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Each of us experiences an inner voice that criticizes us, judges us, and otherwise berates us in a way that communicates: “I am lacking, deficient, bad or wrong. ”

The Inner Judge and Critic is the voice in you that constantly evaluates and assesses (through judging and criticizing) your worth as a human being and thus limits your capacity to become a better you. This voice judges, condemns, criticizes, compares, shames, blames and attacks you mercilessly and constantly.

What is this voice? Who is this voice? Why does it rear its ugly head so often you make efforts to “become a better you?”

It is not you.

The Inner Judge and Critic is NOT you. Rather, beginning at birth and on through childhood, it represents a composite of many authority figures, i.e., “outsiders” – judgmental, critical, blaming, and punishing parents, primary caregivers – who surrounded you as you were growing up. Then it takes on the voices of your extended family, relatives, teachers, clergy, radio and TV personalities, and the like.

The Inner Judge and Critic is created as a result of your experiences with others in the environment within which you grew up. Your Inner Judge and Critic pretends to be your conscience but rather it is a harsh judge and cruel source of punishment, which results in self-distrust and self-hatred.

The negative energy, feelings, and emotions you experience when you judge and blame yourself harshly are a destructive form of self-abuse. Your continual negative self-judgments are debilitating and self-sabotaging – they keep you from becoming a better you.

The real you

Your Essential Self is the real “you” who experiences your life. This is the real you who experiences having a body, having thoughts, having feelings, and having an ego. It is the true “I” whom you can experience when you’re living in the moment, right here and right now, without the interference of the Inner Judge and Critic’s mind chatter.

When you’re in the moment and disengaged from your Inner Judge and Critic, you experience your Essence – the Essential you who is not encumbered by the negative thoughts, feelings, emotions and stories of your Inner Judge and Critic.

When, in a state of presence and being in the moment, you’re not engaged with the Inner Judge and Critic’s negative self-talk, self-demeaning chatter, judgments, and criticisms. Here, you can then access the voice of your Essential Self, that Self who supports you to becoming a better you.

The voice of your Essential Self is honest, truthful, kind, friendly, compassionate, loving, playful, accepting, inclusive and generous.

Dealing with Your Inner Judge and Critic

Here are five practices that can support you to quiet your Inner Judge and Critic.

1. Listen to, but do not engage, the voice. Become an observer, a witness. Listen without reacting.  Breathe deeply and slowly into your belly. Follow your breath, in and out. Slowly, your attention will focus away from the voice of the Inner Judge and Critic. You will begin to hear “your own voice” and sense a separation from the voice of your Inner Judge and Critic

2. When you hear an attack – some flavor of “You’re bad or wrong,” or “You’re not ____ enough,” or You’re too___,” it may sound counterintuitive at first, but, agree with the voice and then add something to the effect, “…and, if you don’t like it, too bad!” Essentially what you’re doing here is quieting the voice by agreeing with it. You’re taking the air out of its critical or judgmental balloon, its charge, so to speak. So, for example, “Yeah, I know I’m being lazy today, but if you don’t like it, too bad. I’m just fine with being lazy right now.” Or, “I know I keep repeating the same mistake, and it’s just too bad if that bothers you.”

What’s happening here is that by diffusing the power or force of the inner judge and critic, it loses its energy and when it loses its energy, the effect on you is that it gives you some distance from this voice (remember this voice is some authority figure that was predominant in your life early on; it’s not you). And when you gain separation and distance from this voice, you’re more able to experience your Essential Self, and it’s from this place of your Essential Self that you will gain the strength and energy, courage and clarity, wisdom, guidance, and direction to become a better you without being encumbered by the inner judge and critic. It gives you room to breathe and feel more adult-like, rather than child-like. And your being in this adult place is what supports you to become a better you.

3. Practice focusing. Focusing is a great way to move you into that part of the (right) brain which is associated with equanimity, serenity, peacefulness, well-being, and OK-ness with your experience. In this part of the brain, you are less apt to succumb to feelings of powerlessness, fear, anger, resistance, defensiveness, guilt, shamed and the like. Notice what you’re sensing in your body, emotions and feelings and be there – with curiosity, not self-judgment – and engage in deep breathing – long, slow, deep and quiet. As you begin to breathe, the sensations in your body will begin to dissipate and you can return to a sense of peace and calm. And this peace and calm is often accompanied by courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, appreciation and gratitude.

4. Tell your inner judge and critic to “Shut up!” or, “Get lost!” If the situation permits, say this out loud and with force, real force. If the situation does not permit, then say it silently. You may have to say it more than once. But be sincere in the way you voice it – internally or externally – as if you were speaking forcefully to someone was standing behind you and attacking you.

5. Tell your inner judge and critic, “Thank you very much. But I really don’t need your advice right now. I’m fine without it.”

The key here is that through these exercises you’ll be able to remain in a state of peace, calm, and equanimity. It is from this place that movement toward becoming a better you is easier.

Using any of these exercises will support you to quiet the voice of the inner judge and critic who is continually beating you up by telling you how you should live your life, what you should say, what you should do, how you should be, etc. In addition, these exercises will support you to move away from feelings of lack and deficiency and towards feelings of self-love, compassion, safety, security, fortitude, power and strength – the qualities that will support you to take action to move forward to becoming a better you.

Because your body is the best barometer of what’s really happening in your life, it’s also important to be aware of what you’re sensing in your body when you’re inner judge and critic is attacking you. Physiological sensations you experience in your body when you’re feeling insecure, afraid, fearful, angry, unseen, and incompetent can inform you of what’s really happening “inside” as you’re being attacked. Ask those sensations what they want you to know and ask to be guided towards “right knowing,” “right understanding” and “right action.”

*Excerpted from “Becoming a Better You – Who You Are vs. Who You Think You Are,” Peter Vajda, Ph.D.

Questions for self-refection:

  • How secure do you feel in your own skin (on a scale of 1-10)?
  • What are some common phrases your Inner Judge and Critic uses to attack you?
  • When did you first become aware of these attacks?
  • Who do you remember using (some flavor of) these attacks against you when you were young?
  • How do these attacks affect how you show up (or don’t show up) in your adult world – at work, at home, at play or in relationship?
  • Are you generally jealous of, critical of, or judgmental of others? Do you know why? What does behaving this way get you?
  • Were your parents or primary caregivers judgmental and critical of others?
  • Do you ever practice focusing, presence or mindfulness? What’s that experience like?

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(c) 2014, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
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