Have you ever let yourself dream big about what you’d really love to have in your life and felt a sensation of expansion, opening or rising up in your chest?
And have you ever immediately thereafter felt shot down when you hear a voice in your head say “who are you to do that?” The bubble bursts and it’s like you tumble down to the ground, back to “reality.”
When you feel that opening, rising up, or expansion in your heart, that’s coming from your highest self, beckoning you to grow and bloom, and become the next version of yourself.
The voice that says “who are you to do that?” is your inner critic, which comes from your primitive brain, whose sole mission is to keep you safe in your comfort zone. The inner critic is usually quite mean and it likes to tell us all of the reasons why we should not try new things or take any risks. It will use every line that it can to convince you to stay in the cave, even if it’s a damp, dark cave that’s not any fun.
It loves to say things that we heard or believed as children and are still believing as adults.
- Who do you think you are?
- Don’t get too big for your britches.
- You can’t do that.
- That’s dangerous.
- You don’t have what it takes.
- You’re not good enough.
- You don’t deserve that.
- You’re not worthy of that.
The inner critic aims right for our Achilles’ heels and tells us that we’re fundamentally deficient and flawed.
The bad news is that, since you’re human, the inner critic is probably here to stay. As much as you’d like to, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to extract it completely from your brain.
The good news is that you can choose not to believe your inner critic. You always get to decide how you want to think, feel, and act in response to your inner critic. And you can give your inner critic much less air time by managing your mind.
Create Distance From Your Inner Critic
Until now, you’ve probably been hearing the inner critic’s voice in your head and thinking that what it tells you is 100% factual. That is why it is so important to understand the difference between circumstances and thoughts as a first step.
Writing down the thoughts that your inner critic tells you is essential to help you create some distance between your true self and the thoughts that your inner critic is telling you.
As an exercise, think about a big dream that you have, something that you’d love to realize, but that also brings you some discomfort, such as doubt or fear. What are your thoughts about your ability to go out and achieve that? Write them down.
Any negative thoughts resembling the ones I listed above are coming from your inner critic.
The next step is to ask yourself why you’re choosing to think or believe those things. Your answer might be that you didn’t know you had a choice. Your inner critic has always told you these things and you’ve always believed them. But you don’t have to believe them anymore.
Instead, you can start to just notice them, as an impartial observer, as the “watcher” of your own mind. Develop a sense of curiosity your inner critic. Become fascinated by your primitive brain and the reasons that it gives you for not taking any risks. Is it using lines that your parents used to tell you? Instead of believing those things as true, you might notice how interesting it is that your brain has held onto that same thought or belief for so long.
Giving your inner critic a name can also help you create more distance between her and you. When you hear the voice come up, you can say “there goes old Betsy again,” as if your inner critic were some crazy relative that you don’t really pay much attention to. The point is to notice the inner critic but not believe her. Because believing her is what causes you to become paralyzed with fear, doubt, and shame.
What If Everybody Were Worthy?
The belief that we are not ourselves worthy or deserving of success often comes from a larger belief that some people are more worthy and deserving than others, as if there were some sort of pecking order of worthiness among people. Or perhaps you were taught that you have to prove or earn your worth by what you do in the world. You might have been taught these beliefs as a child and perhaps you’ve accepted them as true.
The problem with these beliefs is that they allow for the possibility that some people might not be worthy or might be less worthy, including you. These beliefs also provide a justification for judging others harshly, but often that judgment backfires and you end up judging yourself even more harshly.
If, on the other hand, you choose to believe that everyone is worthy just because they are human, then it means that you are also worthy just because you’re human. If you believe that you are already worthy and don’t have to do anything to prove your worth, then it takes the pressure off and life becomes fun again.
You could sit on the couch and eat bonbons all day if you wanted and you would still be worthy. But if you really feel worthy, you probably won’t want to sit on the couch and eat bonbons. You’ll likely want to go share your gifts with the world, which is what you’re already dreaming about anyway.
You can decide today that you’re already worthy of your dreams. And when you hear your inner critic say, “who are you to do that?” remember this quote from Marianne Williamson:
“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world . . . We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
You are already worthy. Go forth, bloom, and let yourself shine.