Do you have a mean inner critic who convinces you you’re doing things wrong and says the kinds of things to you that you’d never say to anyone else? If so, you’re not alone. And today, we’re going to talk about how to deal with the inner critic most of us have in our heads, and I’m going to show you why that critical voice doesn’t have to be a problem and how to think about it in a different way and change your experience of it for good.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 38, Dealing with an Inner Critic.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief to grow, evolve, and create a future you can actually look forward to. Here’s your host, certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of the podcast. So, a little update, if you don’t get emails from me, I’ve started just being a little more open and honest about what’s going on in my life and trying to also be a little bit more encouraging and available to the people on my email list.
So, if you haven’t subscribed to my email list, you can go to coachingwithkrista.com and do it there. But if you have, you may have already heard this, and that’s fine because I record the podcast a little bit in advance of when I actually send it out, when it airs and shows up on the podcast app that you’re listening to it on. But I wanted to tell you what’s going on in my life.
So, I’ve been widowed now for three and a half years. And for the last few months, dating has been coming in and out of my mind; not too seriously. It just kind of floats in a little bit, and then it would just kind of float back out. And I haven’t really taken any efforts to date. I haven’t talked to anybody about it or done anything about it or made it known that I would even be interested in dating. Short of just occasionally having someone catch my eye, I really haven’t done anything about it.
But this past week, I decided, it’s time. Now, who knows what will happen. I honestly love my life as a single/widowed woman. I really do love being with myself. I love being with my kids. I love hanging out with my dog. And I don’t feel like I need anybody to make me complete.
But I do like being in a relationship. And at some point, I would like to be in another one. So, I did a little research on some online dating apps. Maybe you have some opinions or wisdom that is different than mine. But what I learned, for those of you who are interested and at this stage – and it’s totally okay if you’re not. Some of you are long past this stage. You’ve already remarried or maybe been widowed again.
But if you’re interested, what I determined, quickly I will tell you, is the apps that I’m trying or have tried are Hinge and Bumble. And Hinge has a reputation. Its branding is that it’s the app that was designed to be deleted. Bumble I liked because the woman has to make the first move, assuming that it’s a male-female relationship. If it’s a same-sex relationship then I think anybody can make the first move. But for me, it gives me the ability to make the first move and not have people popping into my DM and messaging me that I’m not interested in.
So, lots of nerves as I was doing this, you guys, like kind of unexpected nerves. I don’t really think I thought it was going to feel as risky as it felt, so it kind of caught me off-guard a little bit. But I practiced what I preach and I felt my feelings and I created a couple of online profiles and actually started having conversations with men, which is strange, I have to tell you.
So I think one of the interesting things I’ve noticed about podcasting and about being a coach and talking to a lot of widows is that, when I get on the phone with people or they meet me for the first time, or even sometimes I think after we’ve been coaching for a while, they tend to think that maybe I’m not human or something. Like, I don’t have feelings or I’m at a point where I’m beyond negative emotion or, I don’t know, they kind of tend to put me on a pedestal a little bit.
And I just want to assure you, that is not true. It is not what coaching is about either. I still have all the same humanness that everybody else does. What coaching does is it just helps you navigate your messy humanness better and helps you navigate all of those emotions better. It doesn’t take them away. It doesn’t make you a robot and it doesn’t make me somehow immune to being nervous or uncomfortable.
I feel all those things too. The difference is now I just know how to deal with them. I know what to do with those emotions when they show up in my life and how to coach myself.
So, anyway, I will keep you posted on the online dating experience. I anticipate some conversations this weekend. I’m recording this on a Friday evening. And yeah, it’s interesting out there so far, so I’ll let you know what I learn. And if I can share any tips with you and be of help to you as I navigate this for myself, then I’m absolutely going to do it.
And all of that to say, just because I’m dating or intending to date, doesn’t mean that anybody else has to, right? This may not be where you are, and that is completely okay. And it may not be where you ever choose to be. You may choose that you don’t want to be in another relationship ever and that is not right, wrong, good, or bad. It is a choice that you get to make because you’re the boss of your own life and I fully support you. So please don’t hear me say that because I’m ow interested in online dating that that is a requirement for anyone, aright.
Okay, so before we jump into the podcast, I want to read a listener review. And it came from someone – it’s always interesting, the names – Acram… So, I think April is her name and she wrote, “I’ve only listened to a couple of episodes but I’m really enjoying listening and relating to much of what she talks about. I’ve been widowed five months.”
So, April, thank you for taking time to write that review. I appreciate the five stars. And more than anything, I just want you to know that I see you because we all need to be seen. That’s something that we all want. And so, I really do take all of the emails that you send me, all of the reviews that you take the time to write, I take those to heart. I appreciate them. And I see all of you.
