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Day 18. Separating You From The Inner Critic By Creating A Character

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As you’ve traversed this journey in recognising your inner critic, you might rightly have experienced anger once you recognised where the inner critic was drawing inspiration from. My old backing track is without a doubt primarily inspired by and built on the criticisms both direct and inferred that I experienced from my mother. It used to be her voice and over time, it’s mine. I’ve also got some stuff in there from going to a convent school, messages that I picked up from my peers and society and anger from past experiences where I was hard on myself.

That’s the clever thing about how the inner critic works - initially it might be their voice but you get so practiced at snatching in bits and pieces of external noise as well as repeating it that it sounds like yours or certainly like a voice that seems as familiar as your own, so of course you assume that it’s your inner voice. It made me realise that it’s how the inner critic remains effective because if I heard my mom’s voice saying stuff that crops up, I’d know it was not coming from a healthy place so I’ve had to learn to pay attention to the quality and content of my thoughts because guess what? There is a whole lotta stuff passing through with some of it being the equivalent of sudden switches in the track or even a sudden blare of music but when I notice the content, I realise that a hell of a lot of this stuff just is not me.

While it’s tempting to go and hunt down the inspiration of your critic or pick up the phone and tell them all about themselves, it’s vital to remember that we all have an inner critic regardless of what our experiences are so if they weren’t chipping in to it, someone else would have been. This is why you have self-care practices for helping you to compassionately connect to what you have been through so that you can recognise the inner critic and its motives and distinguish you from it.

What I want you to focus on today is putting a clear distinction between you and the tape, the backing track, the chatter that is the inner critic.

Using the material that you’ve gathered in your journaling, create a character that embodies your inner critic - it makes it so much easier to recognise when your ‘ole ‘pal’, the inner critic decides to show up uninvited. This is a tool that many coaches and therapists recommend and it’s highly effective for making clear distinctions within and recognising and reclaiming your true self.

During this project, you’ve identified what your inner critic believes, what it’s motivated by, when it seems to chime in, when it’s at its worst, key words and phrases, its irrational fears, its typical habits and narratives, its personality, the image that it is aspiring for through you (think of the archetype, for e.g. God-fearing, prim and proper woman, perfect student, a daughter/son that fits the ideal for your culture), the image it expects you to uphold at all costs.

You might draw inspiration from cultural references or even from someone else you’ve met, or you might invent the character. To help you get going, think of books, films, TV shows, a famous person etc, that is similar in some ways to either the inspiration for your inner critic or some of the comments that it makes. My inner critic is part Cookie from Empire, part Alexis Colby, part Gone Girl, part Celie from The Colour Purple.

Go as detailed as you can with your character and add to it as you go and make this a fun exercise where you get to see things for how they really are - that you’ve had a recording based partly on others, partly on you, that’s highly irrational. You can go anywhere you like with this so use a mix of humour, compassion and real recognition of what’s been running through your mind, to create this character.

He/she needs a name. It might be that you already have a name but if you don’t, as you create your character, a name will spring to mind. You can even give them a full name (include a middle and surname). You might find that the name you choose ends up being a private joke with you- that's great because it brings some much needed humour and humanness to the situation. I call mine by my maternal grandmother's name which is both hilarious and healing all at once.

Stuff to think about:

  • What is their voice like? Is it male or female? Is it warbled? What does it sound like when it gets really antsy? Are they older or younger than you? If it sounds similar to something or someone else, note this.
  • What do they look like? Think about the hair, eyes, facial expression, tall, short, older, younger, how they dress.
  • Where do they live? What do they like to do? What do they eat? What are they really pedantic about?
  • When you imagine your inner critic as a person, where are they? Think of the setting.
  • When other people see them or interact with them, what do they think? What type of impression do they create?
  • What are their idiosyncrasies?
  • What is their personality type or defining character traits? e.g. stubborn, ruthless, anxious, people pleasing, sarcastic, charming
  • What are the rules it has? E.g. {Family name} never lose.
  • What is it secretly sad about?

If you can, draw a picture (it does not have to be of an artist’s standard) but just have a go at putting your character down on paper. Or, if drawing scares you, try finding pictures in magazines that you can cut out and make a collage of your character - very funny and therapeutic.

JOURNALING: Write about the way you felt while doing this exercise. How does it feel to put a name and a character to this voice? Try writing about your experiences with your inner critic today. E.g. Today Joyce was saying _____________ and trying to convince me that I shouldn't _____________. or I noticed that Joyce was seriously noisy when I was thinking about whether or not to put myself forward for that promotion.

 

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