One of the most hurtful things we do to our loved ones, and we do it all the time without thinking, is to project our inner judging voice out on to them. It is perfectly understandable that we do this and at the same time it is death by a thousand little cuts for ourselves, our beloveds, and our relationships.
Getting a handle on the inner critic, the judge, the predator that devours our dreams, is part of the territory of coaching whether personal life coaching, relationship coaching, or team building. This inner critic is the voice that keeps us small, that holds us back, that convinces us how incapable, unworthy, and just plain no good we are.
I’ve gone to the mat so many times with these demons – mine and my clients’ – that I’m finally starting to get just some of their shenanigans figured out. My current theory is that they are part of a devious extraterrestrial plot to keep humans way behind in the galactic race to glory (you can read more about this here http://hawkview.net/resources/the-inner-critic-in-a-devious-extraterrestrial-plot/).
No matter the origin or purpose of the ubiquitous beast of shame and judgment, we still have to wrestle with it. Our loved ones are counting on us to do so.
Here’s an embarrassing scene from my life as an example: My honey did the dishes and (like he’s done many times before) he missed big hunks of goo on the pots. (In reality what look like big hunks to me are likely minor bits of residue.) I have this insidious way of making him feel like a complete failure because he still hasn’t learned how to thoroughly and completely and perfectly wash the dishes.
My judge is talking directly to his judge with the dishes merely being a minor prop in our tragic play.
Sure, there is a reality-based aspect of food safety here, but, I’m telling you, this is only a tiny part of what’s going on.
My critic rides me about thoroughness and perfection. (And I know for a fact I am not alone here.) My judge is reminding me so-and-so’s home is always spotless, if you’re going to do a job you better do it well, only slackers miss details, people will think you are lazy if you don’t keep your home neat and clean, neatness is an indication of character…. You get it, right? (which could also be read: “You get it right, damn it!”)
With the ease of the most graceful of dancers I sling this out onto my honey. Even if my sweet (maybe too sweet) words merely are: “Ooops, another reject. You missed some goo here,” due to the explosive power of our inner judges my honey could easily hear, “You’ve failed, yet again, you slug.”
Ok, Ok, I can hear all kinds of “Yea, but, that’s his problem,” or “How else do you get things done well?” or “Get some thicker skin, both of you!” I get it.
And I’m sticking with my point: we have to get clear about our inner judges and how much we sling our not-good-enough-ness out into the world, especially on to the ones we love.
Over time I’ll talk more about the critic because I feel passionately that this is one nasty, powerful thought form that we simply have to see through. For now, my basic one-two punch for the inner predator: awareness followed by love. (Yes, love. Sappy alert for what follows.)
The first step to getting out from under the tyranny of the inner critic is awareness. We have to recognize this voice. We have to know when it’s working on us. We have to really get the feel, strength, and subtleness of this nearly universal message of wrongness, lack, and failure.
Awareness of the critic is harder than it would seem. The critic is the water we swim in, the air we breathe, the lens through which we see everything. The judgment messages of the critic – ours and the world’s – are so much a part of our thinking that it can seem nearly impossible to recognize ourselves and others without the critic’s influence.
And that dastardly demon hides right up next to our cherished values, slipping into our thoughts attached to what we hold most dear. Beauty, simplicity, and ease are values of mine. So is contributing to the whole by doing my part. And yes, doing a job well is important to me, too. Perfection is not a value of mine. Perfection is the critic’s illusory twist that would hold me to my values in ways that I can never measure up to.
When I quiet my mind a bit and go inward I can tell the critic from my values by how I feel. Critic messages make me feel ugly, bad, not worthy, not good enough, all round sucky. And when I’m coming from my critic I have these same feelings about YOU. That’s what I project onto you. That’s how I judge you and find you not good enough, wrong, bad, and in need of some big changes, by golly, and I’m just the one to tell you how to change.
When I’m living from values and my desires fed by my values, I feel right on, I feel like a vibratory match to my actions. Yes, I can be stretching and changing, and I can be wanting you to stretch and change with me. This change, though, comes from love.
Step two is to get back to love. Remembering what we love, who we love, the love that we are that is so much more than the critic can ever be is one hugely powerful way to see through the critic’s illusions.
Returning to my goo on the dishes example: If I can be aware of the critic message (goo = failure = bad = need to blame and correct) and see it for what it is, then I can be in choice. Do I really want to sling my critic out there? Or do I want to remember what’s really important to me (what and who I love)? If I can take one nanosecond to remember love, I can make a different choice. What do I love? Beauty, ease, contributing the whole, doing my job well. Who do I love? My honey for one and in this moment, he’s the one.
A smile comes over me. Sure, I’m frustrated that goo bothers me more than it bothers him, and I know other things bother him more. Can I step out of my need to express my frustration in a way that judges and diminishes my honey? Can we laugh about this? Can we find another way to be with goo and dishes and what bothers us? Without the shaming blaming judge I know we can. It will likely be messy and it could take a bit longer, but I know it will be worth it in the long run.