Written by Mark Bertin

Invite more ease into our lives with this practice for interrupting the unhelpful habit of self-criticism.

The inner critic is like the old two guys on the Muppet Show endlessly deriding whatever is unfolding on your life’s stage. Attempting to reason with your inner tyrant only validates it, as if it deserves your attention. It’s really just an unhelpful pattern of thinking most of us pick up along the way. And while the push to be perfect can be exhausting, we can invite more ease into our lives with practice.

  1. Begin by focusing on your breathing. Notice the physical sensation of breathing in, and then breathing out as best as you’re able. Find yourself a posture of ease and strength. When your attention wanders, simply come back to breathing in and breathing out.
  2. Notice your judgy-mind at work. For many of us, simply attempting to focus on the breath is enough to bring self-judgment to mind. You may immediately start thinking “I’m not very good at this” or “I should do this more often.” But for this brief practice, consciously reflect on somewhere else in your life where you feel judged. At school, at work, as a parent, or as a child?
  3. Notice how judgment is more than a single thought. Judgment affects how you feel, bringing tension or unease to your body. It may influence your emotional state as well. Notice where your thoughts go when experiencing this kind of self-criticism. What patterns do you fall into under this kind of stress?
  4. Practice leaving that voice of judgment, that inner critic, alone. Stop wrestling with it or appeasing it, or pushing it away. Label it if you want, or even give it a specific name if you prefer. Recognize what it feels like to you, and then let it be.
  5. Breath in, notice. Breathe out, let go. On each in-breath, acknowledge whatever you’re experiencing right now in your body. What are your emotions? Your thoughts? There’s nothing to fix or change, this is what’s going on right now. And on each out-breath, offer yourself relief. Wish yourself what you would a close friend with the same doubts. Wish yourself relief or strength or humor or joy or anything else that feels appropriate. Breathing in, this is how things are, breathing out focusing on ease or whatever else comes to mind.
  6. Wish yourself well, not because you deserve it more than anyone else, but because you deserve it as much as anyone else.

Research on the Inner Critic

Research shows us that we not only have the capacity to pay attention to and stop the chatter of our stories, but we can also reduce our stress, rewire our brains and reinvent our relationships by responding to them differently. This is one of the hallmarks of mindfulness – gently learning to observe and attend to our bodies, minds and experiences non-judgmentally. 

Keywords: Inner Critic, breathing, meditation