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The critic in your head

** For all those fighting the pandemic, sending strength, hope & God's grace**

Ever felt not good enough whatever you do?

There are voices in your head that keep saying - you “should” and you “must” do a laundry list of things to be eligible to be judged as “good”? And if and only if you do them, you “may” feel you are good enough?

You may have just concluded a complex project well and people are congratulating you. Yet, you feel nothing inside because your inner self critic said - ‘well you must search for the next project…this got done by fluke, may be others contributed more into it than you? You should not miss the next boat?You must….”

‘Should’ & ‘must’ are harmless modal verbs in the English language. However what happens to us when we hear those words in our head is sometimes harmful.

When I was a young manager, I learnt Emotional Intelligence. Every one of the teachers talked to me about “Empathy”. Somehow the onus was on me to be kind to others, to put myself in another person’s shoes, to understand them. I never stopped to question - am I being kind to myself?. “Kind” and “myself” couldn’t go together - it appeared rather selfish. So the funny rule I had was - Kindness is for others, criticism is for me.

Somewhere there was a fear that being kind to myself will make me complacent. So I was firing on all guns at the one person, I needed to have been a lot more kind - myself.

What does one do to be kind to oneself without being complacent?

1. Observe your thoughts: Observe your thoughts when you hear “should” & “must”. The instructions look as if you have a fully formed 'Judiciary' in your head. There is a “Judge” sitting there & you are the accused. Whom you hear criticising you is the judge/inner critic’s voice. Notice closely to this voice in your head. Is it yours or is it the voice of your people who you looked up to? Some people immediately feel relived with this observation.

2. Push the voice away - This may sound funny - but you can push the voice with your hands. Take your palm closer to your ear that you hear the voice & just push the voice away from your ear. You may notice that the volume goes down. If you hear it still in low volume, change the voice to the voice of comic characters like Garfield, Micky Mouse that brings a smile to your face.

3. Get perspective: See the situation for what it is without having to blame anyone:- Blaming someone is the easiest way to by-pass the learning from any situation. Without blaming anyone including yourself, introspect what’s the best learning you have from your situation. Whats the one thing you will do differently next time?

4. Self worth: What we value about ourselves is for us to decide. Let not your self worth be proportional to your external achievements. Let it be on what makes you who you are.

5. Sculpt yourself: Take one step at a time towards being the person who you like to be. You can spend 5 mins or 5 hours. Its left to you. However just take the next step, however small it appears.

The next time the inner critic emerges, give them a bright smile!

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