Awareness & the Self-Critical Voice

As part of the launch of the Embodied Creative website, I encouraged your questions. The first one I received is a juicy one, so I wanted to spend some writing time on it in the hopes that it speaks to many of you as well. Here it is:

How can one minimize or eliminate the self-critical self?

Such a good question. Such a place of grappling, for both writers and non-writers.

The Self-Critical VoiceI’ve often found that the self-critical voice appears as I’m expanding my repertoire. Deciding to claim some new territory, new ground. As if the critical voice is saying: Oh no, why don’t you just stay small/safe/inside yourself? And then the litany can begin — if you go there, you’ll be ridiculed/be seen as not smart enough/go broke …, etc. It’s never very pretty, where this voice sends me. Or likely, you.

So, I encourage you to try these three steps in confronting that self-critical voice.

1. What is it saying? The first step in grappling with the self-critical voice is to know what it is saying. What do you hear from this voice? What is it actually saying to you? Try to unearth not only the words, but the tone, the demand, the hidden agenda behind the words.

2. Separate yourself from your critical voice. Next you will want to separate yourself from these statements. They are not you. (You are radiant, brilliant, shining, alive.) Let yourself feel how these statements are not you. Let yourself feel who you are separate from what the self-critical voice is telling you.

3. Disown the critical voice. Banish what the self-critical voice is telling you. Do something that makes you feel that you are ridding yourself of this voice. You want to keep your SELF in the process! It’s just the false voices you want to disown. This may require some imagination and some struggle. If your self-critical voice is always saying “you are not enough”, then you might counter it with a statement of your radiance or fullness or even an image of plenty. The self-critical voice is an external, oppressive influence. It is not the life that lives inside of you—it is a voice that lives outside of you, actually. Ask yourself how you can take your support away from the self-critical statement. What is a more generative statement for you to feel your aliveness?

I’m convinced that the self-critical voices don’t simply go away. We have to face them. There are many ways to do this and how you do it really depends on what your self-critical voice is saying. You need to first of all not hide from the self-critical voice, but rather expose it. You can write about it. You can tell a dear friend about it. Keep defining it, elaborating on it, shining a huge light on it. You need to expose it and then stand apart from it. Then ask yourself what you need to match its power with your own. Do you need to fight back? Shout? Argue logically with it? Turn a deaf ear? What would reduce the power of that self-critical voice? Meet that voice with what is powerful and good in you—truthfulness, radiant self-confidence, your smile.

We need to know that we can stop those self-critical voices from taking over. That we do have the power to face them. If we try to ignore them, they only get louder. So find your courage; know what those voices are saying to you (build awareness here); nurture yourself throughout the process; ask for support; confront those voices. And, finally, replace that self-critical voice with a statement of your own making that opens your heart to what your truest self is saying.

(Thanks to Nancy Shanteau and Skills for Change Coaching for helping me to clarify ways to fight the critical voice.)

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