How To Silence Your Inner Critic / 8

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That incident in Mexico was a great reminder to me…

No matter how hard we try, we can’t control what other people think of us.

I made a short video explaining more:

2 mins 31 secs

So we can’t control what people think of us.

But we CAN do something about what we think of them.

A couple of years ago, I ran a workshop in Belgium, on silencing the inner critic. One man who came along said something that surprised me:

“I don’t have a big problem with self-criticism. But I would like to stop having so many critical thoughts about other people.”

So I told him about something that happened to me a decade ago, and an exercise I came up with on a plane, an exercise that I’ve since learned is like a part of 12-step programmes.

I was feeling troubled, at the time, and I got a notebook out of the overhead locker and just started instinctively to write down a list of things I resented about one particular person.

The situation had got so bad, I felt compelled to write. The words poured out of me, without the slightest effort.

The list of grievances went on and on and on.

Every time I thought I’d got it all down, another resentment popped up.

And another…

Until eventually I stopped. I couldn’t think of anything else.

I sat back, looked over my list, and read back a few items.

But I didn’t need to read them all. In fact, I didn’t WANT to read them all, because many of them, set down in black and white, looked really petty. 

But the bigger things continued to trouble me.

They looked unforgivable.

How could the person have done that to me? How could they be so horrible / insensitive / careless / whatever?

Listening to this, the man in Belgium looked curious. What was the answer? 

Feedback is autobiographical: it tells you more about the person who is speaking than about the person being described.

If YOU think somebody is arrogant, what does that say about you?

And if you are spending your time thinking that somebody “should” be different in some way, you are simply arguing with reality.

The way they are is the way they are.

Wishing they were different doesn’t change them.

It just makes YOU unhappy. 

Byron Katie (look her up, she’s brilliant) says that every complaint is a variation on a single theme:

This shouldn’t be happening. I shouldn’t have to experience this. God is unjust. Life is unfair.

Most of us say that kind of thing several times each day. It’s no fun. Turns us into victims, even if only for a few moments. Like me, in this short video: 

2 mins 14 secs

Most of us turn into victims every day, again and again, because the people around us keep doing things we don’t expect, or don’t want.

And our minds, if we allow them, start to make up ideas about what those people “should” or “shouldn’t” do. 

But it doesn’t change what happened. And it won’t make you happy.

So my advice is: give up complaining about other people as soon as you possibly can.

In the last of this series, we’ll look at how you can set aside your inner critic, and listen instead to an “inner voice” that’s more constructive.

Your Homework

Let out your inner cry-baby and moan and whine really loudly about everything and everyone until you literally run out of words.

Do it in a room on your own. Do it with total commitment. You might possibly come to see the funny side of it all.

Alternatively, take out a piece of paper, write down your complaint, then ask yourself these questions, from Byron Katie:

  • Is it true? (Just a Yes or No answer, no “explaining”)
  • Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Just a Yes or No answer, no “explaining”)
  • How do you react when you think that thought? (Go into detail.)
  • Who would you be without the thought? (Details please!)

Then let it go.

When you’re ready, click here to start the next lesson: