How do we react if a friend doesn’t get her dream job and beats herself up because of it?
“Don’t worry about it, it was just not the right fit”
“Just forget it, that company sucks anyways!”, or
“You will find a better opportunity very soon.”
We support our friend, and we believe in what we are telling her. That it’s not her fault.
What do we tell ourselves, if the same happens to us?
“Of course you didn’t get the job, look at you! You have no experience, you are not good enough and you were sweating too much during the interview. Who would want to hire you?”
And there it is again - the critical inner voice.
Every one of us has it, it shows up uninvited, sometimes unexpected, and we are hardly ever happy to hear it. “Don’t say that, you are making a fool of yourself”, “Are you serious, do you really believe that YOU can do that?”, “Be careful, what might she think about you?”, “If he ever finds out about that, he will reject you, he will hate you!”, “You’re stupid!”
“You are not enough!”
It’s this inner part of ourselves that lets us doubt our actions, and that makes us freeze. It makes us feel ashamed, not worthy, small, and it tries to steal our energy. It can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and loneliness. If we imagine that this was a person we knew, we could say with 100% certainty that this person is toxic and that they would never be a friend of ours. But the problem is… this is actually a part of ourselves. We can’t just get rid of it as we get rid of an old pair of shoes. We can try to ignore it, we can try to ban it to the very back of our minds but it’s still there. And it will show up again.
Sooo, what can we do against it?
First of all, we need to accept that it’s there, and then we need to start a conversation with our critical inner self. And I mean that quite literally. We need to get to know that little gremlin in ourselves and ask him or her why they are constantly nagging, being judgemental, and bossy with us. And then listen to what they have to say.
Maybe if you listen closely you might hear something like “I am scared”, “I am ashamed”, “I want to be loved”, or “I just want to protect you”.
That sounds a lot different than “You’re stupid”, but the meaning is the same. But of course, nobody likes a nag, so nobody has ever been understanding and compassionate for the little creature.
Now if we imagine again that this inner voice was a person we knew, anxious, insecure, sitting alone in the corner, how would we react? Would we still see them as toxic? Or would we react in an empathetic way, maybe even trying to help them?
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I would like to invite you to an experiment.
Next time you hear your critical inner gremlin shouting, making you small, making you feel bad about yourself - take a moment to relax. Breathe. Imagine the little creature sitting in the corner, growling and trembling with fear. And then ask it calmly “What is it you need right now?”. Be aware that you are talking to the most vulnerable part of yourself and that you have to be extra careful and compassionate to not scare it away. By having this inner conversation you allow yourself to look deeply into your own needs and you may even open the door a little bit to your unconscious self.
For many of us it’s hard to show ourselves the same compassion we let other people experience. By seeing our most vulnerable part as something else, a gremlin, a critical little creature, an inner voice, we can trick our mind into thinking that this little thing deserves our compassion and care. And by feeling empathy for the gremlin, we are being empathetic to ourselves.
So, listen closely to what your inner critical voice really has to say and be the friend it has been looking for its whole life.
I wish you all the best on your journey by caring with love for your critical inner self.