Soft skills inner critic

3 Tips for dealing with your inner critic this Christmas

As we head into the festivities, which can be a time of much joy and celebration, it can also be a time of comparisons, pressure, disappointment and loneliness. A time where the critic can revel, if we are not paying attention.

Where might those flash points occur for you? What triggers your judgements: Unmet expectations? It’s not how it’s supposed to be? Certain family members?! You might have to handle comments which reinforce old judgements that you’re working on loosening.

And in those moments, what helps?

Assemble an inner-critic-first-aid box.

It could be some useful thoughts, songs, some kind of reminder to breathe and be kind to yourself. Remember we can’t feel shame and empathy at the same time, so if you notice you’re feeling shame, then see if you can direct your attention to being kind to yourself.

I wanted to share this podcast with you – it’s a conversation with Dr Vivek Murthy talking to Dr Brene Brown about loneliness. And in it (at around 33 mins) he touches on a point I make in the “how to succeed without your inner critic” webinar about success.

He says: “There so many signals coming at people telling them who they need to be and that the definition of success and worth – is driven by your ability to acquire wealth, reputation or power. Those three things have become the gods at whose alters we worship as a society.

But they don’t serve us well. Because in reality, the true definition of worth is more intrinsic – it’s about giving and receiving love. And that does not require wealth or power or reputation. It requires courage…the ability to recognise that we have deep value intrinsically within us. But because society tells us to chase those false gods. That many people end up feeling that they’re not good enough.”

In short: our value is intrinsic, it’s not conditional.

And if we didn’t get that message growing up, then what are we to do? At this point, I’ve found it helpful to turn to poetry, song writing and nature. So I want to share some of the resources, snippets and verses that have resonated with me in the hope they might with you too:

The importance of belonging

Spending time in nature can inspire awe, wonder and reverence. When we think about all the conditions that support our existence – from gravity, the narrow range of the temperatures in which we can survive to the right mix of oxygen in the air, it’s really amazing. And it paves the way for us to recognise that we are part of nature, we are woven into this ecosystem, we depend on it and we belong here. I love the line in the desiderate poem (in fact I love the whole poem) which reads:

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here”

And another of my favourite poets,  John O’Donohue writes in his Birthday Blessing:

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother,
Who loved you before you were,
And trusted to call you here
With no idea who you would be.

For me, with this particular way of looking, nature helps us belong.

Accepting what is

We might notice that we don’t judge nature harshly. It’s unlikely that we look at gnarly old oak tree and say: why can’t that be more perfect? More straight, less liney? We don’t want to fix, control, manipulate it.  We can accept as it is. Perfectly imperfect, if you like. And this brings me on to lines in Anthem, the Leonard Cohen song:

“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.” 

Watch out for your festive inner critic by:

  • Swapping expectations for intentions. One of the most powerful ways to stay grounded in any conversation is to set a clear intention ahead of time. Intention is about how we show up and engage, rather than what we want out of a conversation.
  • Anticipating your triggers and think about how the best version of yourself would respond. Which comments might get under your skin? Comparisons on your relationship status, career progression, your children’s behaviour? How might you kindly but clearly respond? What could you say? How will you say it? Who can you model: Michelle Obama?
  • Assemble an inner critic first aid box. It could include a song, a poem, a compliment you’ve written down – something that helps you come back to centre when you’ve been knocked off. You might even have this listed in the notes app of your phone.
  • Spending time in nature. Absorb the support around you, soak in the awe, never lose the wonder!

If you’re interested in changing your relationship with your critic then have a look at the “How to Succeed without your Inner Critic” webinar.

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