Embracing the Voice of Our Inner Critic

By Keri Nola, LMHC

We all know this voice. It’s the one that shows up when we are being human and it says things like, “You’re so stupid! How could you have said or done that!? What were you thinking!? No one is going to like you if you keep saying/doing that! You screwed everything up!”

Before we learn how to be in relationship with this part of us, we usually respond to its rants in a few ways: believe it and adjust our behavior accordingly, while feeling ashamed; engage in an argument with it; or try to ignore it while it nags at us from behind the scenes. I don’t know about you, but none of these options have offered me a long-term solution that I found satisfying.

If you are ready to take another step in the direction of embracing yourself wholeheartedly (that includes your inner critic!) here are a few suggestions for engaging with your inner critic from a place of understanding and empowerment:

Hear and Acknowledge it. All parts of us deserve to be heard and acknowledged. However, this doesn’t mean we always take what parts of us are saying as truth and buy into it. We can acknowledge our inner critic when we hear it’s feedback by saying something like, “I hear you. I hear how stupid you think it was that I just said or did that.” As this part repeats its opinions and thoughts, we can continue acknowledging that we hear them without agreement. Over time, as the inner critic knows it is being valued and heard, it is usually more easily soothed.

Link it. Our inner critic’s primary job is to serve as our protector. I know it doesn’t feel particularly protective to be criticized, but it’s helpful to understand we often develop a means to criticize ourselves internally to 1) avoid being caught off guard by external criticism and/or 2) because we feel like this is the only way to keep our behaviors in check so we can be accepted by others. When we notice our inner critic being particularly active, it’s a perfect opportunity to see if we can link it with what’s going on in our lives and where we feel we need “protection.” Once we identify these patterns, we can understand the purpose of the inner critic and develop more empathy and compassion towards it rather than reject and/or fear it.

Realistic Expectations. Most importantly, it’s helpful to have realistic expectations. More than expecting you will be able to “get rid of” or “extinguish” your inner critic, there’s an opportunity to embrace and value its intentions, and to work with it instead of against the voice. The reality is, most of us will continue to hear the voice of our inner critic from time to time. It’s part of our humanity, but it is about how we choose to engage with it that makes all the difference. Consider choosing to be present with this part of you and follow the steps above for a more peaceful inner relationship.

It’s not our job to be a drill sergeant or to create barriers to separate ourselves from any of our parts; these approaches keep us disconnected both internally and externally. It’s our job to cultivate a safe inner space where all parts of us can be heard, acknowledged, understood and accepted for their unique and valuable contributions to our wholeness. Here’s to being our own safe place to fall as we continue navigating our journeys back home to ourselves!

Keri Nola is author of “A Year on Your Path to Growth: Daily Inspirations to Reconnect with Your Soul,” and founder of Path to Growth LLC, a Central Florida-based integrative healing center that blends traditional and holistic techniques for journeys to peace. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Nola provides psychotherapy and facilitates therapeutic retreats for those seeking to reconnect with their inner wisdom, particularly after trauma or loss. She also offers heart-inspired business consultations for healthcare professionals. For more information visit www.pathtogrowth.com, on Facebook and Twitter @pathtogrowth.

NOTE: Picture of Keri Nola by Monica Alfonso

Why Happiness is a Choice

By Jennifer Garza

What we think, we become. All that we are arises with our thoughts.~ Buddha

FACT: Research shows genetics determines about 50 percent of your happiness.

You know that neighbor who’s always smiling, or that friend who laughs when her child drags toilet paper all over the house when you come for Friday night dinner? Or what about the guy who brings donuts into work every Monday, just because. Have you thought to yourself they must be some genetic anomaly?

Well, it’s true – some of us are just wired to be happier. But this is only half of the story. There are some surprising facts about happiness and your power to create it. You literally just have to believe.

FACT: Research shows forty percent of happiness is determined by your thoughts and actions.

Genetics, shemetics. A whopping 40 percent of your happiness is 100 percent in your hands. This is a huge number. Imagine if your income jumped 40 percent overnight. Or your weight. This number is nothing to scoff at.

You can deal with anything with grace if your belief system allows you to see the positive. If you think you are doomed to unhappiness because of genetics or circumstances, you are wrong.

FACT: Research shows only 10 percent of your happiness is a result of circumstances.

While you may assume what happens to you is a large determiner of happiness, circumstances are an extremely small percentage of what makes you happy. You can win the lottery or become a paraplegic. Studies show that one-year after either of these major life-changing events, you’ll be just as happy as you were before. This realization can change your life, because it shows the secret to happiness is within your mind. How you perceive the world determines your happiness. And how you perceive the world is your choice.

But what about the facts, you ask? Isn’t it true that there is injustice in the world, that bad things happen to good people, and that those you love sometimes hurt you? Yes. But this is not the whole story.

FACT: Most of what we tell ourselves is not the truth.

Just as we see with our minds, and not our eyes, our reality is not based on fact – it’s created through our thoughts.

For instance, if a guy cuts you off in traffic, you label him as careless and insensitive. But what if he was escorting a loved one to the emergency room? If your new neighbor, Jane, ignores your wave and hello, you label her as rude. But what if she’s just found out about a death in the family?

Perception taints even the simplest things. If you knew how many times you’ve misinterpreted a comment on Facebook, you’d be astounded. The fact is that your interpretation of events rarely has anything to do with fact.

So, you have a choice. You can choose to view the world with a cynical eye, or you can open yourself up to the possibility that not every situation is as you perceive it to be. You can choose to let go of the ego’s attempt to judge others in order to feel superior about yourself. You can choose to understand your way of showing love is not everyone’s way of showing love. You can choose to understand your opinion is simply your opinion and allow others to have their own. You can choose to pick happiness despite life’s tragedies and let-downs.

That’s the beauty of happiness – you get to choose.

Jennifer Garza, M.S., has a master of science in counseling and psychology. She is a former therapist and has taught life enhancement classes at venues including college campuses, state conferences and prisons. She is the author of the inspiration journal “365 Days to Happiness: Use Your Strengths, Thoughts, and Dreams to Manifest a New Life.” Garza has been featured in Natural Health magazine, AOL, BusinessInsider.com, Young Entrepreneur.com, and on FTNS radio. Visit her website at www.authorjennifergarza.com or connect with her on Facebook