Perspectives 14: Befriending Your Inner Critic

In this issue:

  • Befriending Your Inner Critic
  • Taming Your Inner Critic Workshop starts in May
  • Tools for Meeting Facilitation workshop at PCC on April 29th

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Befriending Your Inner Critic

Most of us experience our inner critic as a strong, hyper-critical voice in our heads. It can sound like lots of different things:

“Well, that was stupid.”

“Why did you do it that way?!”

“Now he’ll never like you.”

“You’re not X enough (good, smart, pretty, brave, etc.) to Y (succeed at or get something); it’s not worth trying.” Or “What makes you think you are X enough to get/deserve Y?”

“How could you do that!”

“That’s too hard for you.”

“You are just being lazy (playing it safe, not being disciplined, etc.); you’ll never get any anywhere like that.”

“You aren’t good enough.”

“You don’t deserve to be X (happy, safe, at ease, etc.).” (This is usually followed by a list of your own failings, or – in the case of my inner critic – a reminder of all the unhappiness in the world, all the people who aren’t whatever it is I’m reaching for.)

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

… and so on.


These messages are painful to hear. Sometimes we believe them, or at least live in them as if they were real or true. Sometimes we resist or reject them. But they are still there, either way; still holding us back from being who we want to be.

Many disciplines describe the inner critic as a “saboteur” – a piece of ourselves that dislikes us, that wants to tear us down, make us smaller. Indeed, that framing was part of my co-active coach training.

Inside that story, we need to reject the inner critic, to destroy it. We look for ways to “disprove” what it says about us, to discard its messages, to make it go away.

This sets up a huge internal power struggle. It also asks us to use the inner critic’s tools – criticism, rejection, disparaging, dismissing – against it; thus practicing using those tools against ourselves.

But what if the inner critic is not our enemy?

My own framing for the inner critic comes from voice dialogue. Just as bullies are generally people who have been bullied, our inner critic comes into being when we are criticized – when we first discover both that it is possible to be wrong and that being wrong can be scary/unsafe. In this way of seeing, the inner critic is a defensive response to external threats. It’s job is to keep us safe by making every criticism it thinks could be made about us before somebody else gets a chance to, thus preventing us from ever making a mistake.

It is a piece of us that is afraid…
all the time.

Image: JillianSuzanne at ISphotograhy

So what would happen if instead of either believing that voice when it shows up, or fighting/rejecting it, we got curious?

What if we asked:

• What does my inner critic see here?

• What is it afraid of?

• What does it want for me?

• What does it want from me?

I invite you to try it.

First, practice actually noticing what your inner critic is saying, and, instead of just reacting to the criticism, recognize the fear underneath.

Then, practice responding with compassion for that fearfulness and with curiosity, using the four questions above. See what happens.

I’d love to hear about your experience with this. You can comment, or ask questions, in the comments box below.

If you want more tools for transforming your relationship with your inner critic, I am teaching a six-week class starting May 3rd. The details are below.

Image courtesy of anankkml /

Taming Your Inner Critic Workshop Starts in May

Self-judgment can paralyze us, hold us in fear, keep us from growing into our strengths and taking action. Self-judgment – and the judgment of others – are the job of our inner critic. Would you like to change your relationship with your inner critic and learn to move with ease through fear into action?

Whether self-judgment is coming up for you around work, family, love, creativity, wellness, or some other arena, this six-week workshop will help you hear in a different way the internal voices that react defensively and critically when you are facing challenges, and hold you back from becoming the person you want to be. The work is about shifting your relationship with those voices, so you can find in yourself the resources you need to step more deeply into being the person you are becoming – who you are when you are at your best. You will come away not just with a new, experience-based framing, but also with many concrete tools for staying on the path of being more of you-at-your-best, naturally and with more ease.

Dates and Location: Meets six consecutive Wednesdays, May 3rd through June 7th, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at my place in outer SE Portland (roughly SE 92nd and Johnson Creek Blvd.).

Cost: $225. It can be paid in a single payment, or in three installments. Group participants also get a special rate of $45/hour for individual coaching sessions done between May 1st and June 15th. (The normal rate is $65/hour.)

Registration: To reserve your spot, please send me an email at to let me know you are interested. I will send you the address where you can send a check.

Public Transportation: The house is roughly 1/3rd of a mile from the Flavel Street Max station (Green line), but the walk from there includes a long, steep hill.

Allergy Alert: We have cats. They will be excluded from the space we meet in during our meetings, but if you have a severe cat allergy, this is probably not the group for you. Sorry.


If you have questions, please give me a call email me.  I would love to talk with you about the workshop.

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April Workshop At PCC

Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation – April 29th
What drives you crazy in meetings? What do you wish you could change in the meetings you run, or participate in? This workshop combines lively presentations on useful tools and practices with Q and A and highly interactive exercises based on actual challenges experienced by participants.

Topics include:

  • Why and how to cultivate participatory decision making (and how to do so without creating horrendously long meetings)
  • What are meetings for?
  • Building good meeting agendas
  • Clarifying roles in decision-making
  • Simple, useful tools for meeting facilitators
  • How to support good meeting process when you are not the facilitator
  • Asking powerful questions
  • Working with “difficult people”

Logistics: Saturday, April 29th from noon to 4:00 p.m. at PCC’s SE Campus (Division and 82nd), SCOM 316. The cost is $35 and the CRN is 28018. Pre-registration is required.  To register, go to

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What People Say About My Groups and Workshops

“Emotional, rewarding and life changing”

“The group was inspiring, stimulating, helped me shift out of negativity toward optimistic ideas. I love your style – welcoming, supportive.”

“This workshop has changed how I think about my life”

“I now have LOTS of tools to help me make shifts in my life that I’ve wanted.”

. . . . .


If you are feeling stuck and want to do more in-depth work to move through your stuck spots and begin creating the life you want to be living, I invite you to do three months of coaching.

We will focus in on what is most alive for you, most stuck, most confusing, and discover ways for you to access your own deep wisdom and to release old patterns that have stopped serving you and are preventing you from making the changes you want to make. Coaching is practical – learning and action are integrated, so you are actually taking the steps you want to be taking while getting more clarity about what makes these changes challenging and how to make it easy. The cost for three months of facilitation is $525.

You will find information about my coaching work on the Coaching page.

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PS: Pass it on

If you know someone who’d benefit from this newsletter, please send them a link. Thanks for helping me connect with the people who want what I’ve got to offer.

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