Overcoming Your Inner Critic

Have you ever felt held back by thoughts such as “I can’t,” “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not doing enough,” etc.? The emotional part of our brains is wired to think these hurtful thoughts as a feeble attempt to protect ourselves from potential threats. However, when we listen to these reactionary thoughts, it’s easy to begin to believe these hurtful statements about ourselves.

The Theology of The Body reminds us that we live in tension between what it calls “Historical Man” and “Eschatological Man” That is to say, we’re caught between the person we are and the life we have today, and the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled person we’re called to be and the more abundant life God is calling us to live. Through his grace, God is working to make all things new–starting with us, our lives and relationships! Of course, the enemy doesn’t want any of this to happen. He is constantly whispering in our spiritual ear, telling us that “thus-and-such isn’t possible,” or “who do we think we are?” or “you can’t do that!” or, “that’s never going to change” or even, “why bother trying.”

St Ignatius of Loyola called these kinds of messages “desolations.” Desolations represent the voice of the Enemy, who is trying to tempt us away from doing what God would have us do and having the life and relationships God wants us to have. The more we listen to these desolations, the more we block God’s grace from having the effect it could on our life and relationships. Desolations make us feel stuck, demoralized, undermined, and thwarted–often before we even start. It takes a lot of work to rid ourselves of desolations and learn to be guided by the consolations of the Holy Spirit, but the more we do this work, the more confident we become in the face of the various challenges we encounter in every part of our life. Even in the face of big, serious, persistent problems, we can feel confident, powerful, and effective, because we are confirmed in the knowledge that all is possible with God.

Here are a few ways that we can move towards consolations and overcome our inner critic.

  1. Acknowledge Daily Successes—When desolations are taking over, we often think about the things that we didn’t do well or “should” have done better. Especially at the end of the day, we reflect on the things we didn’t get to on our to-do lists or the things that we wish we had said or done. But this type of daily reflection causes us to feel powerless, defeated, not good enough. Instead, write down the things that you do well daily. Did you reach out to a friend? Hold the door open for someone? Clean up the pile of papers on the counter? Finish a project? No matter how big or small, write down at least one success, accomplishment, or thing you did well each day. This helps us to lean into consolations by recognizing what we are capable of and what we did well which replaces those hurtful thoughts with helpful thoughts. 
  1. Recognize Your Strengths—When you acknowledge your successes each day, ask yourself, “What strength or virtue helped me do X well?” Identify the strengths or virtues that you used to help you accomplish that task. Were you thoughtful, determined, patient, etc.? These are the strengths that you have, that make you who you are, and that you can use to help you be effective in any situation you may face. 
  1. Use I Am Statements—As mentioned previously, the enemy uses desolations to make us focus on all the things we are not and all the things we “can’t” do. The Holy Spirit, however, uses consolations to remind us who we are and all the things we are capable of. Once you have identified your strengths as described above. Write them down in a list and remind yourself of them every day by saying, “I am thoughtful,” “I am determined,” “I am patient,” and so on. Fill in your strengths into those I Am statements and use them as a reminder of who you are and who God created you to be. 

For more support on overcoming your inner critic, reach out to us at CatholicCounselors.com.


Quick Links and Resources:

Unworried—A Life Without Anxiety

A Great Day For A New You—When Its Time To Make a Change 

Broken Gods—Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart

Silencing The Inner-Critic: 4 Keys to Loving Yourself

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

It can be hard to love ourselves.

Many of us are afraid that loving ourselves will make us narcissistic and selfish.  Many others of us have too hard a time getting past our inner-critics to even try to figure out what it means.

Despite popular fears to the contrary, loving ourselves is an essential ingredient in being a truly moral person.  As Jesus, himself, observed, the Golden Rule states that we must love others as we love ourselves (Mk. 12:31). Perhaps the reason the people seem to struggle so mightily to love one another is that most people don’t have an adequate sense of what it means to properly love themselves

Love Defined

To love someone means that we are committed to working for their good.  To love ourselves is to be similarly committed to working for our own good.   St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body teaches that authentic love must be free, total, faithful & fruitful.  This usually refers to the love between man and woman, but I think these terms can also be applied to a healthy love of self as well. The following description of the four keys to loving oneself properly are taken from my new book, Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart (in stores June 2, PRE-ORDER TODAY!).  I hope you find them helpful in your journey toward greater self-acceptance.

4 Keys To Loving Yourself

I will love myself freely.  I commit to working for my good without reservation, without grumbling.  I will not hold back in my efforts to challenge myself to open my heart wide to receive the transformation God wishes to give me and to cooperate to the best of my ability with his grace at all times.

I will love myself totally. While there are parts of myself that are hard to like, I will not turn away from them.  I will celebrate the fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), that I am good (Gen. 1:31), and that God has great things in store for me (1 Cor 2:9).  I will fearlessly cooperate with God’s grace and strive for greatness so that every part of me, especially the parts of me I like the least, may be transformed and bear witness to the wonders God can do.

I will love myself faithfully.  Even on the days I want to give up on myself I will continue to fight the good fight (2 Tim 4:7).  I reject self-criticism and false guilt and any movement of the spirit that tries to separate me either from the love of God or his ability to  fulfill the incredible plans he has for my life (2 Cor 10:5).    On the days I can no longer believe in myself, I will cling to the knowledge that God believes in me.  On the days that I cannot count on my own strength, I will rely on his.  I will not beat myself up for my weakness.  Rather,  I will boast in the power of God (1 Cor 1:31) to raise me up from weakness to glory.

I will love myself fruitfully.  I will rejoice in the good things God does in and through me.  I will look for ways to be a blessing to others.  I will share the blessings God has given me and I will proclaim the good he has done for me (Ps 116:12) that others might be inspired by the wonders God is working in me.

 Be Not Afraid!

This is the attitude we aspiring mystics must adopt as we face even the darkest parts of ourselves and our frustrated efforts to heal.  Not fear, anger and condemnation, but the free, total, faithful and fruitful Love that enables us to rejoice in our failings because of God’s immeasurable mercy and love and, in turn,  be transformed by the power of his infinite grace.    To learn more about how you can learn to love yourself as God loves you, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

Popcak masterfully reveals how even our darkest desires ultimately point to something beautiful, to a destiny beyond our wildest dreams, and he offers a powerful, practical plan for readers to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for their lives.  A must-read for anyone who wants to live the redemption Christ won for us!”  -Christopher West, Founder & President, The Cor Project  Author, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, & the Universal Longing