Silencing our inner critic. It is one of the biggest challenges most of us face as we go through life. We all know the harsh, abrasive voice of this critic. The critic is the one who tells us that this latest obstacle is insurmountable, that we are not good enough to overcome this latest challenge, that we are too old to learn new and more successful ways of doing things. This voice is the one we hear in our darkest hours, the voice that urges us to not begin, or to give up when the going gets tough.
One of the slyest things about the voice of the inner critic is that it is so good at disguising itself as something else. It pretends to be the voice of reason or common sense. It introduces itself as the voice of experience or wisdom.
Amongst the many joys I have discovered in the process of aging is my increased ability to recognize the voice of the inner critic for what it really and truly is. It is the voice of my own fear and doubt. It is the echo of all of the other voices I have heard over the years that have spoken hurtful and defeatist things to me. It has nothing to do with wisdom or experience. True wisdom and experience tell me something very different and far more life affirming. They tell me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. They tell me that I am determined and gifted, just as everyone else is determined and gifted as well. They tell me that I have friends and family I can rely on to support me through the difficult times, and that I have inner reserves of strength that will not let me fail as long as I have the courage and understanding to believe in myself. The voice of the inner critic tells me to mistrust and to fear. The true, strong voices tell me to open my heart and mind to the wonders of the world.
So, how does one manage to silence the voice of the inner critic? I think, ultimately, this is all but impossible for most of us. Unless we reach a Zen-like state of mental discipline, I believe that the voice will always be somewhere in there, droning like a mosquito, at least from time to time. The trick is, I think, to stop and listen to it very carefully. To pay attention to what it is saying, and recognize it (and its lies) for what it is. The trick is to put it in perspective, and it will gradually diminish, having an ever-decreasing effect on our psyches.