Reframing the critical voice in your head

Sometimes I forget important things. Like stopping at the bank in town (a 30 minute drive from home) to pick up payment for the painter working at my house. Or sending the important email follow-up or forgotten important appointments. I often forget smaller things; nothing that’s a major set back, just a small enough one to make things more challenging and annoying.

When I realize I have forgotten, I can be super critical of myself. “What’s wrong with you? You’re so stupid! Why can’t you get it right?” Truth be told, I can be damn mean to myself. And I know I’m not alone.

Karly Nimmo of Karlosophies podcast asks people what their inner critic likes to say. She says the most common responses are:

  • Who do you think you are
  • You’re not capable of that
  • You should do more/be more.

Most of the students and clients I work with struggle with an inner conflict of the perfectionist who continually pushes being more and the saboteur who raises fear and self-doubt. It’s like driving with one foot on the brake and one on the gas!

Challenges, even the self-sabotaging ones, give us contrast; they contract us into our shadows. There is always a payoff to being in the contrast, even when it’s hard to see.

Let’s say I have an important follow-up call to make. If I receive a “yes” my business will grow. I will have to take the next steps necessary to be successful; show up and be seen. I am at risk of people not liking or supporting me which would be hurtful and embarrassing. If, however. I receive a “no” I have to come up with a plan b which is equally challenging. If I forget to make the call, I delay and stay in my comfort zone for just a little longer. The payoff is comfort.

I often ask clients “what’s the payoff?” to the challenging situation they find themselves in and they always say, offended, “none.” That’s not true, though. Even if it is a shadow payoff, like I described above, there is always a payoff. Exploring those payoff’s take courageous honesty. Before we can get there, though, we have to be willing to practice self-compassion.

We learn most when we’re challenged; we discover the depths of our fortitude, strength, and capacity. It’s only through the contrast of contraction that we can appreciate and go beyond our comfort zone in expansion.

When the voices in the head start in on criticizing and chastising, take a slow, deep breath. Place a hand over your heart and ask if that’s true. The heart always answers “yes” or “no” questions quickly. I often hear mine, but some people feel their response as an expanded or peaceful feeling or a contracted or uncomfortable feeling. If the mean voice isn’t true, continue to follow your breath in and out of the body while sending love to the part of you that is scared and hurt.

Often enough, fear of pain will try to keep us “safe” (aka stuck). To shift, love is required. The part of you that is afraid needs some comfort. This is self-compassion. As you begin to do this, the part of you ready for greatness can begin to grow and thrive.

When you become aware of the critical voice in your head, take a deep breath, say, “Thank you” and reform the sentence by adding something positive. For example if you say, “What do you know?” add “I am willing to learn more” or “I am willing to discover.” This reframing gives your mind something to do and refocuses it to a more positive state. If your energy goes where your focus flow, shifting the focus becomes critical.

The more you become aware and the more you take inspired action on shifting, the more this becomes second nature. The old mindset shifts as new neural pathways are created unleveling your thoughts. Remember thoughts become things.

Try it now. Respond to this with one of your critical thoughts and the reframe. I’d love to witness and support your shift!