One of my current topics of ponder is why it’s so hard to silence the inner critic (or critics – I’ve got dozens, go me!). Not being in anyone else’s head, I can’t speak for them, but I know there’s often a clamour going on in mine.
Getting older and spending quite a lot of those years googling, I’ve learned that whatever’s going on in my life, chances are someone else is having the same experience (only they’re usually better at it). It’s one of the things the internet wins at which is both good and bad. I think I’ll call it the Someone Somewhere’s In The Same Boat rule (SSITSB)
Mindfulness meditation is a marvellous thing. It brings a lot of calm and a little perspective. One of its other features is to enable you to hear the voices in your head.
Before you start backing away and hiding sharp objects, I believe – following the SSITSB principle outlined above – that if I’ve got shouty voices, then we all have voices in our heads, only we don’t always understand what we’re hearing. A sort of wood-for-the-trees situation.
I’ve been listening and my loudest voices say:
- You’re so boring, why would anyone want to talk to you?
- You’re not very clever, are you? Or you’d be much more successful than this.
- Don’t believe that complement – that person is only saying that ‘cos they feel sorry for you.
- I can’t believe you did/said that – it’s so embarrassing.
- Wake up. That’s another opportunity you’re missing over there. Dozy.
There are numerous quieter ones that whisper:
- At your age… !
- Stop it with the dithering.
- Of course, they’ve noticed the hot flush.
- Ah. Mistake again, you fool.
- When will you ever learn?
- That’s not the right thing to do/way to go.
- You’ve forgotten something important… and I’m not going to tell you what.
- You’re too fat/young/old/slow/impatient/greedy/dull
Now in another bit of my head, I know that most of this isn’t true and, even if some of it is, SSITSB states that it doesn’t really matter because that’s what people are like. But, the thing is, I can’t shut the noisy creatures up. Yap, yap, yap, they’re at it all the time. Just when I think something’s going swimmingly there it is again. Even if I stop listening, there’s a subtitles version.
That’s why I’m writing this. I hope that if I tell you about it, the voices might realise that I’m on to them and, who knows, give up and go somewhere else, or, at least, think about saying something new.
I like you – and you’re far from stupid. Look at everything you’ve achieved!
But I know what you mean about voices. Since my separation from my husband, my anxiety makes voices in my head say things like “You’re worthless” and “Nobody will want you”.
I’m very lucky to have a new partner and good friends who contradict those voices. It’s the external voices you have to listen to – people who really know you xxx
HI Donna, Thanks so much. And you too – far from worthless and your new chap should think himself lucky to get you. x
Like you, I found mindfulness made me more aware of the inner critic. Awareness is a wonderful gift, but at the same time it brings more work!
I found the following helpful:
1. Give it a name and a personality – in my case this was easy, as it always seems to be my Mum’s voice! She nagged the life out of me, didn’t understand a lot of what I was about, but she did want the best for me.
2. Befriend it. – know, I know, this sounds counterintuitive if not actually crazy! Treat the inner voice not as an enemy, but as a friend that actually wants the best for us. The trouble is, the inner critic don’t actually know our inner intentions, our struggles and what works best for us. When we treat it like an enemy and try to shut it out, it just gets more vocal in its desperate attempt to improve us.
3. Don’t argue back or try to reason – that just keeps the conversation going. Instead, take a pause, breathe, notice the voice, sense where that affects us in our body and breathe into that spot on the in breath, then relax and let go on the out breath. And if you can find that little pause at the end of the out breath, repeat silently an affirmation that means something to you. I tend to use ‘I am worthy of love and belonging’ because my inner critic often makes me feel I am not. Sometimes I use ‘I’m OK’, or ‘I may not be the best, but I’m not the worst, I’m OK”
4. Finally, be aware that most of us have an inner critic that makes our lives difficult. It helps me to know that when I come across people who seem awfully easily offended or very defensive.
Thanks so much, Jeannie. Excellent advice.