Like a shard of broken glass jabbing deep into the skull, our inner critic attacks us with judgmental thoughts, criticisms, and self-doubts. The inner critic tells us we’re flawed, useless, no good. Incompetent. Unloved.
In our younger, more innocent days, that inner voice was our conscience. It was the voice of wisdom and love, the whisper of God guiding us.
But somewhere on life’s pathway someone or something—or both—inflicted words or actions upon us that shattered our healthy egos. Over time, our self-image morphed and the shadow side of our personality became an inner critic.
The Inner Critic Run Wild
Our inner critic tells us lies. It throbs like a bleeding wound in our psyche. It turns us away from seeing who we really are: God’s loving sons and daughters, good, loved—the Divine image reflected in and through us.
If we let our inner critic run wild and rampant, we become the inner critic. We criticize and judge others so we don’t have to work on ourselves. Complaining and negativity become a way of life.
Self-Acceptance As a Pathway to Self-Realization
Henri Nouwen, in The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, says our inner critic is rooted in a lack of self-acceptance. We struggle with past emotional wounds that blur our self-image and we look to others (instead of God) to tell us who we are. “Every time you reject yourself, you idealize others,” writes Nouwen.
Nouwen echoes psychologist Carl Jung who taught self-acceptance is a pathway to self-realization.
Whether we realize it or not, our inner critic is just a bunch of old hurtful memories and useless thought patterns. These entangled bundles of emotional pain live in the past and are now dead—if we choose to release and bury them.
Focus on the Solution
Twelve Step wisdom tells us if we continue to focus on the problem—trying to slap away our noisy inner critic—we’ll waste our emotional energy fighting it. We give the monster life. Our constant faultfinder gains power.
If, however, we focus on the solution, we can finally say goodbye to our inner critic.
The Voices in Our Heads
My spiritual director says there are three voices in our heads: the voice of love; our inner critic (aka the unholy one); and our own voice. Because our minds can think only one thought at a time, one of those three voices speaks louder and drowns out the others.
When we distinguish which voice we’re listening to, we gain the ability to redirect our thoughts. We learn to ignore the inner critic and refocus our attention on listening to the divine voice.
The Inner Voice of Love
Nouwen says listening to the divine voice—the inner voice of love—is the solution to our inner critic problem.
The voice of love speaks truth to us. It’s the divine voice of wisdom that tells us who we are and guides us on life’s path.
The voice of love resides in our hearts. It’s the Divine Coach who wants what’s best for us and helps us call the plays and run down the football field of life with humility, honor, and self-respect. The voice of love steers us past life’s body blocks that try to tackle us and keep us from the touchdown of living our best life.
Nouwen says the inner voice of love tells us this truth: “Remember, you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal life. Choose it, and it will be yours.”
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Your Inner Critic Goodbye
So how do we tell our inner critic goodbye? Like the 1969 hit song, Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, how do we show our naysayer the door, and let it know its dastardly services are no longer needed?
The answer is two-fold:
• Ask God for the grace to recognize and let go of your inner critic; and
• When the critic reappears, refocus your attention on the inner voice of love.
It Takes Practice
Because the inner critic is like a broken record, it’s ingrained in us. So, it takes practice to replace it. Like going to the gym to exercise our muscles, when we adopt spiritual practices to focus on hearing and listening to the inner voice of love, we strengthen our ability to notice and follow its wisdom
Here’s one way you can use your imagination to develop your inner love listening muscles:
Take time to sit in the quiet. Ask God to give you a word, phrase, image, or mantra that symbolizes the voice of love for you.
It could be a mantra, like, “I love the ‘me’ God has created and is creating.”
Or, “I am created in God’s image. I’m a masterpiece and a work in progress.”
You might find an image of God holding you and let the image speak to your heart.
You could find a favorite picture of yourself that reminds you of your inner beauty, strength, and love.
You might stare in the mirror, look deep into the light in your eyes, and ask the Creator to reflect back who or what the Divine sees in you.
Choose whatever works best.
Once you’ve decided on a Divine practice to help you connect with the Inner Voice of Love, for the next seven days every time you hear the inner critic trying to rear its conniving head, replace it with your Divine word, image, or mantra.
You might even place it on a post-it note and stick your word or image on the mirror or computer screen as a reminder of your spiritual practice.
Feel It in Your Body
Let the inner voice of love take root in your gut. Feel its healing energy in your stomach. Claim it as God’s gift to you.
The Creator invites us to kiss our inner critic goodbye by focusing on God’s inner voice of love, however we experience it.
With time and practice, we realize, we are the voice of love we hear in our hearts.