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How to Turn Your Inner Critic Into A Friend

Do you have a voice inside your head that never shuts up? Does this voice have an opinion on EVERY little thing?


I can imagine you’re nodding yes.


Don’t worry, you’re not alone.


You and the rest of the world have what Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, refers to as an “inner roommate.” You may know it as your Inner Critic.


The voice will try to protect you (Did I remember to turn off the stove?), and will narrate mundane events (Was that a squirrel that just ran by? I wonder where it came from.).


Note: you are not the other person who is communicating with your inner roommate—your inner roommate is in there talking to itself!


What you are is the one who is observing your thoughts, i.e., listening to a chatty person go on all day.


There’s a lot the voice gets wrong but I don't agree that silencing it is the best way to help yourself. Because despite being so terrible at it, we know that your inner voice is really trying to help you.


So, I say, why not figure out how your inner voice can better help you?


This process of learning how to turn your inner critic into a friend is best done by paying better attention to it; and for that, I recommend mindfulness.


Mindfulness will help you tune out many distractions and tune into what you need to hear and learn.


In this post, I will share a 3-step process that I use to help clients turn their inner critic into a friend.

 

Step 1: Personify Your Inner Critic


You do this to remind yourself that you are not your mind—you are entirely separate. You remind yourself that you can stop identifying and believing the things your mind projects onto you.


Giving your inner critic a different name will help you to disassociate from it. 


Try coming up with a positive or neutral-sounding name! This Google search result for “adjective-sounding names," will give you some idea of what I mean. Other options are mystical female names, god/goddess names, and cultural names and phrases.


Ms. TalkALot is also an acceptable moniker.

 

Step 2: Figure Out Your Needs


In The Untethered Soul, Singer shares a 12-step path to spiritual awakening. For step 2, he tells us to “realize that you are not okay in there.”


He writes:

“If you want to understand why you’ve done everything you have ever done, if you want to see what’s really going on, just observe your mind and emotions — just experi­ence your inner state.”

What’s happening, says Singer, is that your mind has taken on the responsibility of figuring out how everything needs to be in order for you to be okay. 


What is your inner critic trying to protect you from, that is the question. Which of your needs is not being met?


Your attention-seeking inner critic could be trying to tell you:


“Help… I want to stop procrastinating but I don’t know how to.”

“I never got over being locked in the closet when I was 7.”

“I’m always tired and I get easily overwhelmed.”

“My mother’s unkind words keep playing in my head.”

“I’m afraid I’ll be alone forever.”


Considering that your inner critic’s main motivation is to protect you from what could happen... it makes sense to listen and try to figure out how and why you’re not okay.


Much like a child throwing a tantrum because they want attention, with constant criticisms, your inner critic is trying to get yours. 


Therapy, journaling, and meditation are tools that can help the mind become calm and they can also help you decipher what your inner wise-women is trying to protect you from.

 

Step 3: Retrain Your Mind


Although the process of completely retraining your mind can take a while, most people will see some improvement in as little as a few weeks or months.


Like other personal growth work, it comes down to how much time you put into it and (ahem) how stubborn you are at letting go.


Here are six great tools you can use to retrain your brain:

  1. Meditation.

  2. Activities that put you in a state of flow- such as dancing, playing the drums, exercising, writing, and reading. 

  3. Some forms of talk therapy, like counseling, peer-to-peer support, and journaling. These options provide a healthy outlet for your emotions and thoughts (both positive and negative).

  4. Getting your needs met- starting the work of healing trauma and working on underlying issues. 

  5. Respond to your inner critic in a healthy, caring, and friendly way.


Expect Transformations


In time, you will notice yourself becoming calmer and the voice becoming less critical. The criticism will turn into gentle reminders, encouragement, and helpful messages when you’ve successfully turned your inner critic into a friend.


Your inner voice will become more supportive because it’s no longer scared shitless by the problems you’ve been avoiding. The incessant chatter will subside because you have other avenues to share your thoughts (journaling, therapy, and support groups) and more joyful experiences that put you in a state of flow so you will be thinking less.


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