An Experiment in Quieting My Inner Critic
A curious thing happened when I tried befriending myself: Just by increasing my awareness of my inner critic, it quieted down considerably. But, like Statler and Waldorf, the obnoxious critics from the Muppets, the voice was still there with plenty of snarky comments. Here are a few examples from my experiment.
Example 1: “Every night you plan what you’re going to do the next day and who you’re going to call but you never get it done. What a failure.”
This thought came late at night and, though I tried mightily, I couldn’t get myself out of the negative loop, so I asked my husband to walk me through it. Having him say “And what would you say to a friend who said that?” was somehow all it took for me to shift perspective. I said, out loud, “You squeeze everything that’s possible out of every good moment. You don’t get as much done as others because you are sick, but, man, do you appreciate the good times.”
Example 2: I told someone about a gift I wanted to make as a Christmas present, then added in my mind, “If I get off my butt and get it made.”
The loop on this one was shorter than in the previous example, but it went on for few minutes before I got out of it. Then I was able to tell myself, “You are not choosing to be lazy instead of making gifts. The times you’re ‘on you’re butt’ are when you’re too sick to do anything else.
Example 3: “You don’t have a migraine right now. Why are you lying on the couch reading? You should be doing something, like writing or cleaning the kitchen.”
Very quickly, I was able to change this thought to “You may not have a migraine right now, but you’ve had one for the past five days. You’re still worn out and exhausted. It takes time to recover from a migraine like that. Rest. Take care of yourself.”
Because I knew I’d be writing about them, I sent myself an email describing each of these instances. That helped me remove myself from the situation and think through both the initial thought and response. I recommend this even if you’re not writing a blog post about — I think it cemented the kind response in my mind.
Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets aren’t just a writing metaphor — I actually imagine their faces on my inner voice. Knowing how much they love to hear themselves talk helped me recognize the criticism as an unhelpful complaint, not a legitimate problem.
Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to get the hang of reframing your negative self-talk. Like with any new behavior, it takes practice before becoming a habit. How’d your experiment with befriending yourself go?