We’ve all got those voices in our heads that speak to us in not the nicest of tones. Those voices are our inner critics. They try to keep us safe, but not in the best of ways. These are usually the internalized voices of our primary caregivers from early childhood.
NOTE: If your primary caregiver abused or neglected you and this exercise feels too intense, you may want to skip it.
If you’re ready to take the wheel of your life and lay off that overworked critic (with severance and proper acknowledgement, of course), grab a writing utensil and a journal.
Pick a behavior you would like to change. For example, “I want to exercise more,” or “I want to eat healthier foods.”
Now, write yourself a letter from the perspective of your inner critic. Let him or her really let you know how they feel about this behavior.
Notice the tone, language and overall feel of how the critic speaks to you. How does it make you feel? Does it actually inspire you to want to change, or does it simply make you cringe with guilt or shame?
Next, write yourself a letter about this issue from your innermost compassionate voice. Write to yourself like you’re writing to a dear friend.
Observe how different it is to receive input on this issue from a voice of compassion versus one of criticism. Which inspires you more? Which most moves you to make a healthy change?
Write your inner critic’s termination letter. Acknowledge all the years of hard work your critic has put in, and also acknowledge that this form of “pushing” doesn’t work for you when it comes to making real change and embodying your healthiest, happiest self. Assure your inner critic that you can take it from here, and send her/him on her/his way.
What you think changes your brain. If you talk to yourself with gentleness and compassion and you take a couple of moments to savor the good feelings your compassionate voice brings up in you, that positive mental state rewires your brain. It is a simple practice with profound results.
Give it a try!