Crushing our Inner Critic

This week has been a challenge. Part of my responsibility here at Symmetry Solutions is providing content a handful of times a year to the company blog. I was given the deadline weeks ago, which normally is a great motivator, but in this case, has caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Writing has always been a struggle for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to say…often too much, but putting words down on paper and having to share something insightful with others has a tendency to quite literally paralyze my brain. English was always a difficult subject for me when I was back in school. My freshman year in college, I don’t ever recall a time that my papers didn’t have more red ink with all the mark-ups, annotations, and strikethroughs in comparison to the black ink from my original submission. Positive words and insight seem impossible to flow, yet negative and critical thoughts surrounding the actual act of writing start flooding my mind in overwhelming waves. This internal dialogue begins questioning me and my ability. It questions my experience, my knowledge, my education or lack in all of those areas. It warns me that I’m taking a risk and in doing so, I could fail or mess up or do it all wrong. Yep, this is the battle that is created in my head, with just the idea of having to complete my assignment.

Umm…yeah, pretty dramatic isn’t it? It’s the world of the over-thinker. I’m hoping you can relate.

I’d like to say that this is the only area of my life where negative self-talk comes to life, but it’s not. Any new life changes, experiences or areas of my life that I am looking to improve on or be more confident in, this “inner critic” definitely has a lot to say about it and in the past, it held me back from being willing to try and experience new things.

Luckily, through some research and self-work I have learned that this inner critic is a collection of habitual thought patterns and unconscious programming that has accumulated through outside influences in one’s life experience. These influences can include parents, teachers, leaders, coaches, and even peers. These thought patterns and programing greatly impacts how a person feels, what they believe, what they do or don’t do, whether they are aware of it or not. Our pre-dominant thoughts, create emotions, which in turn, produce reactions or responses, which then affect our behavior and actions with those around us. Quite literally, our inner world shapes our outer world experience. Our thoughts create our world and yet, how often do we take the time to observe them?

Excitingly, through the study and research of neuroscience, it has been found that a person has the power and ability to rewire their brain (through neuroplasticity) and create a more positive and empowering inner dialogue, that in turn can create positive and powerful change in their external world. Through awareness, observation, and consistent practice, this change is completely attainable.

I challenge you to two things this week:

1.) Create an identity for this voice in your head. Is this voice masculine or feminine? Are they young or old? Have fun, get creative, and get as detailed as possible. Then imagine this person every time you notice the thoughts start speaking up.

2.) Notice how you can separate your thoughts and sometimes even shift them by just questioning them.

If you find yourself stuck in a loop of negative thoughts ask these questions:

  • Are my thoughts speaking truth?

  • Is there a different perspective I can look at it from?

  • Am I making up a story based on assumptions?

  • What are some ways I can interpret this?

If you find yourself faced with a problem, instead of asking, “What should I do about it?” ask yourself, “What part of me is disturbed by this situation?”

Take some time to journal any thoughts or insights that come to you in this "assignment" (no worries--no one will be marked up with a red pen ;) ) Allow yourself to objectively observe your thoughts. Take notice of how many negative thoughts you entertain daily and the affect they have on your emotions and actions. This exercise puts us in a state of awareness and awareness is a powerful gateway to choice. Choice then puts us in the driver’s seat of change, showing us we have the power to create something new or stay right where we are if we so choose.

Tami Harris, CLC, LMT, specializes in coaching those who have gone or are currently going through major life transitions or are looking to add purpose and meaning to their life. She provides support and tools to assist them in the process.

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