Rare is the person who has fully triumphed over self doubt, anxiety and lives a life free of internal wrangling.
Most of us have an internal voice that is continually chattering at us, pointing out our failures and judging ourselves and others. If we were to write down what this voice was saying to us throughout the day (and yes I have asked clients to do this), then we would be shocked at the negativity we carry around in our heads.
For many people the inner critic feels so much part of them that they defer to it almost continually, sometimes just to shut it up! A past client used to say it was easier to give in and agree than fight what the inner critic was telling him, even though he knew it fed his anxiety over the long term.
So how do we work with this powerful driver and make it work for us?
The first thing we do is name it, give it a character and make it present and conscious. The most prevalent voice seems to a strong and critical voice, but I have heard some incredible variations over the years from ‘inner doom‘ to ‘dizzy and deluded’. This allows us to say “oh there goes my life is unfair voice! I wonder why its playing up today, lets see what might have triggered it”.
By noticing it we are able to stand back and think first before we unconsciously react.
By working with a therapist to understand where the voice comes from and who it may represent (controlling Mother anyone!), gives us a chance to explore what the purpose of the voice is and why it is there. For many of us, we developed it in childhood to keep us safe, or to keep us going during hard and challenging times. Over the years I have realised these voices are safety seeking first, they are very risk adverse, stopping us from taking risks which we all need to do to live authentically.
Developing another internal voice which uses compassion and understanding, is the final step to freeing yourself from the critical voice. I often call these voices the internal coach; kind and supportive they are on our side, rather than berating us. Mine was my therapist’s voice but over time it just became the calm, grown up me! I use it whenever my anxiety or inner critic kicks up. Mastering this is truly freeing, imagine a mind with less negative chatter!
My new podcast takes a deeper look at this and helps you find ways to manage this.