I’ve talked before about how inner critic/fearful voices are not, in fact, your enemy–it’s a wound. It’s a part of you that is afraid, shaking, desperately in need of love.
It is a complete and utter contradiction to say, “I want to love myself” and then turn around and call your fears–or any part of yourself with which you are uncomfortable–a “gremlin,” a “monster” or any other name.
In other words? Hating your fear is a total waste of time. It keeps you stuck on what I call the “self-help hamster wheel,” where you’re reading the books and going to workshops and thinking you’re doing your work, but this one little linchpin is keeping everything held in place: hating your fear, which translates to hating a part of yourself.
“Oh, but I don’t hate my fear,” someone will say. “I’m learning to be gentle with myself when I’m afraid.”
Okay, maybe. But take a moment to ask yourself this about your inner critic/fear:
- Do I call my inner critic a “monster” or “gremlin”? Do I use phrases such as “When my gremlins crop up…”?
- Do I tell it to “go away” or “fuck off” or any variation of wanting it to leave when it arises?
- Do I believe that fearful or critical voices have nothing to tell me and nothing worthwhile to offer me?
- Do I love reading blog posts about “becoming fearless” or “kicking fear’s ass”? Do I use such terms, myself?
- Do I berate myself for struggling with the same chronic problems, asking myself why I haven’t “gotten over it” already?
- When my critic comes up, do I tell the critic “I’m not going to listen to you”?
- Do I believe that the critical voices are somehow separate from me, not actually part of the total make-up of who I am? If so, why do I believe that? Consider that if you don’t believe that something is wrong with you because a part of you feels critical or unworthy, then there’s no reason why these voices couldn’t be just as much “you” as the joy, the ecstasy, the compassion, and every other quality we love about you.
When people are sitting down to play poker, experienced poker players will look for the “tell” that another player is bluffing. These sorts of questions are the “tell” that someone still, deep down, perhaps in a place they have trouble owning…still doesn’t like their critic, still hates themselves when fear arises.
This is important: You cannot bluff your way through radical transformation. You cannot read the books and go to the workshops and then practice a few affirmations and acts of kindness and say, “Got it!” without dealing with all the things that you consider to be murky, distasteful, shameful, painful, awful, beyond reproach.
In other words, the longer you bluff to avoid dealing with really accepting and having compassion for your inner critic/fear, the more you waste time.
Sometimes people think they’re practicing a powerful declaration of self-love when they finally decide not to “take it” from the critic.
But calling your critic a “gremlin” isn’t a self-defining moment of courage. It’s self-abuse. It’s calling yourself names.
Calling your critic names isn’t “courage”; it’s abuse.
Hating your fear isn’t courage. It’s self-abuse. It’s self-hate.
If hating your fear worked, we’d all be enlightened. If “kicking fear’s ass” worked, the world would literally be fearless.
You can hate your fear all you want, and call your critic names all you want, and tell yourself that the fearful voices have nothing to do with you, all you want..but that doesn’t mean it’s an effective choice. That doesn’t mean it works.
Again–if that approach did work, we’d all be happy.
Radical love looks like loving all of you, because that’s what fear needs and what love requires. It’s like a small child crying out for its needs to be met, throwing some pretty nasty looking tantrums in its wake without understanding that the tantrums aren’t helpful.
Your job? Help. Help the fear to see that the tantrums don’t get it what it wants; help the fear to understand that there is another way. Ask what the fear needs. Ask how you might help it heal.
Why? Because if you abuse your fear by hating it, calling it names, and so on…you’re being an abuser.
If you truly, honestly have an interest in creating a loving and happy life, you’ll make choices that promote love and happiness. Most of us have been wounded by name-calling and people who “didn’t want to deal” with our needs. Why, then, would any of us think that this is an effective way to deal with the parts of ourselves that we have trouble being with? Why do we think we can get to a loving and happy life…while making choices that are un-loving, like name calling?
I have a whole program about powerfully shifting your relationship to fear and the critic, but you can get started, with this:
1.) Commit to not calling your inner critic/fear names.
2.) Once daily, or more often any time you notice it cropping up, ask your inner critic/fear to respectfully share what it truly needs.
Try this for even one week, and you’ll start to notice that your critic, while critical and hurt and angry and perhaps full of a lot of bluster and drama, is wounded and needs your help.