We all recognize the little but strong voice within that stops us from aiming for the stars, or is constantly reminding us how many times we’ve failed or didn’t go through till the end with something we really wanted to do.
What is the Critical Voice?
Maybe we didn’t even start yet and these reminders, like red light bulbs, got turned on exactly when we were so enthusiastic about something that we would love to try and we stop even dreaming of it because: “Anyway, we are not good enough”, “We need to learn more”, “Someone else does it better for sure…” – This is what we call the critical voice.
The Critical Voice is a strong part inside us that we started identifying with, and believing in, at some point during childhood, or as young teenager. It is a consequence of what we were told, by a parent, family member, teacher, friend or someone we admired. From that moment on our self trust was never the same. Perhaps we started to be to hard on ourselves, and comparing ourselves to others. While doing that, we stopped seeing all the amazing, strong and shiny parts in ourselves.
Few questions to think about
- How can we strive when we do not even notice our own strengths?
- When and why do we take them for granted?
- Why do we think that our skills, are not a „big deal”?
Chances are that we are not even using our strengths and skills at their greatest potential, and by not doing that we reinforce the Critical Voice and it’s message.
My own, personal lesson
From my own life I noticed, how much easier it is to notice my flaws and harder to notice and appreciate the my fortes. There are times when I still do that. Times like this show me that I am a work in progress.
I remember shrugging my shoulders, and saying “yeah.. but this just comes naturally. It’s not a big deal.” To me, for a long time what mattered and took precedence were all the things I felt I was not good enough in.
My focus centered on all the things I sucked at. I did not recognize my strengths. In doing so, all I did was reinforce that Critical Voice, and proving to myself “I am not good enough”. This stopped me for a long time from following a path that till today is deeply meaningful to me.
The upside and downside of aiming for perfection
Usually, what most of us do, is setting the highest standards for a project, how a day should go, how we want to be perceived. Then the critical voice comes creeping in. You know that little devilish voice on our shoulder reminding us of alllll the things we didn’t achieve today, how many things we should have been better at, how imperfect we really are.
The Critical Voice can be so convincing, that in a blink of an eye we can forget all the things we did accomplish, what we did get right. Most importantly what did we learn today that we can build on tomorrow.
Believing in the Critical Voice is a guaranteed recipe for continuously disappointing and being unsatisfied with ourselves.
Is this really what is helping us get better?
Have you ever met someone who runs their day that perfectly and efficiently?
Are they happy and thriving?
We don’t need to be perfect to be happy, fulfilled and financially successful. Striving to be better than yesterday might be the better way to move forward.
Our Critical Voice, requires us to be perfect to ourselves and others. But what does it mean to be perfect? Who decides when something is perfect? When do we reach it, and then what happens? Where do we go from there?
I remember hearing this phrase in an interview:
“Perfection – demand it of yourself and you will always be unsatisfied… demanded it of others and you will always be disappointed.”
I found so much truth in it, and it made me rethink this „perfection” thing, that in one way or another we all aim to achieve in some areas of our lives.
This critical voice impacts every part of our lives, it is a part of us that will never just disappear at the move of the magic wand. However, when transformed, can be a part of us that we can lean on for information, if we take that decision to transform it into an ally.
Determine the difference between the Critical voice and Helping voice
How do we do that? … Well, it’s kind of an intuitive process…
The Helping voice is one that gives us information on how we can do better, without beating ourselves up. Is the voice that is giving us the good information, in a gentle, caring, forgiving and uplifting way. That tells us: Hey, this is a thing that needs more attention, and a bit of change. Or Let’s look at this from another angle, what we’ve been doing till now could get a bit better.
The Critical voice is the voice that is completely in our heads, and when we tune into it, we get that heavy feeling, in our bodies. This is that voice that pulls us down, that talks really fast, and is so very convincing. Usually when we hear it, makes us feel kind of crappy. And with every reason, because it’s been a strong part of us since a very long time, and the moment it turns on, it triggers all the times we did not feel good or worthy enough.
And we are reinforcing the things that we heard as children, the things that were less encouraging. Some of us can relate to: „You can never be as good as…” , „You will never be good, smart, lucky enough to…” , „Only the priviledged can achieve that, stop dreaming”
In terms of feeling the difference between the Critical Voice and the Helping Voice in our bodies I have a small tip, that if we pay attention to feel it, and it will become familiar:
Our bodies talk to us in the most magnifincent ways, all we need to do is close our eyes and listen. The Critical voice has the tendency to be very heady – we hear that in our heads, like a heavy cloud out of which all the words keep pouring.
The Helping Voice (intuition) tends to come from lower down whether from the heart or the gut, and it gives us a very light feeling.
So, when the Critical Voice starts running the show, play with it. Just take a deep breath and move your attention down into the heart and into the gut and ask the Helping Voice: “What does thinking look like from here? Show me the best way for me now.” Give me whatever message I need to know now but give it to me from my heart or my gut.”
What comes up? You might actually hear similar things. You might hear, “You’re actually spending a little too much time on social media so why don’t you recognize what it’s doing for you, maybe see if you set some limits for yourself and you just check in once a day to be practical about it and not be checking in every hour.”
Or if you’re working on a project you might say, “It’s kind of important to focus now,” so maybe put on some great music and set a goal for yourself and focus. The quality of information you are getting is different.
Really discover the Critical Voice
The easiest way to determine the Critical Voice is to look at the beliefs that you have about yourself. One very easy way to find that out is to say out loud, “I am…” and then you fill in the blank. You fill in the blank – remember, now we’re focusing on the negative, the truth, to be aware of it, and to clear it. So you can say: “I am lazy. I am not smart enough. I am not hard-working enough. I am not worthy. I do not have enough experience to even try this.”
After writing this sentence down, tune into your emotion and write down „How does this make you feel? When you believe this sentence” – It may make you feel angry, disappointed, sad.
Learn how to tame it, transform it and use it as a support
When we are in particular project or relationship and the Critical Voice surfaces it is an amazing opportunity to start taming it. This is when the tapping exercises come in, and when we can discover what we believe about ourselves.
At the end of the article you will find a helping practice, in which we go through the 3 steps and learn how to tame the Critical Voice.
Few more thoughts
I want to emphasize how important it is, in this journey to be patient and gentle with Yourself. We have been through so much, each of us in our own way, on our journey and we came to believe so many untrue words that lead us to be separate from our true selves. It takes courage and commitment to start un-learning everything that it is not serving us. So Thank you for being so brave and taking this step!
Calming our inner critical voice
Practice time, on average:
In which cases, how often and to whom I recommend this practice:
– If you criticize yourself and others frequently
– If you are criticized often and you are replaying the criticism over and over again in
– If you lack self-confidence to take important steps, because you talk yourself out of
– If you feel that you have a negative thinking about yourself, life and others