How to soothe that harsh inner voice
When I asked a friend if she knows her inner critic she looked at me strangely. “Who doesn’t?” she answered.
You know what I mean: the voice inside your head that warns you, calls you out, berates you. The voice that tells you not to try this new thing because you will lose family and friends, or don’t do this because you aren’t talented, educated or ‘whatever’ enough. Or, even more sneaky, whenever you want to do something you haven’t done before, you get incredibly tired.
My inner critic hasn’t always been persistent. As long as I followed a path outlined by somebody else, it didn’t speak too loudly or maybe I was so numb I didn’t listen. When it does speak up I know I have to march on no matter what. And often I don’t want to because I’m afraid. Working with coaches and healers can help quiet the voice, yet at some point you can only walk for yourself. Find your own way, carve your groove and stick with it.
My inner critic likes to tell me old stories about myself. Old stuff that can still pull my attention elsewhere. Old stuff that wastes my precious energy.
When I talk to clients, sometimes it’s not the here-and-now grown-up I’m talking to, instead it’s a version of them stuck in an old identity. We’re not always aware that the way we show up in the world is shaped by our unhealed wounds.
I don’t know about you but when I hear “You have to forgive the other person so that you can move on,” it makes me want to gag. As if forgiveness is something you can just ‘do’. It’s my experience that forgiveness only happens on its own, when you are ready.
True forgiveness comes from the heart. And underneath forgiving somebody else lies forgiving yourself, being gentle with yourself. It isn’t something you can will your heart to do. You need to forgive yourself first – for behaving a certain way, for trying to be perfect, for not knowing enough.
And there’s another layer to it. Shame. We have such a hard time forgiving ourselves because we feel shame for not respecting ourselves enough. I encourage you to dig that deep.
It all sounds good and clear. The question remains: How do you apply this? How do you translate a sensible idea into an action?
My brain seems to be wired to invent exercises to help with this kind of thing. First I test them on myself and later with friends and clients. I’ve been working on this exercise to help soften our harsh inner voices. You can also call it Self-love.
Dig out a few photos from your childhood – three to five pictures where you can be seen as a child, preferably a little child. When we judge and belittle ourselves we use the standards and language we would apply to a grown-up. A little child is so much more innocent, vulnerable and pure. Yes, you have been a child like that.
Sit with your pictures in front of you, look at them closely, and listen to the following guided meditation. See how you feel. It’s not uncommon to shed some tears or get choked up. Repeat it again and again, day after day. Slowly but surely you’ll notice a subtle shift. You start to treat yourself different, better. You become soft and you are ok with it. Give it a try 🙂
Btw, the picture shows Fritz my cat. He is one of the most confident beings I know. He doesn’t take s**t from anyone and reinforces his boundandaries again and again, gentle or not so much depending on your willingness to listen to him.