I suppose we all have to deal with that snarky, obnoxious person that always sees what you do wrong. You know the one I mean – You can never be good enough to satisfy that person. They always say mean, cutting remarks about every project. And they know about every project you’re working on. It’s like they can read your mind! Of course they can. It’s you!
That voice in your head, when it’s given a polite name, is called the inner critic. Psychologists say that hurtful experiences allow us to create all these negative attitudes, then we roll them up into a nasty little hairball that causes us all kinds of suffering. Because we believe all the stuff our critic says to us and about us. But we are NOT that inner critic. It’s a wad of reactions to experiences, no more, no less. And just because I reacted a certain way as a child does NOT mean that I have the same reaction as an adult.
I’ve fought that “I’m not good enough” battle for most of my life. Always comparing, always judging. What a pain in the ass! Since I’ve had no success in fighting the critic, I’ve decided to change my approach.
There’s a story I heard somewhere that when Buddhist monks first came to Tibet, that the demons of the native Tibetan religion caused them all kinds of trouble. Tibetan mythology tells that the monks didn’t fight these demons. They enlisted them as guardians of forests and rivers and sacred places. They have become a part of the cosmology of Tibetan Buddhism (if they have a cosmology).
So I told that inner critic of mine that if he wanted me to listen, he is going to have to offer positive comments. AND it will help immensely if the advice came before an action, not some snarky comment after the fact. My role in this is to see transforming the critic’s role as a practice. When a negative comment comes up, I stop and say, “I know you want to help. I’ll listen when you frame that comment in a positive way.” Surprisingly enough, in just a day or two, the cutting nature of the critic’s comments has decreased. So that’s a positive step.
I’m not so naïve as to think 50-some years of “I’m not good enough” will go away quickly or easily. I had an episode of falling into old thought patterns last week. And I may have cost myself a client because of it. If so, it’s a lesson to learn. Today I let that go and start again. And this time I’ll be better at it. As they say,” That’s why they call it practice.”by