A while back, I wrote a post about how I’m in the process of learning to hush my harsh, berating inner voice and be a little kinder to myself. And I’m really – like really, REALLY - excited, grateful and very honoured to bring you this brilliant guest post by Hollie Holden (author of one of my favourite blogs and Facebook pages, Notes On Living And Loving) all about how to befriend your inner critic. I have found it enormously helpful. Thank you so much Hollie, it’s over to you:
Over the past few years, I have been on an intense journey from self-criticism and self-harshness towards deeper self-love, self-kindness, dropping of perfectionist ways and intimacy with myself. And I have discovered that this journey is absolutely necessary for me to commit to in my quest to be a loving presence for others. They simply cannot happen without each other.
And when Nina asked me to guest-write for her wonderful blog, I felt called to share a really powerful exercise that has helped me so much on this journey. So here goes…
There is something I have discovered about self-kindness – and all things positive and wonderful and soulful. And that is, if we want to learn more about it, welcome more of this energy into our lives, into our relationship with ourselves, we must also look at all the ways in which we are unkind to ourselves.
This seems counterintuitive, I know. But bear with me.
First I need to talk about positivity, which is great in so many ways. It is absolutely a swing in the right direction as our consciousness evolves. And ‘thinking positive’ and affirmations and envisaging wondrousness is a great use of our energy.
AND we must also work on the shadowy bits in ourselves if we want to experience true positivity in our lives. We must face these things head on in ourselves so that we can excavate our foundations in order for the positive, kind, healing vibes to find space and deeper expression in and through us.
So, whenever I am asked how we can begin to be kinder to ourselves, this is my response:
First, we must get to know the Unkind Voice instead of wishing it away or trying to squeeze it out of our experience. We must approach it fearlessly and with curiosity. And we must understand why it started to speak to us that way in the first place.
Because, you see, everything is either an expression of love or a call for love. And this voice inside us is simply the most fearful, cut-off part of us trying (from a very old, outgrown and limited perspective) to keep us small, away from dangerous, risky situations that might crack us open.
On the practical level, there are three main components to this initial exercise as I see it. This is a deep process that needs to unfold over time but this exercise is a great starting point. You might want to do this either with the support of a good coach or just a close friend who is on a similar journey.
- Getting to know our inner critic:
To name this critical, harsh part of us is really helpful to start with. Trust the first name that comes to you. However hard I try to think of another name, mine seems to be called Priscilla. Who knows why… But I kind of like how it comes with a good dose of sense of humour, which is always a helpful thing when we are facing these darker parts of ourselves.
Once you know his or her name, you can commit to getting to know him/her. To gain a deeper understanding of this voice’s intentions. You might be surprised how well intentioned it is as you start to listen more deeply to this part of you.
- Listening to our inner critic
The second part of this exercise is to start a journal (or just a big piece of paper on the fridge) where you start to record the things this voice says. Like writing down a readout – without judgment or emotional attachment – simply aim to report what you hear or experience when you listen more deeply and without resistance to this voice. You might end up with a list of things like ‘Ugh, you’re dealing with that again. You are just such a failure’ and ‘You idiot! Why did you say that? What must he think of you?’ Whatever flavour your readout shows you, go with that – it is your key to unlocking this unkindness-to-self business.
My own experience with this exercise as the basis for self-inquiry and deepening my relationship with myself has been profound. I have discovered how very, very unkind I can be to myself but I have also created a much healthier distance between my true soul voice and Priscilla’s cold, harsh voice. And the really surprising bit is that I have even come to love Priscilla more and more. I have come to understand her motivations, her ways, her intentions. By turning towards her instead of trying to squash her down or reject her, we have become better acquainted and, these days, I can handle her much better.
And now, the final part of the exercise…
- A letter from your loving soul voice to your broken unkind voice
After about a week of quietly, accurately recording your inner critic’s words and phrases, create some time for yourself to sit down and write a letter from the true, loving space of your soul voice – your loving inner parent. Write to this harsh, unkind part of you. Call her by her name. Address her directly. Let the words flow and allow the deep compassion and love that can hold absolutely anything have their say here.
Now, of course, this is not a one-off exercise. This is an on-going, ever-deepening journey into ourselves. It is a commitment we take to shining a light on some of our most uncomfortable and well-hidden patterns and self-concepts. And we need to keep going with it and keep reminders up around us to keep us on track. AND we need to be kind to ourselves when we slip up, when we fall into old patterns, when we forget to keep our journal, when we fall behind with this process.
I wish you deeper intimacy with yourself – and all the parts of you – as you continue on your journey.
Love from Hollie
About the author: Hollie Holden is a mum of two young children, writer and explorer of spirituality, personal growth and self-acceptance. She is a student of A Course in Miracles and the Enneagram. Hollie is particularly interested in how we can know how loved we are and how we can be kinder to ourselves. Visit Hollie’s blog and check out her Facebook page.
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