By Chris Coward, VP of Coaching for Apollo Health

She stands in front of me, looking stern and condescending. She’s very physically fit and is unleashing on me with comments like, “You need to be more disciplined if you want to be healthy” and “Who do you think you are trying to be a role model in the Bredesen Protocol® when you aren’t doing everything right yourself?” This isn’t a real person, but it feels like she is. I just shared an example of what my inner critic sounds like (and looks like). We all experience this voice, which is sometimes personified and sometimes not. This is the voice that says we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or sub in your version of enough, and you get the idea.

The inner critic is there to keep us safe and protected. Our brains push back against change, and the inner critic looks out for us when we attempt to change. 

So, how do you work with your inner critic to create the change you want?  Below are eight tips.

1) Out your Inner Critic We titled this article Outing the Inner Critic as it’s a crucial strategy to create lasting change. When we shine a light on this critical voice, we can work with it and leverage the additional seven tips. Pushing away my mean trainer critic only makes her more persistent and louder. And the more I listen to her, the more I believe her message. The more I believe her message, the more my confidence wanes and the less likely I am to embrace the changes I want to make.

2) Have some fun personifying and or naming your Inner Critic. The inner critic comes in all forms from a real person in your life. They can appear in your mind’s eye as a cartoon or with no visual representation at all. One of my inner critics is my mother’s voice. She was critical out of love to protect me, but some of the messages about what I’m not good at have stuck and do not serve me at all. When you name or personify your inner critic, you separate this voice from your own, therefore reducing its power. Sharon Salzberg, a well-known meditation teacher, named her inner critic Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon. She said she invites Lucy in for a cup of tea and then sends her home after so she’s not in her head anymore. 

3) Become more aware when your Inner Critic is working you over. This tip is key and a process that can take some time to develop. Having some quiet time to reflect daily can be helpful. It’s easy to get caught up in what the inner critic is saying and take it as truth or confuse it with your inner wisdom. When you get more clarity on what’s happening, you can make better decisions on what to do with the messaging. Developing a meditation practice is a good way to increase your awareness.

4) Explore the evidence. Sometimes, when I’m coaching someone and their inner critic is persistently preventing my client from starting or maintaining a habit, we look at the evidence. Ask yourself, “Is that really true?”  Be on the lookout for sweeping generalizations about your failures and limitations. These statements sound like, “I can never do anything right,” or, “I’ll never be able to follow KetoFLEX 12/3 because I’ve never been successful at healthy eating.” Or “Why bother following the Bredesen Protocol when I have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s inevitable that I’m going to get it?”  Byron Katie has a wonderful process for exploring what is true and what isn’t. Her simple four-question process can be found here.

5) Beware of comparing yourself to others. Social media does us no favors in preventing us from comparison to others. Individuals usually go public with their best lifestyle, photos, habits, etc., and you don’t get to see their failures and day-to-day challenges. It’s easy to get sucked into this as reality and wonder why our lives don’t match up. Don’t fall for it! If you catch yourself going down this road of comparison, take a breath and say, “They are just like me.” We are all human and have our struggles. Don’t let Facebook and Instagram let you believe differently. 

6) Practice gratitude. Julie Gregory has written about gratitude beautifully in one of her blogs, so I won’t go into the process of strengthening your gratitude practice here.  Practicing gratitude reduces the inner critic’s voice, as love and fear can’t exist at the same time. You can be appreciative of your inner critic wanting to protect you without absorbing their harsh message or taking it as truth.

7) Celebrate your wins. Another way to explore the evidence is to name and celebrate your wins, however small they are. This brings many of the above tips together.  When my inner critic makes a harsh generalized statement, I can explore the counterevidence. For example, if my inner critic says, “You aren’t disciplined enough to be consistent with the Bredesen Protocol,” I can look at where I have been consistent with a healthy habit. The win may seem small, but when I acknowledge and celebrate it, I reinforce the skill-building it took and can apply it to another aspect of the protocol.

8) Be gentle with yourself. As mentioned earlier, outing and facing your inner critic is a process and takes time. It’s important to be gentle with yourself as you take this on and know that these challenges are part of being human; therefore, you are not alone. Mindful self-compassion can be helpful. Here is a resource to check out.

To help manage your inner critic, my colleague Valerie Driscoll has created a short meditation (see below). If you struggle going it alone, consider hiring a ReCODE 2.0 Health Coach to help you strategize on outing your inner critic and supporting you in your ReCODE journey.

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