Alright, let’s talk about how to deal with an inner critic. I have basically three things that I want to teach you about dealing with an inner critic. I love teaching you things in three because I think three is easy to remember. So, we’re going to go with three again.
So, the thing about an inner critic, first, is that most of us aren’t aware that our inner critic isn’t us. And that’s really problematic. We just tend to believe the things that our inner critic says to us. It’s been yapping at us for so long that we don’t know often that what it says isn’t true. We hear the insults and the limitations and the jabs and the, “You should have done it better. You should have done it differently. You’ll never be able to do it. who do you think you are? I told you so. What makes you think this time would be different?”
Those kinds of things, anything that sounds critical, anything that you wouldn’t say to a friend, when we hear those things and we just think they’re true, we just think we’re making observations about who we are, that’s when the inner critic is so problematic because, when we think it’s us, we can’t distinguish what it offers us versus what we could believe about ourselves.
So, the first thing you need to know about how to deal with an inner critic is that you need to become aware that you have one. You need to be able to understand the voice that that inner critic speaks in and how it is different from how you speak, right?
And most of us have a version of that critical inner voice. And who even knows where it came from? It doesn’t even matter, honestly. We could spend a lot of time talking about why it’s there and what happened in your past and all of that. But I think it’s so much less relevant and less useful for you in the moment than just noticing that you have one.
I really like the idea of thinking of our inner critic like a roommate, which is a concept I learned from Michael Singer, and he wrote a book called The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself. I just loved this book. I Audibled it and I’m going to listen to it multiple times. I just loved it.
But one of the things he says in that book – and I’m going to quote him – he says, “There’s nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind. You are the one who hears it.” I want you to think about that. I’m going to read it again. “There’s nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind. You are the one who hears it.”
So, what he’s saying there is that the you that is you, the you-est of you, the true you, the you that isn’t your body, the you that isn’t your brain, the you that isn’t your mind, the essence of you, the you that exists after death, whatever your beliefs are, that is you. But then there’s the mind and the voice of the mind. And that is not you. That is words. That is patterns. That is habits. That is neural pathways. That is unconscious thinking. That is who knows where it came from and a whole lot of often not-usefulness put on repeat in our brain, which if we don’t question, we think is us.
But it is not. You are not the voice of the mind. You are the one who hears it. And what he also teaches is to kind of consider that inner voice like a roommate, which I love. It’s like a roommate that you can’t actually kick out of your brain. It’s a roommate that you can’t actually kick out of your house. It’s just there.
And so, if you can just decide that you have this roommate and it’s not a problem for the roommate to be there and you can recognize when it’s the roommate talking versus when it’s you, you will have created awareness of your inner critic and you will be able to separate the you that is you from that critical voice, and that is the first step. That is awareness.
Sometimes, a question that I get related to this is, “How do I tell the difference between an inner critic and my inner wisdom? What if the part of me that is wise is the same as the part of me that is the critic? Is there a difference? How do I tell?”
And so, what I want to offer to you is that yes, there absolutely is a difference between your inner critic and your inner wisdom. An inner critic will sound urgent to you. The volume will be louder.
It’s different for different people. Sometimes people actually do hear a voice in their head. That doesn’t mean you’re crazy, but some people’s inner narrative actually sounds like a voice, and some people don’t have it sound like a voice, it’s more like a thought.
But regardless, the volume and the urgency of an inner critic will be louder, faster, more pressing. It will seem more serious. It will kind of speak in a way that demands your attention and is harsh, versus inner wisdom, which is slow and soft and calm.
And if you give this some thought and you play around with it, you will notice – chances are good you will notice – that you hear the inner critic differently but also you feel the inner critic differently in your body. It’s a different experience than when you are tapping into that inner wise part of you. So, it’s very harsh and loud and urgent versus slow and calm and soft and wise.
So, again, first we need to develop our awareness. We need to understand that the critical voice, all of those kind of nasty judgments, things we would never say to other people but yet we hear them in our own mind, we need to become aware that that isn’t who we are. That’s just a voice in our head. That is our inner critic, our roommate. And there is a difference between our inner critic and our inner wisdom.
And then secondly, I think it’s super useful to, instead of going to war with your inner critic, instead of developing an adversarial relationship with it, to assume positive intent from your inner critic, to kind of meet it with compassion and meet it with curiosity in a voice that sounds like, “What’s going on? What’s bothering you?” Like you would talk to a small child.
If you see a small child throwing a tantrum, upset about something, you would probably ask them what’s going on so that you could better understand. You wouldn’t shut them out or be mean to them. You would just be curious. You would be compassionate. You would be interested.
