and doesn’t impact them all that much. I am one of those people who has a very loud inner critic.

Now, depending on what type of mental health interventions or styles or treatment processes or whatever you want to call it will you subscribe to, that inner critic or that that negative voice might have different names and how you tackle it might involve different approaches. I personally really like how the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model describes it, which is as a ‘part’. I have a ‘part’ of me that likes to criticise me, that likes to let me know that I’m probably not good enough, that likes to get in the way of my ambition. This ‘part’ is my inner critic.

Even talking about it out loud (or should I say writing about it), the critic is saying, “What do you think you’re doing telling people about an inner critic?… Who do you think you are to offer any insight into anything, let alone how to beat the inner critic because I am such a big part of you?”

Now, having an inner critic can make life a bit hard, especially if you, like me, have an inner critic who likes to stick their nose in your business. Sometimes, your inner critic might just tell you you’re not good enough. But other times, your inner critic will quite literally get in the way of moving forward; they will jump in and cut your ambitious endeavours off at the knees. For me, one of the things that I noticed my inner critic likes to do is when I have an idea to create something that comes from my lived experience or acquired skill sets; it likes to demotivate me. The part of me that gets excited about sharing or teaching or giving something back to the world gets jumped on by my inner critic and made to be almost a little lazy. It’s like it eats away at my motivation. It’ll drip-feed me thoughts like, ‘You’re not good enough’ or ‘Who do you think you are to try and share that idea?’  Or ‘Why would people listen to you?’ or ‘People will judge you’. That commentary makes me feel tired, lazy, or demotivated, making creating things to give back to the world harder than it should be.

I’m not one of those people who was blessed with a quiet inner critic, and that’s okay because I believe there are no bad parts of me, just some I perhaps like more than others. Equally, we believe you have no bad parts, and we welcome them all to the table. For me, getting rid of my inner critic isn’t straightforward, and that’s okay; we are in a negotiation, and I know my critic feels it’s doing an important job. Part of our negotiation is how I can still move forward with it being present

What has been really powerful for me is noticing and engaging with that inner critic or voice, if you will. I like to have a conversation with it, I’ll say, ‘Hey, yeah, that’s a really interesting perspective, you’ve got it. I see that you think that I probably shouldn’t think that I’m good enough to do this, that I am getting ahead of myself, or that I’m being arrogant, and that it’s okay for you to feel that way. I do, however, think that perhaps you’re not 100% right and that there is someone out there who might find what I have to give valuable, and even if it’s just one person, that’s more than enough to feel the effort was worthwhile.’

Some might call this a mindfulness activity. In IFS, it’s called engaging with your parts. This isn’t, however, a blog post aimed at telling you the right or wrong way to tackle your inner critic… this is simply a process I find helpful and that works for me; your conversation with your inner critic might look different…Through this blog post, I simply want to highlight the importance of noticing, labelling, and not being afraid to have an inner critic, as well as the fact that there is a way to live with one and still live fulfilled.

You probably developed this inner critic for a very important reason. At some point, it kept you safe or served you, and that job was incredibly important at that moment; as such, it is so important to turn towards this part of ourselves with love and gratitude. The more I love this part of myself, the more I can be grateful that it exists and the less power it has over me.

It seems counterintuitive, right? But come with me on this journey. You see, if I pretend it’s not there, or if I ignore it, it gets bigger and stronger and louder because it really thinks that it has an important job to do. But if I engage with it, acknowledge it, and turn towards it with gratitude and love, I can have a two-way conversation.

Think of it like a barking dog…. if a dog is left in someone’s yard, and it’s not engaged, it’s lonely, angry, worried, feeling abandoned, it’s going to bark all day. I don’t know if you’ve ever lived beside a barking dog. But there is no stopping that poor creature from barking and howling; that bark and howl are (or at least the dog believes) keeping it safe, preventing it from being forgotten, and from there on, that part of that dog will believe that barking and howling is essential to its welfare until it learns otherwise. Similarly, if a horse gets separated from its herd, it will whinny day and night until they can lay eyes on its safety again, its safety being the herd. However, if you go out and you see that dog or that horse, you give it some love, support it, make it feel seen, and make it feel heard, they suddenly become so much quieter. Once settled, you can help that dog or horse learn other ways to feel safe and heard…you can show it you’re there for it.

Your inner critic is no different. If you let it go unchecked, it will bark and whiny; the more you ignore it, the louder it will get. But if you turn towards it, give it some love, support, and gratitude, and let it feel seen and heard, then suddenly, it has the potential to be so much quieter. Acknowledging it doesn’t mean you have to take on its feedback; you can choose not to, but you can comfort it and let it know about the choices you’re making and why. This process also gives the other parts of you time to share their voices. The parts of you that believe in you, the parts of you that are motivated, the parts of you that are ambitious, your Self (your compassion, curiosity, playfulness, etc. ) get more time at the front.

So my invitation is not to run away from that critical voice, that Negative Nancy, whatever you want to call it. My invitation is to turn towards it, acknowledge what it is doing and saying, thank it for its time and contribution, and decide whether or not you want to believe it today.

Every time you stop, check in with it and give it a chance to be seen and heard, you allow yourself to decide whether that negative voice will take control and have power over you today, you give yourself an extra chance to thrive, not just survive.

This blog was contributed by the Wolf Pack Health and Wellness co founder – Jezey Wolf

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