This practice is adapted from the excellent book Soul Without Shame, by Byron Brown. Highly recommended for going deep into getting rid of that nasty inner critic voice that drags us all down. You know, that voice that tells you that you should – or shouldn’t – do something. Or that you’re not good enough. Or that you’re too fat or too loud or too short or whatever form your personal critic takes.
Choose a day this week (or more than one if you prefer) to pay attention to your activities and how you navigate them. In particular, pay attention to when you are motivated to do, or not do, something in response to the inner critic. If you prefer to do this over the week, take a moment to reflect at the end of each day and make your lists.
At the end of the day, make two lists. One is the activities you did (or didn’t do) out of the desire to avoid criticism – list out those that were to avoid self-criticism separately from those that were to avoid the criticism of others. The second list is actions that were motivated by the desire to get approval, either from others or your own approval. Separate them out as in the first list.
Once you have made the lists, take a look to see which activities are driven by response to others and which are driven by response to your inner voice. Is there overlap between them? Is one longer than the other? What do the lists tell you?
Do you find yourself spending more time avoiding criticism, or more time seeking approval? How often is that approval your own, vs. others? Paying attention to our motivations allows us to make more conscious choices about how we spend our time and how we treat ourselves.
It’s easy to spend our lives on auto-pilot, bouncing like a pinball from one unconscious demand to another. The goal of this practice is to shine a light on those motivations so you can choose which ones you want to act on. Is there an activity you did that you really didn’t want to, but unconsciously moved into action because of your inner critic? The next time you feel compelled to act on it, ask yourself where the motivation is coming from – is it your true self, or your inner critic?