For most of us, our inner critic is much louder than our inner nurturer. So much louder that we can barely hear our inner nurturer. To turn up the volume on our inner nurturer, we can:
- Feel the goodness of awe or unconditional love
- Restrain our inner critic
- Strengthen our inner nurturer
- Let go of limiting beliefs
Awe and Unconditional Love
We all have innate goodness within us. I find the easiest way to feel this goodness is to allow myself to experience awe or unconditional love. Take some time to practice awe and unconditional love with this meditation.
If you are like me, you struggle with feeling like you are enough. You struggle with feeling broken and like you’ve messed up your lives, even when your life looks neat on the outside. Our inner critic tells us loud and clear that it is not okay to be less than perfect. Our inner critic would make Einstein look stupid and Mother Theresa look selfish.
“It is your critic who feels you are rotten to the core. It is your critic who feels you must never let anyone know who or what you are because you are a mistake; you are flawed, and evil possibly even dangerous creature. It is your critic who fears that others will find you disgusting and possibly horrifying and that they will hurt or reject you.” Hal & Sidra Stone
The loud voice of our inner critic encourages us to give up control. “You will never be good enough, so why even bother.” The way our inner critic talks to us makes us question our ability to learn or grow. We think, “I can never change this.” The inner critic is so loud we can’t hear the soft voice of our inner nurturer.
“But for most people, the inner critic goes way overboard, throwing second dart after second dart of scolding, shaming, nit-picking, and faultfinding. It’s big and powerful, while the inner nurturer is small and ineffective, which wears down mood, self-worth, and resilience. Happily, there are good ways to reset this balance by restraining the critic and strengthening the nurturer inside yourself.” Rick Hanson
Restraining Your Inner Critic
Start by recognizing when your inner critic is talking. You can recognize the critic’s tone; it is harsh and demeaning. When your critic is in control, you may notice your voice gets higher, and you talk faster or louder. You may notice your heart is racing or that you are breathing faster. If you scan your body, you are likely to feel tension.
Your inner critic is most likely to talk when you feel most vulnerable because you have been criticized, belittled, stressed, or maybe you have done something that is totally inappropriate or out of character with who you are.
Notice the content, it is usually a variation of one of these themes:
- You have no business doing that
- You should be perfect at all times
- Normal people wouldn’t do this
- You only have problems because you are bad
- There is something wrong with you
Write down your inner critic’s favorite messages for you.
The inner critic helps you recognize where you’ve gone wrong. Your inner critic is trying to help, but the harsh demeaning tone doesn’t encourage you to make the changes you want in your life. And the exaggerations beat you down. The inner critic shames you. And a brain on shame can’t learn.
Sometimes we try to ignore or fight the inner critic. But what we resist persists. If we fight it by saying “I shouldn’t be judging. I’m too harsh,” we only add more judging. When we call it a “bitch” we are simply engaging it. I often yell at Billy, my inner critic, to leave me alone. He just keeps up his banter about how I am not good enough. It’s normal to fight your inner critic, but I found it doesn’t quiet him.
When responding to the inner critic, be mindful of how you are talking to yourself. Language is very powerful, and you are listening. Talk to yourself in useful ways:
- “This criticism has a grain of truth in it, but everything else is exaggerated or untrue.”
- “This is what ____ used to tell me; it was wrong then and it’s wrong now.”
- “This is not helping me and I don’t have to listen to it.”
- “I made a mistake; I will do better next time.”
Strengthening Your Inner Nurturer
Your inner nurturer is the part of you that acts like a best friend. It accepts that you are an imperfect human being, and that it is normal to make mistakes. It speaks to you in a soft, compassionate way, unlike the harsh, belittling tone of the inner critic. Instead of encouraging a fixed mindset, where you can’t change; the inner nurturer encourages a growth mindset.
Take time to get to know your inner nurturer. One of the guys from prison told me he wrote down a list of the most common messages from his inner critic. Then he wrote what his inner nurturer would say. This way he had the response ready when his inner critic began to criticize before it could get out of control.
Look at your list of criticisms you regularly hear from your inner critic. Choose one to explore, not a real tough one. Develop a statement your inner nurturer can say in a kinder, more positive way which is more likely to get the change you are looking for in your life.
- “I am not good enough,” say, “Wow, my inner critic is very active today.”
- “I’m so selfish.” say “I’ve given all that I am willing to give today.”
- “I’m so lazy,” say, “I am tired and am allowed to rest today.”
- “Oh, you’re stupid,” say, “I don’t know everything.”
- “I can’t believe you lost your keys again,” say, “I wasn’t paying attention when I put my keys down.”
- “I can’t believe you are going to be late again,” say “When I try to do one more thing, I end up being late.”
Let Go of Limiting Beliefs
Another way to restrain your inner critic and strengthen your inner nurturer is to transform your limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs.
|Limiting Beliefs – Inner Critic||Empowering Beliefs – Inner Nurturer|
|I am not good enough||I am perfectly imperfect, everyone has flaws, and I am enough|
|I always must be right and know everything||Relationships are more important than being right|
|I must do everything||It is OK to have boundaries on what I will do|
|It is not OK to have needs or ask for help||It makes people happy to help me|
|People won’t like me||While not everyone will like me, most people will, and I am OK either way|
Turning up the volume on our inner nurturer is not a one and done. You have strengthened the neuro pathways of your inner critic for years. It will take time to weaken them, so they are not your automatic response. And you’ve been ignoring your inner nurturer for the same number of years. Just like going to the gym, it will take lots of reps to build up the strength.