Transforming Your Inner Critic: Little Habits Create Big Change

Julie Levin, LMFT on Jun 23, 2019 in Mood and Feelings

My work with clients centers on shifting from self criticism to self love. So I do a lot of teaching about the inner critic. This is a part of you that actually wants you to feel safe from rejection or judgment. But it formed when you were very young, and it only knows how to keep you safe by yelling at you to conform to social or familial standards. This is what you had to do as a kid when you had no choice but please others to get your needs met.

Moving into self love involves learning to protect yourself by setting healthy boundaries. It means learning to tend to your stress and worry, sadness and fear, fatigue and irritation by listening deeply, and respecting the messages your emotions and body are sending. This isn't easy in our suck-it-up-buttercup culture. It also means taking delight in your own joy - and this is the fun part, once you allow it - looking for what lights you up and then giving yourself those experiences.

These are all the habits - the regular daily things, big and small - that add up to feeling secure and lovable.

Similarly, it helps to notice the old habits of ignoring your feelings, dismissing your needs and criticizing yourself. These are the daily habits that engrave insecurity and feeling never-good-enough. As you notice these old habits, you begin to replace them with self validation and compassion, maybe just saying to yourself, "Given my history and circumstances, my reaction makes a lot of sense." Often, validation alone is healing and relieving.

Over time, this regular daily practice will hit critical mass. I have seen it in my clients over and over. You reach a tipping point. And you realize that you actually feel love for yourself. You know how to respect and protect yourself. You trust in your own compassion and find joy in your own company.

This requires a leap of faith, a commitment to practice, and patience. The good news is, it feels good to love and be loved. So let that desire to feel good fuel you each day. You might start each day with the question, "How do I want to treat myself today?" I hope it's like someone important, someone who matters, someone beloved.

Julie Levin is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Pleasant Hill, CA.

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