“You’re so unattractive.”
“You’ll never get everything done.”
“You’ve blown it, you always do.”
“You’re so stupid.”
As psychologist and mindfulness teacher Rick Hanson explains in his book Resilient, we all have two “voices” inside us. One is nurturing and lifts us up. The other one is critical and weighs us down.
That second one — the inner critic — provides a running commentary on everything we do. It is the part of you that judges you, demeans you, and tells you what you should and shouldn’t do. It tends to go overboard with scolding, shaming, nit-picking, and faultfinding. It lives in a world of absolutes populated by should, always, and never.
Ironically, the inner critic often does all of these things in a distorted attempt to help us and protect us from pain. Once we understand its motivation, it actually is possible for us to tame the inner critic and strengthen our inner nurturer. One way to do this is to build what noted meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg calls “a bridge to a place of kindness and caring.” When you notice the inner critic kicking in, bring to mind one small thing you did or said recently that you feel was kind or good. Or, think of one quality or skill in yourself that you like or appreciate. Recognize and reflect on the one good thing for a few mindful breaths.