And I think that’s so much more useful to respond to an inner critic with compassion and the assumption that it is attempting in some way to keep us safe. It has a positive intent.
Maybe it is just part of your past experience that associates a particular risk with rejection and it’s trying to prevent you from taking risks so that you don’t feel rejected again. It’s trying to prevent you from setting that new goal so that you won’t be disappointed. And it comes across in a very critical manner.
Maybe it’s the voice of someone in your life. I almost titled this episode, “Your Inner Mean Girl,” but I decided against that because, for many of you, the inner critic doesn’t sound like a female. It sounds like a male.
Maybe it’s the voice of your father. Maybe it’s your grandfather. Maybe it’s a teacher. Maybe it’s your mother. I don’t know. But I want you to think about what is this voice, assume that it intends positive intent, that it’s trying to keep you safe. And give it, so that you can recognize it, a little bit of a character. Like, what is it like? Who is it? That will help you recognize it. you can even name it if you like.
A coach friend of mine, we were talking about her inner critic over dinner a few months ago and we decided that her inner critic, she’s kind of like – do you remember Mike Myers’ character on Saturday Night Live when he would do Coffee Talk. He was doing the Barbra Streisand kind of New York accent?
So, her inner critic was kind of like that character but combined – it was like a chain-smoker and very negative but had that kind of accent and that kind of persona and it would just sit there on her couch and chain-smoke and criticize her and tell her how she’s never going to achieve her dreams and she shouldn’t try again and, you know, “I told you that wouldn’t work out,” and all those things.
And she could just picture what her inner critic looked like she gave her a name. I don’t remember what it was. But she could see that. And it’s so valuable to do something like that because it helps you in the moment go, “Oh, that’s just Nancy…” or whatever. “We love Nancy, right? That’s just what Nancy does. She sits on the couch and she smokes cigarettes and she tells me that I’m messing up my life. It’s fine. She’s just trying to keep me safe. She just thinks that her way is the right way and that if would just follow her instructions…” It’s like a well-intentioned aunt, you know.
So, become aware, notice the difference between your inner critic, your inner wisdom, decide to assume that your inner critic means well, and meet it with compassion instead of developing an adversarial relationship with it. and if it’s helpful to you, give it a character. What is it like? Consider giving it a name so that when it shows up in your head, you recognize it as not you.
And then thirdly, once you notice your inner critic, I want you to make a conscious choice of how you want to respond. I want you to not limit your possibility, your beliefs, your thoughts, your dreams, your goals by what your inner critic tells you that you can and can’t do. I want you to make a conscious choice.
You don’t have to have the inner critic leave your mind. The roommate doesn’t have to leave the house. You can actually take it with you wherever you do. You can imagine, it’s like in the car with you, it’s along for the ride, but we’re just not going to let it drive.
We’re going to take the keys back and we’re going to drive our own car, our own life. We’re going to make our own decisions consciously. And so, that dialogue with your inner critic might sound something like, “Okay, I hear you, you’re trying to keep me safe. There’s a part of you that thinks that what I’m about to do is a very bad idea. I know you just don’t want me to be hurt. But it’s okay, I’ve got this. I’m going to do it this way. We’re going to be alright. Don’t worry. It’s fine.”
You can peacefully coexist with your inner critic, that roommate. You can let it be there and you can still not let it interfere with your life. It doesn’t have to hold you back. It doesn’t have to define any decisions that you make. It doesn’t have to steer you in any direction. It doesn’t have to limit you in any direction. You’re the driver of this life and you get to make your choices and you don’t have to listen to that inner critic.
So, in summary, awareness, notice that it is not you. The voice in your mind is not you. Your inner critic is harsh and loud. Your inner wisdom is soft and gentle. When you notice your inner critic, assume positive intent meet it with compassion. And then once you notice that your inner critic is there, just make a conscious choice of how you want to respond. You get to drive the car, alright?
I love you. I hope you have an amazing week. And hey, as always, I love doing this podcast for free. But what I love even more is being able to help widowed moms truly transform their lives and create lives that they actually love. And I do that through coaching.
So, I invite you, if you’re at all curios and you’re thinking that coaching might be a good fit for you, to go to coachingwithkrista.com and click on request a consultation. I do a few free coaching sessions each week – not very many and they go kind of fast – but click on there. And if it’s for you, we’ll get it figured out. We’ll hop on the phone and I’ll see if I can help you, alright?
Okay, everybody, have an amazing week. I love you. Once again, you’ve got this and I’ll see you next week. Take care, bye-bye.
Ready to start building a future you can actually look forward to? Get a free copy of Krista’s Love Your Life Again Game Plan, and learn her three-step process so you can stop feeling stuck and start creating your next great chapter. No matter what you’ve been through, your past does not have to define what’s possible in your future.
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