Banishing a critic



As part of my mindfulness practice, I try to remain vigilant for my inner critic.  It never ceases to amaze me how critical I can be of myself, regardless of my successes.  The Serenity Prayer has always been an anchor for me,  helping me to sift through the critiques, learning to identify which are worthwhile lessons and which are useless to me and likely untrue.

This week was my father’s birthday. Calling home requires a steeling of my intestinal fortitude. Calling home requires me to be on my “A” game or risk tumbling backwards and losing miles of personal and spiritual growth gained from where  I once came.

From my father, I have inherited my inner critic, it speaks to me in his voice. My father is the source and the trigger for most, if not all of my self-criticism. My relationship with my father has been the source of much strife in my life. But, this critic of mine has also been the source of much of my motivation.

The key to dealing with the inner critic is to listen for the lesson“

If the criticism is true, then it’s helpful feedback that you can use. If it is not true, then it is only a projection and means nothing.”

The key is to determine if the criticism is true or not, This is also the most difficult part.

In her book, The Five Keys to mindful communication, Susan Gillis Chapman teaches us to listen to our bodies to determine if we are in an open or closed state of mind.

Using a similar concept, I started experimenting with this idea by finding deep emotions I could tie to true and false.  Finding a deep meditative state of mind, I concentrated on something I know to be true and paid attention to how that felt in my body, it felt light and airy and comfortable. Next, I repeated something to myself over and over that I knew not be to true. For more impact, I reflected on something emotional, something my ex husband used to blame on me, that was not true. I chose something with emotion tied to it because I wanted to pay attention to how false felt in my body. The “False” Sensation was heavy and it felt funny in the pit of my stomach.

Having concentrated on the delicate differences in the body, I am now armed with valuable information to use when I am attacked by a critic, be they internal or not. Now, when I feel criticized, I am able to focus deeply within and follow the sting of the criticism to the source of its hurt. This allows me to more readily identify if the criticism is true or false. If it is true, there is a lesson in it and recognizing that gives me the power to choose to change it or not. If the critique is false,  it is useless to me and deserves none of my energy, this allows me to let it go.

This excellent technique is useful in so many situations and is an excellent mindfulness exercise. Learning what different emotions feel like inside the body enables me to reframe them. Once I determine if they are useful to me now or just a remnant of the past, I am now more capable of dispositioning them. Once you learn to process your emotions in this way, you can melt barriers before they ever get in your way.

This week, I practiced using this technique with my dad, not 5 minutes into our conversation, he reminded me of a career mistake I made over three years ago. He brings it up every time… This time, rather than jumping on the critic bandwagon, I realized that staying stuck in a mistake I made three years ago was his choice, not mine and I chose not to let his choice bother me this time. What a fantasticly freeing experience.

How do you choose which critiques have a valuable lesson and which ones are just baggage keeping you tied to your past?