I was having coffee the other day talking about a new idea I had and a dream for an exciting project, feeling pretty hopeful and inspired for a few minutes. Then someone said, “What are you thinking? There is no way you can pull that off? Why don’t you just stop trying to be so special, you aren’t”.
You know who that dream-killer bitch was? Me.
I don’t think I’m alone here in having this mean, grumpy, pessimistic roommate in my head. As I’ve been teaching meditation I’ve seen that this inner critic is prolific and vocal and taking up a lot of real estate in people’s minds. We can love others easily, but are stingy and hesitant to turn the warmth of our hearts inward. Really think about when you last said something nice to yourself. It’s probably been awhile.
Inner critics can be powerful and destructive forces on our lives. The voice saying that we are not good enough, that we are flawed, and that we have little to offer. What will ‘they’ think this voice asks?
Allowing the inner critic to have a voice can keep us from happiness and reaching our dreams and greatest potential. We may be so accustomed to this companion in our minds that they become a familiar backdrop of doubt or worry that permeate our daily existence and keep us locked in shackles we don’t even notice are there.
Mindfulness meditation offers the key to unlock ourselves from the cage and take the mic away from the inner critic. An important ‘ah ha’ moment that can come from mindfulness is the recognition of this voice and the awareness of it as an ‘object’ (not you) that can be observed and not attached to. If you don’t buy into the story it’s selling, it can lose strength, creating room for other narratives. Observing your habit of knocking yourself down can help you create new habits to lift yourself up.
The practice of loving kindness meditation (metta) helps us cultivate love for ourselves (and others, but we need to start with ourselves). I believe the most powerful antidote to a harsh inner critic is this practice of loving kindness.
Here is a ten-minute loving kindness meditation to bring push back to that bitch in your head. Try starting every day doing this meditation for a week and see how your days change. Audio can be found here.
Minutes 0-2: Ground into a comfortable seated posture in a chair or on the floor. Feel the stability in your body and begin to open up into a place of receptivity and ease. Move your awareness through your body from your scalp to your toes softening areas of tension and bringing awareness into your body.
Minutes 2-3: Bring your awareness to your breath. Anchoring your awareness on each in breath and out breath. Noticing and releasing the thoughts that come and go through your minds like clouds. On the in breath feel love coming in, on the out breath feel doubt exiting.
Minutes 3-5: Think of someone who loves you wholly and unconditionally. This can be a partner, child, pet, anyone of any species that sees you as the awesome lovable person you are. Noticing in your body how this love feels.
Minute 5: Repeat to yourself the intention “May I be safe”.
Minute 6: Repeat to yourself the intention “May I be happy”.
Minute 7: Repeat to yourself the intention “May I be healthy”.
Minute 8: Repeat to yourself the intention “May I be at peace”.
Minute 9: Move awareness into your heart and feel the energy and warmth and love fill you. Allow this energy to expand out of you, to your friends and loved ones, to your community, to the world, and to all beings. Wishing yourself and everyone to be happy, safe, healthy, and at peace.
** This article first appeared on Thirty on Tap