“Laurie, you were a little harsh to your husband just now,” she says as she pulls me quietly aside.
“I was?” I feign innocence (when really my frustration wished I’d been a lot more harsh just then).
I receive the words anyway, stow them away, recognize their truth. I apologize to my husband and move on.
At least I think I do. Moments later, when a whole forest of self-criticism seems to have sprouted from that one well-intentioned critique, I’m shocked. No sunshine pouring through on me anymore. Just the dark growing cold of condemning thoughts:
“What a jerk!”
“And you coach other women on how to improve their marriages. You fraud!”
“You don’t deserve his forgiveness.”
“You should just go eat that 3rd handful of Cheez-its. You’re a failure anyway.”
It’s complete rubbish, I tell you. This inner critic and it’s hurtful agenda.
Even though my critic is fighting tooth and nail as I write this (“Whatever, Laurie. Nobody else has this problem! You wimp.”) I’m going to just say it anyway:
You’ve got one too. A critic inside, crouched and ready to strike at your first mistake or sign of weakness.
Ready to get it off your back?
Next time your inner critic slinks up to you, try one of these:
- “Thank you.” Sometimes our critic is right – we’ve made a mistake or we’re making choices that aren’t good for us. In those cases, when your critic says “It’s not cool to yell at your kids like that,” tell it thank you for the help, change your behavior, and leave it at that.
- “My dad is bigger than your dad!” When you’ve done #1 above and the critic doesn’t listen, remind it that it’s welcome to hang around, but it might get beat up if it does, since you’re a child of the King and you’ve got grace on your side.
- “What do you really need?” Is this a HALT moment (hungry, angry, lonely or tired)? A reader on my Facebook page just shared today that her critic was much calmer after she got a good night’s sleep. Meet the need and you might be surprised how quiet that voice gets!
- “Time to get a REAL job!” Focus that critical energy on what deserves it: injustice in the world and the enemy’s ploys at getting people to hurt themselves instead of live fully. Pray hard and confident against those issues.
- “Use your nice words please.” Any mom can relate to this one! Reminding our thoughts to think about “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).
- “That’s nice, but the truth is (fill in the blank).” The truth sets us free – even if it’s a tough truth. When you feel guilty, that’s your cue the inner critic needs a reality check. Whether it’s a verse, favorite quote, or something you’ve learned in life, answer the critic with the truth.
- “I’ve got issues with YOU too.” Hey, it’s only fair right? Take a moment and tell that inner voice exactly what you think of it and how sad, horrible and useless it is when it’s dragging you down. If it’s constantly coming up in certain situations, write your rant on paper and invite God to help you give that voice the boot.
Whatever you say to that critical voice the next time it arrives, don’t let it have free reign. You’ve got dreams to follow, a life to live, and you’re worth so much more than that!
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