Don’t Let Your Inner Critic Hold You Back
We all have our inner critic who tells us that we should know better, that everyone else knows better than we do, that we are not worthy of respect, that we must try harder and work longer than everyone else, that we are useless. It is our inner critic that also puts imaginary words into other peoples’ mouth to support the image that our inner critic has of us.
Some of us pay too much attention to our inner critic and accept its criticisms as the truth.
However, our inner critic’s views are not based in reality. They are thoughts that spring into our mind independent of and usually unrelated to what is happening around us at the time. In themselves these thoughts are not harmful, but when we start to listen to them and accept them as the truth, they will drag us down and prevent us from fulfilling our potential.
Unfortunately, some of us are all too ready to listen to these thoughts and these thoughts start to lead to emotions of sadness and depression and to self-doubt and low self-esteem.
We cannot, nor should we try to, control or stop our thoughts. But, being aware of our thoughts we can examine them and question their truth, this is the essence of mindfulness.
When we start practising mindfulness, we are taught to spend time sitting quietly, focussing on our breath and observing our thoughts as the flit in and out of our consciousness. Some people mistaking think that we are trying to stop our thoughts during this mindful meditation practice, but if anyone tries to stop their thoughts they will end in failure.
It is no more possible to stop thoughts from occurring than it is to stop breathing.
The value of mindful meditation is that it teaches us to accept our thoughts as just thoughts. As we observe our thoughts, we can develop a curiosity about them, we can start to ask ourselves “where did that thought come from?” “how does that thought make me feel?”. By questioning our thoughts we can start to realise that they have an intimate connection with our emotions and that if we dwell on critical thoughts that are constantly nagging at us we will be dragged into a quagmire of negative emotions which will feed the negative thoughts that our inner critic thrives on and gives our inner critic an ever louder voice.
We cannot eradicate our inner critic, it is part of us, but with mindfulness we start to listen to it with objectivity and at the same time we can listen to the positive thoughts that we also have.
Our critical thoughts can be useful in identifying gaps in our knowledge, but rather than telling ourselves that a gap in our knowledge makes us weak and useless, we can find the necessary resources and time to fill these gaps. We can also come to understand that no one person can know everything about everything and so it is quite acceptable to ask for help. It is a sign of strength that we are comfortable to ask for help.
By paying equal attention to or more positive thoughts, our inner support so to speak, we become more aware of our strengths and abilities and so develop our self-worth and self-esteem.
In the early stages of mindfulness practise this will all seem to be a daunting and possibly impossible task, but this is just our inner critic setting us up for failure. As time goes by the observation of thoughts and emotions becomes part of our every day being. And as we stop giving our inner critic so much credence its voice will start to quieten and we can learn to accept that we are good enough, and indeed better and more capable than we thought.