The #1 Way to Work With Your Inner Critic

Post by Kate Swoboda.

print by The Wheatfield | Katie Daisy on Etsy

The #1 Way to Work With Your Inner Critic



So often we tell ourselves that being who we really want to be would require a complete life shift–a vacation, a new job, a new partner, better-behaved children, more money, or more time.

The good news? This is not actually true. We can be who we want to be, simply and directly.

The bad news? This is not actually true. Often, if we do some exploration, we find that there’s a certain draw to the drama of perpetually finding some new self-help program, working on our partners, planning vacations, etc. The simple route can be the most overlooked because, frankly, it’s not as sexy.

There’s a much simpler—and less expensive and time-consuming—form of sinking into Being. It can be implemented into any schedule.

Slow. Down.

This is the one practice that anyone could do and perhaps they’d never even touch the rest, but their lives would benefit immensely just from this one.

Slowing down can look a lot of different ways. It can look like stopping and taking a breath on a street corner, observing the people walking by, and then being on your way. It can look like a formal meditation practice. It can look like laying on your back and watching clouds. It can look like making eye contact with everyone you meet. Don’t get caught in the trap that it has to be this big production. Instead, sink into just slowing…down…

Whatever way of slowing down you choose, integrating this into your self-care practice is so, so essential.

People often have enormous resistance to just Slowing Down. They’ll tell themselves that they have no time, or that it won’t really “do much” to slow down (note: this is what it sounds like when the Ego is unsatisfied with the lack of drama). This is fear– What will I see if I slow down enough to notice what’s actually there?

Slowing Down enough to see what’s happening in your internal landscape is vital to BEing your journey, and gaining all of the benefits of the acceptance we talked about in an earlier chapter.

The way to step into acceptance when you notice you’re not accepting, or to avoid going into non-acceptance in the first place, is to adopt a regular practice of slowing down.

When you don’t slow down and get present to what is, in this moment right here—not the past moment or the worrying about the future moments—it’s more difficult to notice the inner dialogue that keeps you from living the life you want to live. When we’re preoccupied, rushing, fretting, moving too quickly, those Inner Critic voices run on autopilot and can wreak havoc on our moods—which wreaks havoc on our emotional states—which then makes us less motivated to change our lives.

So make it a regular, daily practice to somehow slow down—meditation, walking slowly, taking deep breaths are my first go-tos, but I think that taking time to just notice, listen closely, make a lot of eye contact, stare at the sky, etc., are all just as valid—and you’ll start to notice that it’s easier to “catch” those Inner Critic voices before they can run amuck. And if they do run amuck, going to “present” can help to calm them.

Stop right now, even. Get present to what is. What is right in front of you? What is to your right? To your left? What sounds do you hear? What smells do you smell?

The illusion is that taking a few moments to breathe every day is a waste of time when there are “so many other important things to do.”

In fact, taking a moment to breathe every day, to be present, is what gets things done.

These Inner Critic voices are going to win, and win, and win, and win until you slow down. Take a moment. Start getting more present throughout your day.

When I take even just five minutes to sit in a chair or my zafu (meditation cushion) and stare at a wall in silence, focusing on my breath, I am much better equipped to notice the Inner Critic voices that come up and then start working with them.

Sometimes people say, “I wanted to really be present today, but then the whole day went by and I wasn’t present for any of it! What do I do if I want to use a tool but my problem is forgetting?”

The problem isn’t forgetting. The problem is not creating space for something to be born. In these cases where “forgetting to be present” keeps coming up, instead of trying to be present to every moment, start taking a time-out each day where you simply don’t do anything but stare at a wall, a flickering candle, the sky, whatever, and breathe. Skip the usual meditation instruction to “think about nothing” and instead, go ahead and even attach the thought “Inhale” when you inhale and “Exhale” when you exhale. This time of seemingly “Doing nothing” is creating the space for more presence through you day.

Sitting quietly need not be called meditation. There need not be a zafu. There need not be incense or special music. You can make it what you wish to make it. For many people, walking through nature is their “meditation.”

Whatever path you choose, the instruction is simple: create space for yourself within each day to just slow down and get present to your breath or to the present moment.

This simple moment? It needn’t be anything complicated. Finish reading this article. Now and take 5 minutes to just sit quietly, observing the room. Then notice how you feel.

Kate Swoboda is a Life Coach, speaker and writer who helps clients to lead unconventional and revolutionary lives through practicing courage. She’s the author of The Courageous Living Guide, and creator of the Courageous Play and Create Stillness retreats–as well as The Coaching Blueprint, a resource just for Life Coaches. When she’s not writing, coaching, or leading retreats in Italy and San Francisco, she can be found sipping chai in libraries, buffing up on her Italian, training for her next road race, or getting all bendy-stretchy on the yoga mat. Learn more at, sign up for her free newsletter, or follow her on Twitter @katecourageous or Facebook.

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