Most of us would likely agree that we are not literally our beliefs or our experiences. For example, I may say “I am hungry,” or “I’m mad at the guy at the coffee shop for getting my order wrong.” If that were true, in that moment when I say “I AM” I become these things. I AM hunger. I AM anger. That’s why learning how to talk back to your critical monster and change your state is an important part of our overall health and well-being.
States and Traits
But I am not actually these things. Instead, I’m simply experiencing an emotion that comes and goes. This is what is called a “state,” which is a temporary behavior or feeling. We do this all the time, moving from one emotion to another as we go through our day. Some we take in more deeply than others, but in general, few of them stick.
However, when we start to identify with the things our critical self tells us, this could be dangerous. Why? If you start identify with (and believe) those things, we may actually start to believe them. Phrases like “I am depressed,” “I am mean,” or “I am no good at….” can all too quickly become the reality, driven there by our critical monster.
Those things our critical monsters put into our heads can not only become our realities, they can also have long-lasting consequences. We can begin to really believe it and then this state, which was once a fleeting feeling, is now a semi-permanent state and a character trait.
How to Talk Back to Your Critical Monster and Change Your State
So, how to talk back to your critical monster and change your state? Believe it or not, it’s not all that difficult. Start with a simple journaling exercise. This exercise can help you to begin to work through the lies your critical self tells you. With this kind of exercise, you’re not writing in order to be read by anyone; it’s solely for your benefit. Ready to start? Here’s all you need to do:
- Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed
- Grab a piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the center
- Here’s a worksheet you can print out if you prefer, I call it my Inner Critic Worksheet
On the left side of the paper, write down all of the things your inner critic says about you. Use a voice that is in second-person, as though someone is observing you.
Use the phrases below as examples for what you might say, but fit them to what YOUR inner critic has to say. Don’t be shy—let it out!
- You suck at playing guitar
- You’re so aggressive
- You can’t do anything right!
Now, take a couple of deep, slow, breaths and on the right side of your paper, write responses to your inner critic in first person.
- I am learning to play guitar
- I am assertive, not aggressive
- I do many things right, and I don’t have to beat myself up for the things I have to learn to do better
How Do You Feel?
When you’ve finished with the journaling exercise, read over what you’ve written. How do you feel? Do you see a pattern in how your inner critic works? How could you be kinder to yourself in these situations?
This process can be a lot harder than you might imagine. Our inner critic really is a monster, and it can be difficult to stand up to that bully and find and have compassion for ourselves.
If we can be kind to ourselves, we can talk back to our inner critic and change our state. We can guide ourselves away from self-judgment and negativity bias. We can reduce the negativity and self-limiting beliefs that are hindering our ability to grow and develop.
When we practice self-compassion, we can find that we are stronger and more confident, maybe because we trust ourselves more—we’ve got our own backs. And the most important thing about this exercise is this: This is an exercise that you might well have to do over and over and over again. But I can promise you that if you keep at it, you’ll see that it really does work when it comes to learning how to talk back to your critical monster and change your state.
What has your experience been when your inner critic surfaces? Do you have any tried and true tips that have helped you? If so, I’d love to hear about them.
- Feeling Stuck in Overwhelm Mode — I’ve Got You [Retreat] - March 27, 2019
- How to Talk Back to Your Critical Monster and Change Your State - October 23, 2018