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Quieting Your Inner Critic Through Self-Compassion

How to quiet your inner critic

If you are like many people you constantly judge yourself harshly and set unreasonable expectations for yourself. You may have a nagging inner voice who is constantly harassing you for something you did or did not do. My client Connie shared with me about how self-critical she is. "I'm an educated woman but I feel so incompetent and stupid most of the time. I constantly compare myself with other people and always end up feeling inferior in some way. I'm amazed at how other people seem to be able to speak up and not worry about whether what they say is going to be negatively judged by others, because I'm afraid I'll say something that will let other people know just how incompetent I really am."

Everyone has a critical inner voice, but some have a more vicious and vocal inner critic. A loud, verbose inner critic is enormously poisonous to your psychological health-more so, in fact, than any deprivation or trauma you may have experienced. We can often heal our wounds and recover from our losses, but the critic is always with us, judging us, blaming us, finding fault in us.

One of the most powerful ways to quiet our inner critic is through self-compassion. As Byron Brown, the author of Soul without Shame, so eloquently put it: "Compassion is the greatest antidote to the poison of your pathological inner critic." When you are being compassionate toward yourself, you essentially gag your pathological inner critic.

Compassion is the essence of self-esteem. When you have compassion for yourself, you understand and accept yourself the way you are. You tend to see yourself as basically good. If you make a mistake, you forgive yourself. You have reasonable expectations of yourself. You set attainable goals.

Compassion is a skill. That means that you can improve it if you already have it, or you can acquire it if you don't. The next time you hear your inner critic chastising you about something you did or did not do, counter this negativity by telling yourself something like, " I'm doing the best I can." Or "Given my circumstances, this is all I am capable of at this time." Give it a try, you'll be amazed at how much it helps.

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