The topic of self-criticism is something I have personally struggled with almost all my life. My criteria in dealing with others have never been as strict, judgmental as it was towards myself. Often I was not even aware of this. Nothing has ever been good enough and I had to always achieve more.
An encounter with Mindfulness and the Mindful self-compassion program helped me, step by step, become aware of all those moments when my inner critic would take control of my life and how it reflected on my mental health and relationships with others.
What helps me on a daily basis in my relationship with an inner critic?
People often think that Mindfulness is just meditation and that’s it. Of course, by training your attention with the help of meditation, it is easier for you to notice when you wander off and when you are overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings, and so you know better how to redirect your attention. For me personally, from Mindfulness practice, the most important are 9 values – Mindfulness attitudes that we nurture in our practice. One of these attitudes is non-judgment and letting go.
I often find myself in a whirlwind of negative thoughts about how I did something or how I should have done something, which of course is immediately followed by unpleasant feelings. Mindfulness helped me to let go of those thoughts and negative thoughts much more easily… to catch myself in that moment of “judgment” and simply practice that moment: “come on now don’t judge whether something is good or bad… accept it the way it is, accept and release… ”.
Meeting my inner critic
Sometimes I look at that inner critic as one person in me who has different faces. Depending on the type of criticism involved, that inner critic may be a cynical, cold, and sarcastic intellectual to whom my skills and knowledge are never good enough, and sometimes he may be a neurotic and overly caring woman who passively-aggressively criticizes all my decisions. and behaviors.
Now I can already imagine the moments and situations when some face of an internal critic will appear and sometimes I enter into a dialogue with him or her. By answering these questions, I often get a different perspective on my own self-criticism and greater understanding and even empathy towards the inner critic.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself:
- What are the sentences my inner critic is telling me?
- Why does this criticism keep on repeating or why has it lasted so long?
- What am I grateful to my inner critic for?
- And what does he want to teach me?
- What does the criticized part of me need?
This part was somehow the hardest for me to realize. If I could paint how the criticized part of me feels, it would probably be a picture of a child cornered, with my hands on my ears, because it can no longer listen to the fire of criticism that does not stop. This is exactly how the criticized part of me feels, cornered, helpless, lonely, sad, and ashamed.
And then my inner dialogue continues in order, to make that experience easier for myself in some way:
- What does that criticized part of me need at that moment?
- Who are the people who could help me in those moments and in what way?
- What would I rather hear when I’m wrong instead of that criticism?
- What are the specific words of support and encouragement I would say to myself?
- How would I treat a friend in this situation?
These are some of the suggestions that help me personally when I face internal criticism.
If you need support in this process, feel free to write to me so that we can learn together and find ways to support ourselves through encouragement and empathy instead of through criticism and condemnation.