Do you ever find yourself with these kinds of phrases running through your head?
- “I just blew it again in front of my boss”
- “look at my hair – what a disaster”
- “if I say that, I’ll sound like a complete idiot”
These words may blast out like a cannon, or slink in surreptitiously, or grind away like a dishwasher churning in the background. This is the work of the Critical Mind: it catches every little mistake, is highly opinionated, and ultimately ensures that we feel like we are no good unless we get it right every time.
This insidious voice chips away at our well being by belittling, questioning, nagging, and berating us. It usually runs wild & free, completely unchecked.
How can you tell if you’ve got one of these on the loose?
- find that others’ opinions matter more than your own
- compare yourself to others
- second guess yourself more than you’d like
Or it may be true that:
- you have high expectations of yourself and others
- when things don’t go according to plan, it is hard to reset yourself
You may notice that you feel:
- pressured, stressed, tense, angry
- low level depression, heavy, feeling numb
- hopeless, fear, feel like giving up
The Critical Mind’s lethal weapon is our ignorance of its damaging presence. That means its in our hands to tame this voice and take back our power. We do this with the magic recipe of Awareness, Gratitude, and Self-Compassion.
How to Take Back Your Power
Awareness is where it’s at. It is a simple and magical solution because it can stop the Critical Mind right in its tracks. The way this works is like this:
- First, set an intention to pay attention to that voice in your head
- Be curious – you want to get to know how this voice works
- As you pay attention, you will begin to notice what this voice says to you
- At that moment, slow down and note to yourself what you just heard
For example, when you notice that you just told yourself you were stupid for dropping your keys – you can then pause here for a moment – as if you just saw a bloom on a flower that you never noticed before, and you can say to yourself – “oh look at that, I just told myself I was stupid for dropping my keys”.
The most important piece of this is to make that observation without judgment – if your tone can be neutral that works, or even better if the tone can have some kindness or softness to it.
Applying the Practice to Daily Life
When you make that observation without judgment you have just stopped Critical Mind in its tracks. Because, in that moment, you have just stepped out of it instead of being sucked in without realizing it. Like if all of a sudden you get cut off in traffic, and you are yelling and angry (this is being sucked in) – but then if you pause and notice with curiosity, “gee I’m getting pretty riled up here” – you are no longer caught up in it.
Practicing awareness like this is the first and most powerful step of neutralizing the Critical Mind. You can think of it as a mindfulness practice – where you will come back to it over and over – being curious, being present, practicing being neutral.
Your challenge this week is to set an intention for increased awareness so that you start noticing when and where that voice pops up in your life.
Now that you’ve encountered the first ingredient in this magic recipe, feel free to check out the next ones in my blogs. Or if your curious about how we can work with this in therapy, give me a call to talk about coming in for a counseling session.