Befriending Your Inner Critic

Befriending Your Inner Critic  Cybele Loening

Eight years ago, when I was unhappily single, tired of my career and living in a place that drained me, I began doing spiritual growth work in order to get myself out of my funk.

It was a wonderful, uplifting time, but it was also a lot of hard work. I had to face some difficult truths, like how I could no longer blame circumstances, bad luck or even other people for my problems. I alone was responsible for keeping myself down.

There wasn’t an evil committee of judges and naysayers out there preventing me from having the life of my dreams. It was the little voice inside my head that told me I wasn’t good enough or deserving. It was my own harsh inner critic. I was the one holding myself back with my constant self-doubts and negative thoughts.

Here are a few of the things I regularly told myself:

 

Maybe you’re just meant to be single.

 

Work sucks. That’s why they call it work!

 

You don’t have the writing talent.

 

Quit your job to write a book? Who do you think you are?

 

It’s no wonder I wasn’t happy. My inner critic was one powerful chick!

I needed to get to know this Negative Nelly to figure out why she had such a hold on me, so I meditated on her, and a mental image quickly materialized. Not surprisingly she looked a lot like me. She had long, silky brown hair, pale skin and a small frame. One day her name just popped into my head: Suzy Doubts. (That’s Suzy with a “zy” rather than the gentler “sie,” because, boy, she could be mean. Ha ha!)

But here’s the crazy thing. In spite of the harsh things she said, as I got to know her better I realized she wasn’t my enemy. She was my friend, and she was just trying to protect me.

Yes, protect me.

From screwing up. From failing. From getting hurt.

She was like the well-meaning pal you call when you just can’t spend another day at your soul-killing job. She meets you for drinks and urges you to stay put for just a little bit longer, because it would be a mistake to give up your health care and 401K benefits.

She just wants you to be safe!

That powerful realization helped me see Suzy’s warnings in a new way:

 

Maybe you’re just meant to be single.

 

I think what Suzy was really trying to say was, If you don’t put yourself out there with men, you won’t get your heart broken.

 

You don’t have the writing talent.

 

A better translation was: What if you get rejected? I don’t want you to feel bad.

 

And so on.

 

I truly believe that what you resist persists, so I knew I couldn’t just push Suzy away. That would only make her stronger.

So instead, I chose to redefine her. With a little effort and mental retraining, she quickly went from being my biggest naysayer to my biggest cheerleader.

Here’s how I did it:

When Suzy said something like, “Your jeans are looking a little tight,” I didn’t automatically accept it as a slam meant to undermine my self-confidence. Maybe she wasn’t telling me I was bad for carrying a few extra pounds; perhaps she was just reminding me of my commitment to exercise and eat healthfully, which is what has always made me feel best about my body.

Hmm… Thanks Suzy! I was feeling better already.

Or when Suzy said, “Don’t ask that big, powerful person for help. He’ll just say no, and then you’ll be mortified,” I turned her words around. I thought, “Well, he may say no but what have I got to lose? My pride? That’ll sting for all of about a minute! And think of all the great things that could happen if he said yes.”

Hmm… minimal risk, potentially huge payoff. I’ll give it a shot! Thanks, Suzy!

 

In a subsequent weeks-long personal growth exercise, I went back and analyzed all of the things Suzy used to say that were keeping me stuck. And when I did my life changed.

 

Here’s how I re-wrote Suzy’s original words and how it all turned out:

 

OLD: Maybe you’re meant to be single.

NEW: I can be whatever I choose. I want a relationship and am willing to do the inner work to get it.

TODAY: I am now happily married to my soul mate.

 

OLD: Work sucks. That’s why they call it work!

NEW: It won’t suck if you love what you do.

TODAY: I spend my days writing and enjoying every minute.

 

OLD: You don’t have the writing talent.

NEW: Or maybe I do.

TODAY: Just take a look at my Amazon reviews.

 

OLD: Quit your job to write a book? Who do you think you are?

NEW: I’m going to give my dreams a shot because I deserve it, and I believe in myself.

TODAY: Who am I? A woman who now knows she is capable of just about anything she sets her mind to. She is not afraid to try.

Take that, Suzy Doubts!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. I would love to hear what you think, and encourage sharing your ideas here. What is one mean thing your inner critic says that you can turn around right here, right now?

Original photo from Carrie Kellengerger.

One thought on “Befriending Your Inner Critic

  1. Another fantastic blog. We all have a Suzy Doubts inside! My Suzy used to tell me that I couldn’t move out of New York City because that was where the movers and shakers lived and where I would succeed in a real career. Ha! Now I live in the Berkshires Mountains of MA and I own my own design and renovation management business. Like you, I love to get up for “work”each day. A healthy happy life is possible.

    Keep the inspiration coming!

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