If you become aware of and work with your inner critic it can become your ally.As we grow up, we all learn certain beliefs and attitudes about ourselves, others, the world, and how to conduct ourselves through the influences of family, religion, school, culture, and life experiences. For a while, we believe these to be right or true without ever even being aware that we have them much less questioning their authenticity and appropriateness for us in our life at that time.

In her book, The Four Levels of Healing: A Guide to Balancing the Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical Aspects of Life (Gawain, Shakti), Shatki Gawain tells a story to illustrate how beliefs can control our lives.  In India, when training baby elephants, trainers begin by sturdily chaining one hind leg of the animal to a tree.  The elephant becomes accustomed to the chain and pretty soon, doesn’t even try to get free. The trainer then reduces the size of the chain until, finally, all that is required to constrain the animal is a thin string.  It’s not the string that restrains him.  It’s his belief.

Your Subconscious Beliefs Shape Your World

Gawain says that our unconscious beliefs cause us to view the world through colored glasses without even realizing that we’re wearing them.  We believe the world is just colored that way because it’s what we’ve learned to believe, like the elephant. Our belief systems color every experience, and we tend to keep interpreting and interacting with the world based on these core beliefs whether we are conscious of them or not.  A person can become aware of the glasses, choose to take them off, and consciously see the world differently.

The first step in doing this is to become aware of your thought patterns and core beliefs, especially the recurring ones that repeatedly pop into your mind and govern your behavior.  Notice which ones support you and which ones hold you back.  Once you are aware of limiting beliefs, you can consciously choose to change them to something else every time you find yourself having these thoughts.

Tell Your Inner Critic to Shut Up!

You know that little voice inside of your head that keeps a running commentary on everything telling you how inadequate you are, or finding you lacking compared to others, or telling you that you can’t do something?  That’s your inner critic, and you might be surprised at just how harsh it is.

Mine used to be a real witch. Just vicious. Years ago, she constantly told me that I wasn’t a good enough wife, mother, friend, daughter…you name it; that I couldn’t possibly make it on my own; that I needed a man to be valued; that I wasn’t smart enough or strong enough, blah, blah blah…  This internal negative talk was a huge factor in exacerbating the fear, anxiety, and panic that led me to attempt to take my life.

Since then, I’ve made huge strides in my personal growth.  I shut the witch up, learned to actually like myself, and extend myself some compassion.  My inner critic has had a lot of time off lately.  However, recently, I noticed that whenever I did anything wrong from merely stubbing my toe on the cat scratching post to dropping and breaking a casserole dish full of broccoli on the kitchen floor, I was in the habit of saying “That was stupid!” to myself.

I wouldn’t talk to someone else that way if they did those things.  Why, in the world, was I reprimanding myself like that? Now, when I catch myself saying this, I tell the inner critic  “No. It wasn’t stupid.  It was just a mistake.”

It is possible to become aware of your inner critic and work with it, through tools such as mindfulness, thought reframing and affirmations, so that it becomes an ally rather than an enemy.  As long as you are going to be viewing the world through glasses, why not make them rose colored?

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/trakygraves/

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  1. I know the feeling. I too absolutely loathed myself because I couldn’t measure up to the standards I set for myself based on belief patterns that evolved and strengthened over time. Came close to suicide but a little voice told me that the pain of not seeing my life through would be worse than anything I ever felt. As painfull as it was I decided not to not end this life. I now look back and wonder with a smile how I could have believed such drivel. Each moment, whether painful or joyful is a miracle I am glad to experience. Thanks for sharing.


    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Tony, I can totally relate. I find it hard to believe that suicide was actually a viable option that made sense to me at one point. It was option solely, I believe, because of my perspective and thinking. I have so much compassion for anyone who may be there and want them to know they they too can change this. It really is pretty simple, isn’t it, but it is also the most challenging, most rewarding thing anyone can do. Glad we both did!

  2. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    So glad to see you in such a positive place. I can only speak for the type of daughter and mother you have always been and continue to be. From my vantage point, you have always been superior and continue to be to this day. No one could have tried harder than have you to mother your children in the best possible way. They have learned lessons from you that will go a long way toward helping make them happy and responsible adults. I admit to a certain prejudice here, darling daughter.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Yeah, I think you may be just a tad bit biased. Looking back, I did try awfully hard at everything and was pretty damn good at most everything, but I did it for unhealthy reasons and with a victim mentality. I do think that even through my bad examples, I have been a good teacher for my children as I share with them the lessons that I have learned from it all. Better late than never!

  3. Nice, nice writing, Debbie. That last part is the one that hit home; having done lots of self-inspection over the years, I was feeling pretty clear. However, there *is* that sneaky little attacking ego-voice, the critic that pipes up with a “That was stupid!!” from time to time.
    And I have not been consistent in meeting that immediately by reframing with a simple “Whoa!! THAT was a mistake!” It can be s0 insidious; thanks for the reminder!


    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thank you, Scott. (I am writing a book, so I particularly like to hear the writing compliment.) Glad this was a gentle reminder for you. Tell your ego that I said to “Be nice!”

  4. Libby McLarty Reply

    Hi Debbie, I’ve been enjoying your blog for a year or so. Thank you for your wit, wisdom and dedication to helping others. I am in total agreement with letting the inner critic find a new job! I’ve had success using the Sedona Method and thought you might enjoy checking it out.
    (FYI: I am not employed by the Sedona organization or using this to promote a business. )

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Libby, thanks for following the blog for a year and for saying “hello!” I think I would like to retire the inner critic for good, but I have a feeling she is going to always be in the reserve ready to spring into action.

      Thanks for the suggestion of The Sedona Method. I am familiar with it. I am so glad you found it helpful. Everybody has to find what works for them. Surprisingly, I have not followed one particular philosophyy. I just pick and choose what feels good to me and makes sense from everything out there.

  5. I so resonated with this post. I’ve been tuning into my inner critic and you are right. It’s amazing to see how critical we can be towards our self. I just notice and let there be space between myself and the thought so it dissolves on its own if I don’t add juice. Your words are a great encouragement. I agree about the rose colored glasses!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Glad this post spoke to you. I like the idea of just being aware of the negative thought and putting space between it and I and letting it dissolve. It feels like a natural evolution of the process. Seems more kind and evolved somehow.

      I could also see wearing sunshiny yellow glasses!

  6. Love the comparison to the elephant in the beginning. I have to say my inner critic is still alive, but I’ve been working on mindfulness myself and learning to shut her out. I always love your positive reminders and common sense approaches. You make it seem simple…I know it’s not!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      The whole concept of mindfulness is so simple, but, as you said, it is so challenging to actually do. The rewards are worth it.

      Thank you for saying that I make it seem simple. I think too many of the philosophies make it seem all new age-y and spiritually complex, when it does not have to be. I can be as simple as you want to make it. The simpler the better, as far as I am concerned! 🙂

  7. Death to the witch:)!

    Isn’t usually those people that are supposed to love us that end up contributing to this inner critic? Grandparents, parents, spouses? Making the inner critic an ally – that’s a novel concept. Can the inner critic teach us about ourselves – that’s a deep question!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      May she die a quick and painless death already! 🙂 Yes, it is most likely the things we have heard from our parents, spouses and other significant people in our lives who give the inner critic its best material. However, at some point, it is our job to take over and parent ourselves and feed our own soul…and change her dialogue! The inner critic can most definitely teach us about ourselves. They show us right where we are wounded and can work to heal.

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