I have decided to make friends with the Critical Voices in my head. I imagine inviting them all for tea and a round table chat—welcoming them in instead of automatically shutting the door in their faces, which is what my defense-mechanism gut is urging me to do.
I will let them know that I have invited them over to listen to and hear the value in what they have to tell me, observations they may have after years of “hanging around” my life. But that I will also accept these words with conditions. I honor and respect myself enough now to do so.
Historically, these voices have presented themselves in un-helpful ways:
- They speak in black and white; they tend to have no “grey zone.”
- They show up as voices of reason, which can be confusing. But instead of “You’re not ready yet; maybe later.” I am ready to shift their thinking to: “You may not be ready right this moment, but let’s see how we can get you there.”
- They can be repetitive. We know, intuitively, that they are irrational, but their persistency can be deceiving.
- The more we resent these voices, the more they gain power over us. But when we try to form a healthy relationship with them, space opens up; for more kindness, love, compassion and understanding– for ourselves and others (we all have these inner critics).
So, let’s start with an example. It’s a biggie, for me:
My Critic often tells me: “You won’t be able to achieve (or even begin to attempt) this desired dream/goal of yours, until you are physically better. Until then, it’s unrealistic to push forward with this endeavor. It will only be frustrating and create overall, unnecessary distractions in your life.”
I am now going to respond differently to this old introject of fear and negativity:
“I can tell your intention is loving. But the majority of your words are simply untrue. And all they serve by my believing them, is for me to sit and wait for this far off ‘perhaps I’ll be better future.’ Or even more detrimental, they have convinced me to believe that I am not good enough, complete enough, whole enough. Now. As is.”
Then I am going to reframe this original feed-back:
“You have shared some useful information with me. But a more loving and helpful way of speaking it would be …”
“I can see that you have some exciting dreams and desires right now and that your physical limitations have created an impediment to you achieving these goals. So instead of ‘waiting to get well’ I would like to lovingly point out some valuable ways you can achieve your goals: you cannot continue to go this alone. What support, physical and mental, can you access and/or welcome into your life to help you make attainable and doable steps towards your goal? What modifications need to be made to your overall goals so that you can set yourself up for success instead of failure?”
And, here’s the miraculous thing, once I made space for this critical voice in my life, I opened up my heart in new and expansively loving ways. Suddenly I was seeing possibilities instead of roadblocks! And my Inner Judges switched from being critical to critically thinking.
I realize I’ve let this repetitive Critical Voice begin to re-define who I am, and even more so, who I am not (or not capable of being). Constantly telling me what I cannot do, until X, Y and Z happen… until all of my cosmic stars align!
I think we can all relate to this on some level. For we all have Inner Critics. And many have become life-long roommates, hogging up head space since as far back as childhood. Yet, we try to get rid of or ignore these inner voices instead of integrating them.
Kate Swoboda says, “In truth, your Critic is your ‘best friend, with lousy communication skills.’” They are the scared wounded parts of ourselves that deserve compassion instead of distaste.
I, who doesn’t see myself fundamentally as a black and white thinker, had become one. I truly began to embrace these Critic’s voices as my own- as my one true voice- until the point where I thought I was doing myself a service instead of a disservice by listening to and heeding their messages.
They caused me to re-write my story: because my body isn’t currently equipped to truly meet my goals, “reaching for the stars” just isn’t in my current repertoire.
Believing that whole “lower my expectations, so I don’t set myself up for disappointment.” But all this has served is to create disappointment. In life. In my body. In Myself. Leading to resentment.
Yet, what I learned through an amazing workshop called “Your Courageous Purpose,” by Molly K. Larkin is that these critical voices can and do serve a purpose.
Listening to them, welcoming them to my round-table, has opened me up to hearing what’s really going on. How I really feel about the situation; allowing all the big, ugly feelings in first like anger and sadness, before the healing can begin. And then creating some solution-oriented, forward-focused thinking.
So, let’s boil it down to the basics:
- My body has physical limitations.
- I do not know when, or even if, this will ever change.
- Waiting for things to change or “get better” isn’t working. IE: it isn’t serving me or my highest good.
- In the past, when I have reached out to others or openly welcomed their offers of help and support, I have been able to achieve unimaginable goals and dreams, in spite of my physical impediments.
So instead of the “wait and see approach,” wouldn’t it be more beneficial to ask myself some critical questions:
- What do my current goals and dreams look like? Feel like?
- What are some modifications I could make that would allow them to be more manageable? How do they look and feel post-adjustments?
- What are the most important aspects of my dreams (the ones I have the strongest emotional attachments too)? Defining these will help me clarify which parts I can more easily let go of and which ones are the most important for me to hold on to and make work.
- Now that I know the most important parts of my dreams, how can I make them possible now?:
A. What are small, “bite-sized” steps I can take today to move towards these dreams?
B. In what ways can others help me in reaching these goals?: Ways others can help/support in the actual achievement of the goal. Or ways they can support in other areas of my life (cleaning, shopping, etc.) so I have the energy to take small daily steps towards my goals.
When doing this process yourself, stay aware of what additional Judges pop up. Old ones, new ones, old ones in new ways. What are they saying? What do you need to acknowledge in their messages? Is there any useful information hidden in the Critical Voices?
For example, just in the process of writing the above exercise for myself, I heard an old judge begin to persistently whisper:
“You’re being selfish. If you have any physical energy on any given day, it should go towards taking care of your home, to supporting your husband and others. Then, if there is anything ‘left over,’ you can reach for your own dreams.” Which translates to: “Your needs/wants aren’t worthy.”
Obviously, this is a multi-layered process. Where did I put that handy-dandy onion peeler again? The one that removes all layers in one swift motion, with no tears? Ha. If only!
But that’s the gift of removing one layer at a time.
So who are you courageous enough to invite to your round table today? I guarantee the process will pay off in the end. Setting yourself free to live the life you are meant to be. Now, that’s Courageous Living!