The inner critic: good, bad or useful?

You know that little monkey that sits on your shoulder and always has an opinion about everything? For someone is a little bird. For someone is just a voice that appears out of nowhere, almost unconscious. We all have it. 

The inner critic. 

What does yours look like, sound like and feel like? 

Do you allow her or him to come out and express their opinion? 

What do you think is s/he good, bad or useful? 

I don’t usually wear lipstick, but a few days ago I got inspired by a TV show, “lipstick is the extension of the character…” said one of the main protagonists. So, I decided to treat myself with one. After trying out several different shades of red, I selected the red that is the extension of my character. The store assistant loved it, of course she wanted to make a sale. Surprisingly, I too liked it when I saw myself in the mirror.

The next day I wore it and my colleague immediately commented on it. I showed her the new lipstick, just to notice that the shade of red I chose had a name: DARE YOU! It grabbed my eye and my attention. Is there a message here?

A few days later I went to the mountain hut that belongs to my friend Didi and his family. They run a restaurant. It is the most amazing place with magnificent nature and spirit. I am totally in love with it. It is a place where I disconnect from the world and connect to my Self. Hiking, walking, getting lost in the woods like museums with the most creative tree sculptures, collecting gifts from mother nature, and helping out in the kitchen. I eat and sleep there, so it feels good to give back and create balance.

Midday usually the kitchen is quite busy. Like a hive of bees, everybody is busy doing their part. I help out where I can and I like being being part of the team. At one point I felt hunger, but I hesitated to get some food. Even though I have been in this kitchen a million times, and I know that I can get myself whatever I want, the hesitation was still here. It went so far that I took pieces of food from here and there and caught myself hiding, with a weird sense of shame… feeling like I am stealing something. Next thing that came out of my hesitation and out of my mouth was: “May I…. get some food?”

The smiling eyes of Didi’s mom met me. “Of course you may” said Mama Lisi, the queen of the kitchen, with love in her soft voice.

That evening as I was watching the full moon out of the open window, feeling the fresh mountain breeze on my face and reflecting on the day, I realised that my inner critic has many different faces, shapes and voices. That day she appeared dressed up as an obedient child. A series of questions followed:

Where else in my life do I ask for permission?

Do I allow myself…?

Do I allow myself to be successful?

Do I allow myself to voice my opinion?

Do I allow myself to be open to change?

Do I allow myself to be loved?

Do I allow myself to receive?

I sat for a while with these questions. And, I invite you to do so, too.

“DARE YOU!” – I heard a known voice in my ear. The message from the lipstick! “Dare you to be … successful. Open to change. Loved. Dare you to receive. Dare you to voice your opinion. Dare you to just be!”

Few days later I was facing the most dreadful period of the quarter, the time of body scans and check ups. Last year I had cancer and the fear is extremely strong during these days. My CT scan was early in the morning and once it was done the hunger in my stomach became pretty loud. Since I was in the Balkan part of the city, I decided to treat myself with the greasy and delicious pastry called “burek”. Comfort food to soothe the trauma of the day.

I quickly scanned the area on google maps and chose a burek store with a 5 star rating that was several blocks away from the hospital. After a nice walk through the neighbourhood, “Burek Shop” appeared and a middle aged lady in front of the shop smoking a cigarette. She quickly rushed inside when she realised I wanted to go in. I noticed the signs on the store windows: “new opening” and the sarcastic voice in my ear: “5 stars rating?!? Hahaha, sometimes you can be quite shallow and naive. They just opened, probably there are 5 ratings for 5 stars.” (which actually happened to be the truth, together with my 5 star rating). I shushed the voice and immediately started a conversation with the lady. In the next 3 minutes she told me her life story and I told her they had the best rating in the area. If you could just see the surprise on her face. I made my pastry selection, two pieces of pie, one for me and one for my colleague. It cost 6 euros. And then, with a big smile the lady said: “You have to try this, too!” and packed a large piece of “burek” as a gift, worth 50% of my order.

The ‘modest’ inner voice wished to say “no, thank you, this is already a lot!”. But, the lipstick message stood in front of me – DARE YOU… TO RECEIVE! So, I gave her back a big smile and an honest gratitude for her generous gift. It felt good to receive with an open heart.

The pastry was delicious! Despite the fact that it is forbidden to eat in public transport, I was stuffing greasy pieces under my mask and into my mouth. My whole body was in ecstasy.

As I was exiting the underground I saw an old lady in a wheelchair, she started moving towards me and talking to me. I looked at her and figured out she was asking for money. “A beggar” – a judgemental voice whispered in my ears. I uttered the words: “I don’t speak German” – a lie, just to avoid dealing with her. To my biggest surprise she replied in perfect English: “Can you please give me a euro or two?” With a big sigh I reached for my wallet and opened the coins compartment, found 50 cents and gave them to her. She thanked me with a big smile on her face. I couldn’t return the smile. The feeling inside of me was not pleasant as I turned my back on her and stepped on the long escalator.

This time it was a harsh voice: “That was cheap! Really, really cheap of you!”

I stood on the escalator going up and felt like sh-t. The inner voice was right this time! Even though I didn’t have much, for sure I had more than this woman. I just received the generous gift from the woman in the Burek Shop and it felt so good to genuinely and openly receive. The lipstick message appeared again. DARE YOU TO BE OPEN AND CHANGE!

I started running up the escalator with excitement, turned around and went back down to find the woman in the wheelchair. I opened up my wallet and took all the coins I had. It was not much, but it was just enough. When she saw me her eyes lit up. Mine too, as they met hers. No words were needed, we just smiled and genuinely connected. I cannot explain the joy of that moment in words, but it is a moment that will stay with me forever.

We tend to hate our inner critic, disregard it, ignore it…Yes, sometimes this is what she deserves! But, what I’ve learned is to listen with attention to what she has to say and to look with openness beyond the critical words and into the intention. Most of the times there is a positive intention behind her words, be it to protect me, to make me better than yesterday or to raise my standards.

I don’t always accept her opinion, but the fact is since I started listening to her, she is quite useful to me. I actually started to appreciate her existence.

So, what’s your attitude towards your inner critic? Is she or he good, bad or useful?

DARE YOU to voice your opinion in the comments 🙂

**** During the Internationally Certified NLP Practitioner Course we work on the inner critic. Slowing down the internal dialogue and becoming aware of it, when it appears, how it appears, how it feels. Once we are aware and in contact, we can start communicating, changing the patterns and making our inner critic a friend that works for our benefit. Do you want to learn more? ****

Get in touch, I am happy to help!