This is what I wrote to my inner critic after I completed a particularly challenging mindful self compassion class during training in 2020. Since then, I've written a lot more to her.
As we grow up, most of us develop critical parts inside of us who like to tell us we ‘should’ be doing better. For some of us these parts result in chronic feelings of shame or debilitating patterns of self doubt. For others they’re a tape being played quietly in the back ground that gets turned up whenever we try to step outside our comfort zone.
For so long I found it exhausting trying to please and battle with these parts of myself.
When I started to work with mindful self compassion, I began to relate differently to the critical parts of me.
I learned they had developed to try to protect me from being hurt. The critical parts thought that if they were hard on me they could keep me safe.
We all have a different relationship to using self criticism to protect ourselves from pain. Critical parts develop for a good reason: to help us survive, keep us safe from physical harm, loss, failure, rejection, embarrassment, loneliness, disconnection.
Sometimes we need to stay in comfort. Sometimes we need to stay safe. But if we are taking a leap towards our goals or showing up differently, the critic can get in the way of our courage and vulnerability.
These days, when I’m leaving my comfort zone I notice the critic kick into high gear. This is natural. I try to practice meeting the critic with kindness, acknowledging its fears and appreciating how hard its worked to keep me safe.
Then, I ask if it’s ready to rest so that I can take over and do what I need to do or give myself care.
Sometimes the critic is ready to rest and sometimes it isn’t, but at least we have a conversation. It’s kind of like an acting exercise where I get to play all the parts
This is a self portrait I took to remember the moment I first connected with my critic in this way. Through writing to it from a compassionate and understanding place.
If you’re struggling with taking the next step, if you feel plagued by self doubt or critical thoughts that are keeping you stuck, you are not alone. I hope this helps. Feel free to reach out if you want support finding new ways to move forward.
I believe in you,