How to work with your inner critic

This last weekend I wrapped up the first edition of my Find Your Flavour – Circling Facilitation Training. It was a beautiful weekend, rounding off 4 months of training together, and for me it was the first time leading a last weekend like this. The content was not unfamiliar to me, but it was the first time I led it in this specific context. It was a new experience, and there it was: my inner critic.

A ‘friend’ I had not seen (or more specifically heard) for a long time. I remember when this voice would come around all the time, when I was in the business of stretching myself quite a lot into new experiences at a high rate. I have calmed down a bit over the years, and learned that nervous systems take time to integrate and that fast does not actually mean progressing – or learning – faster. Big lesson. But I digress.

My inner critic. It was strong: the “you have to do this right”, “you should offer value”, “you should give them an amazing experience”, and it took me aback a bit. It was uncomfortable. It took me a little while to notice those whispers where running the show, and then I brought it in – as this training is all about showing up fully in your leadership.

What I definitely got was: when I was identified with this voice, I was not present to the people in front of me.

My inner critic used to be a very strong presence in my life, leading me to never actually be present to the circumstances and people I interacted with. I feel sad writing that. And it also felt like a necessary step in my evolution, to be so confronted with this voice and these beliefs.

So at some point I started investigating: what is this all about? And I figured out a few things:

● Sentences that start with ‘you should’ are not to be trusted;
● That voice in my head is a collection of things I gathered over my life time that I think I should do better in order to be loved. It is like my personal ‘how-to’ list. Yet I also figured out it was not actually getting me that – like somewhat outdated information;
● My inner critic can only assess a situation based on past experiences. Hence new, potentially challenging experiences trigger it – because that is unfamiliar territory. Cue freak out. So every time I step out of my comfort zone (like this weekend) this buddy will show up.
● I say buddy because that leads me to the last thing: this voice actually wants the best for me and wants to keep me safe. When I inquire into what it wants I always gets answers along these lines.

So: a collection of past data plus interpretations that actually wants to keep me safe and not get hurt. That is how I view my inner critic.

And when I venture out into new territory, this voice gets activated, as it is new territory.  In other words unfamiliar, where no data has been collected yet.

Whenever I get to that realisation I soften. I always resist at first (because I feel uncomfortable). When I inevitably realise that does not work I start relating to that voice. Ask it what it wants. Acknowledge its effort, thank it for its care (on a good day) and try my best to include it in my experience.

Because everything I fight gets louder. And I honestly believe that all parts of you, including your inner critic, simply want to be heard, seen, acknowledged. That does not mean you have to actually act on what it says, but acknowledge that it is being said.

That is how I work with my inner critic.


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Coach, trainer & lover of all things human and relational. Supporting you in finding a deeper connection to yourself & others, so you can truly lead, wherever you are.

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