From Rober Schwartz
We all have an inner critic living inside us who speaks up at times, in varying degrees, negatively evaluating our own actions and those of others. As facilitators and coaches we have many opportunities to deal with our inner critic. We might doubt or judge ourselves harshly about how we dealt with a client or facilitated a group. Our critical voice often results from early shaming or humiliating, and fear-based experiences. We internalize these negative critical messages about ourselves and replay them in our minds. The inner critic evolves as a coping strategy in response to these early experiences.
The bottom line is when our inner critic rears its head, our experience is painful and distracting. However, by addressing our inner critic, we can develop our compassion for others and ourselves.
Compassion is the antidote to the inner critic. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the critical part of us is actually our ally. When the inner critic arises, we can listen and make a choice about how much power and attention we will give that part of ourselves. We can also identify any useful, valid information our inner critic may have for us. Gradually, by paying attention to our inner critic in this way, its strength diminishes because we can more quickly move through the cycle of acknowledging, choosing and then releasing that part of ourselves. Each time we hear our inner critic’s voice, we can acknowledge it and make a choice for compassion. By doing this we can:
- recognize that many of our judgments are high-level inferences and assumptions
- choose to shift our behavior from fear-based unilateral control to mutual learning
- Develop our compassion and take responsibility for our actions, laying less blame on others
- Deepen our compassion for others
As we begin befriending our inner critic, we can use our interventions with others to help them enter the same process.
One approach that I practice and share with my clients is to address the inner critic by giving it a form. One of our Facilitative Coaching workshop participants found that she could address her inner critic by creating it out of clay and making it an armchair. She said, “If I give my inner critic a comfortable place to sit than it won’t want to bother me.” Her creation was in response to an exercise about dealing with the inner critic. By doing this she offered compassion to herself and her inner critic. As a result she felt freer to express herself during the workshop and be present to learn.
Written and edited by Dale Schwartz, copyright Roger Schwartz and Associates