At a recent conference, standing in front of her peers, Maria had a moment of panic: she found herself wondering why she thought she could impress these people in any way; that if they only knew, she’d be exposed as a fraud.
Never mind that she’d been in practice for over 40 years and was well respected in her field. In that moment, she felt like a phony, an outsider, unable to belong.
It also didn’t matter that she was mature, astute, and knew what was going on. At least, it didn’t stop the voice – the inner critic.
Our inner critic is powerful – awesomely so. Unchecked, it can and will run our lives. Even Maria’s awareness and experience couldn’t stop it. But, that awareness did alter its power.
We all have an inner critic, but it isn’t same as being that inner critic. You might say that our inner critic is that part of us that keeps us safe. Some call it our lizard brain. It’s a pre-logic part of us that we share with all other animals. Its only function is to keep us safe. As a result, it sometimes ends up undermining us in order to protect us from shame and possible failure.
That darn inner critic isn’t bad. It isn’t something we need to get rid of. In fact, we never could – nor should we. But it is something we can learn to use in a way that works for us and for it. Think of it as a little person who is under our protection. That little person lets us know right away when it’s feeling unsafe. When that happens, if we pay attention to it and are aware of it, we can learn to heed what it’s feeling and take action that makes it feel safe again.
Back with Maria, she reassured her inner critic by reviewing what she’d done to prepare for her talk. She’d done a lot, really knew the topic, and had something to say that she knew would interest her audience. That calmed her critic. In fact, what began as fear and anxiety suddenly turned into excitement. That little critic of hers – in that moment – became her ally.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .