November 21, 2019

Quietening my inner critic with compassion

Quietening my inner critic with compassion

My inner critic’s distracting dialogue has been amped up this week. It all started with that end of year feeling. You know the one. Like you’re scraping to the end of the line, each morning feeling more tired than the last, despite having ample sleep. My small talk revolves around it, embedding its place in my mental and emotional landscape.

The kicker comes in when the internal dialogue and resulting fatigue translates to inertia and procrastination. Then I start beating myself up for my lack of action on the long list of stuff I have and want to do. Including getting a blog out. The negativity sucks my creativity and from there, cascades to feelings of being inadequate and incompetent.

This is of course my ‘tricky brain’ doing its thing*. My amygdalae in my ‘old brain’ (aka monkey or reptilian brain) are fired up, fuelled by the fact I haven’t taken much of a break this year and then the kerosene of negative dialogue that is generated by my ‘new brain’ (aka pre-frontal cortex) pumps them more, triggering my old brain again into feelings of disgust and anxiety. Isn’t it incredible how negative internal feedback loops can play out! You can read more about the science of this here.

So I’ve doubled down on the advice I give my clients. Meditate more. Kindly observe the dialogue. Find distance from it. And today as the smoke chokes Sydney, my mind’s haze starts to clear and a spark of creativity around the power of compassion arrives.

Compassion is such an underrated and misunderstood concept. People often see it as weak or soft. Or they use it to avoid hard conversations, which is usually about protecting themselves from discomfort. When in fact compassion for yourself and others is a powerful force for creativity. That’s because it juices up your levels of oxytocin, which soothes your old brain threat responses and loosens the grip that negativity has on your problem solving capacity.

So in this now moment, ask yourself:

  • What negative feedback loops have played out for you this week?
  • How have you been reinforcing them?
  • Can you step back and focus on something positive (like a beautiful view) or physical (like your breath) instead?


*Thanks Chris Irons and Elaine Beaumont who wrote The Compassionate Mind Workbook for some of the key terms in this post.

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