Making Peace with the Inner Critic
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Photo of me in 2002/Boulder, Co
The first couple of
years I attended Naropa University, this subtle, inner voice started to seep into my world telling me that I wasn’t enough... I wasn’t pretty enough, friendly enough, committed enough, relaxed enough, or active enough. This voice was so stressful and all over the place! The more I started to listen to it, the more criticisms it spoke. It drove me to a state of social anxiety. It was like everyone could hear and see my thoughts. I became extremely sensitive to my fears. And physically ill with symptoms of dizziness... this voice was taking me out of my body!
All I wanted to do was hide. But on the flip side I had put myself in an environment where I was required to show up for myself! The contemplative courses I was taking had me meditating daily and participating weekly in group practices and discussions about my process. You would think that with this practice, my inner critic would subside but it almost seemed to do the opposite.
I was discouraged. All the texts and teachings on compassion, gentleness and honoring myself in the moment was not happening in the way I was expecting. And that was part of the problem. I was placing too much emphasis on the teachings and intentions of the practice OUTSIDE of myself.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” -Joseph Campbell
The daily practice of presence eventually revealed my disassociation from my power all together. Where was my power?? It was underneath the distracting voices of my inner critic.
Was this practice even working? Actually, yes! It was asking me to meet myself exactly where I was... in my anxiety. And it was supporting me in not running away or being distracted by it. When I sat on that cushion and started to notice my breath, thoughts, and feelings swirling all around, I realized that my attempts of escape were all in my head, instigated by this critical voice.
How it Works:
When you sit with yourself for over 20 minutes a day, you wake to these types of realizations not just in concept but also in body. But who seriously has 20 minutes to do this practice especially when you are left to your own vices? When you have the discipline, something amazing starts to happen... there becomes this subtle shift where the inner critic becomes disempowered by your will. It dissolves like the settling of murky water. What’s left is the clarity of emotions that have been the inner critic’s driving force all along, rippling through the surface in the most curious way.
The reality, and this might seem counterintuitive to the antidotes for working with inner critic, is that the various voices of criticism and symptoms are all OKAY. They are our teachers for returning our power through a willingness to meet ourselves where we are at WITHOUT submitting to them. Rather being the observer and just sitting with the space floating around all the muck... this is compassion.