Blogpost by Voice Dialogue trainer Nienke Schaeffer about your inner critic and how it affects your life
Have you ever felt you could handle everything a lot better than you’re doing right now? Maybe you’re unconsciously allowing your inner critic to have a major impact on your life. A lot of people have heard about this phenomenon, but still find it difficult to picture. And to recognise everything your inner critic is telling you throughout the day calls for considerable awareness. We’re so used to this tiny voice in our head – it influences our smallest activities – and the things we tell ourselves can seem so self-evident. Even though consciously we may know that we’re being too hard on ourselves, unconsciously we still often take this self-criticism at face value.
It starts the moment you wake up. This running commentary on everything you do. A tiny, whispering voice in the background: “Don’t you look tired today, geez you’re getting old. Weren’t you going to take one cup of coffee rather than two – so much for willpower… Next time make sure you’re out of the door sooner; surely you’ve known for years that you hate having to rush. You were supposed to exercise before you went to work, and now you’ve ended up behind your laptop – you never stick to your own agreements. Couldn’t you start the day with what’s really important rather than just ticking off your to-do list? You need to prioritise!”
The day has barely started, and we’ve already had to deal with a whole load of comments and criticism – without really being aware of it. Of course, this mechanism also serves a purpose: this inner critic urges us to be the best version of ourselves that we can become. But if you become too demanding of yourself, this criticism no longer helps you but stands in your way: you no longer feel satisfied with or about who you are.
What if you could choose?
What can help is to become extremely aware of this voice in your head, so you’re able to free yourself of its negative effects. As a result, you’ll no longer unconsciously adopt whichever judgement pops up in your head, but observe it for what it is. You can even consciously choose to see your actions in a more positive light.
Voice Dialogue is a wonderful method for accomplishing this. In this approach, you enter into dialogue with the voices in your head. You set up an imaginary space in which you can ‘position’ your inner critic – as a part of whom you are – and let them ‘run wild’. You’re free to say out loud any judgements they’re itching to make – as if you’ve completely identified with your inner critic. What does this voice really want to say? Which objective, which message lies buried beneath all this commentary? You may start feeling that from the vantage point of a conscious ego, you actually have a choice. You aren’t your inner critic; you simply have an inner critic. You can observe your inner critic in action, and thank them for all their hard work keeping you on the right track. After that, you can also start empathising with your inner coach. The voice that praises your accomplishments and values you for who you are, and what you do. And finally, you may feel that you can take control of your mind-set, behaviour and the emotions you experience – independently of your inner critic and inner coach. Without all this criticism running through your head and with a healthy dose of self-acceptance, you’re sure to feel a lot better.
Would you like to know more about the Voice Dialogue and how you can deal effectively with your inner voices? Enrol in one of our 1- or 3-day workshops at ITP!