How To Silence Your Inner Critic / 5
Remember what I said last time about your inner critic only ever peddling opinions, not facts?
And how people get annoyed with me when I say that? (Perhaps you're one of them.)
Well, let's think it through, using a specific example of the kind of negative thinking that keeps people stuck.
Let's take one of my own, which I mentioned a while ago, because I know it bothers a lot of other people too:
I'm too old.
It's not a fact. It's an opinion. It may be an opinion that every single person on the planet agrees with, but it's still only an opinion.
It COULD be a fact, if you gave it a bit more context. For instance:
I'm too old for kindergarten.
Fair enough: most kindergartens do stop taking people after a certain age. But as you can imagine, that doesn't bother me very much.
I have no interest in going to kindergarten.
My inner critic doesn't bother to taunt me with that one.
Let's try something else:
I'm too old to be in a rock band.
Er, have you seen Mick Jagger? Bob Dylan?
There's no rule that says you can't be in a rock band when you are 100 years old.
To say that's “too old” is just a matter of opinion.
But let's continue with a few other examples, because I know how ferociously people cling to their limiting beliefs. (You may be one of them.)
- I'm too fat to be a model…
- I won't get that job, because I didn't go to the right school…
- I can't be an athlete, because I only have one leg…
- Blah, blah, blah.
These are not REAL reasons to hold you back. They're excuses.
In each case, if you look hard enough, you will find that somebody has overcome them.
Don't get me wrong. I know how nice it is to have excuses. It saves you having to do anything.
Keeps you safe.
But there comes a point when staying safe becomes boring. And I think you have reached that point already, because otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.
If you want things to change, you'll need to let go of your negative beliefs.
And remember what I said before: one way to do that is to distance yourself from them.
Instead of saying “I”, say “you”:
YOU'RE too fat to be a model.
It's easier to see, this way, how unkind it is.
And to find a more positive opinion.
But don't worry: I'm not going to tell you to adopt an (equally bonkers) “positive” belief.
Instead, I suggest that you choose a point of view that works for you.
Here, let me explain…
When I'm working with groups of people, I ask for volunteers, and line them up on stage with me. I did that once on a TV show in Holland. Live! It was great fun…
I did it with these young people in Belfast:
0 mins 26 secs
When they've lined up, I ask them to say something to me that my inner critic might say.
The person at the far left gets to say the worst possible thing my inner critic might say.
The person in the middle says something neutral.
And the person on the right says something ridiculously, unbelievably positive.
It's a spectrum, with each interval carefully graduated to get just slightly better (or worse, depending which way you travel).
Usually, I have to prompt the people on the left to say something horrible. They don't want to be mean to me. So I say, it's OK… it's just an exercise.
And THEN they say something really awful. Really mean.
Like, “You're so old that people faint when they see your disgusting wrinkles, and you smell of the grave.”
And we all laugh.
Then we move gradually through more positive opinions, till we get to the crazy-bonkers positive person at the end.
“You're so incredibly young, people routinely ask what your secret is / demand to see your ID in bars.” (Or whatever.)
Very few of us truly believe the most negative views, or the most positive.
Instead, we tend to shuffle about around the centre.
On a bad day, you might believe something negative. But if you train yourself to hear the discordant sound of your inner critic, you'll stop.
And you'll choose something that works better for you.
Remember, it doesn't have to be crazy-positive.
Instead of “You're too old”, you might think, “It's not over yet.” Or, “You've still got it.”
You'll be glad to know you don't need to line up real people.
Just get a pen and paper, and draw a line of faces, with expressions ranging from really grim (on the left), through neutral (centre) to incredibly happy (right).
Take just one of your limiting beliefs, and tease out a wide spectrum of opinion, giving one statement to each of those faces.
Beneath the neutral face, write something neutral: “You're fine.”
Beneath the grimmest face, write the nastiest thing you could possibly say about the topic in question.
Beneath the happiest face, write the most ridiculously upbeat thing you can think of.
Now, insert additional opinions beneath every other face, with GRADUAL increases in positivity/negativity as you move out from the centre.
As you see, there are infinite numbers of opinions you might hold on ANY topic. There's a spectrum.
Do it now.
When you're ready, click here to start the next lesson: