Tag Archives: inner critic

Small Change?

What if both the idea of change, and its implementation could be less taxing than we imagine?  Actually not change as in coins, but change as in the verb.  Let’s explore that!

All sorts of things in life can be intimidating.  As humans we particularly like habit and routine.  It’s easier than looking at everything with “new” eyes all the time, truly!  So perhaps our inherent ‘risk aversion’ has gotten tangled up with an aversion to change?

Additionally our handy, dandy Inner Critics make change seem daunting and scary.  They tell us that all sorts of bad and complicated things will happen.  Then they tell us that we can’t change, that it’s too hard to change, that we aren’t capable of change—over and over and over again.

And big change is challenging, and arduous, I agree.  The new question is: “what if it’s actually about small change, instead of big change?”  Radical idea, eh?

One client I’m working with is in the midst of the discovery that you don’t have to change everything to be more effective.  A small change can be very effective on many levels.

Here’s an idea to embrace.  We don’t actually have to start over from scratch, we may just want to tweak things a bit!  We each have unique talents and strengths.  We are each a unique compilation of possibilities.  There is strength and value in that uniqueness.  Getting more effective results is more about small changes than trying to start from scratch.   Additionally if you try to change ‘everything’ about yourself, you are actually more likely to zoom right past and thus keep the part that’s not working, leaving it still not working.

When you lean on the support of what you are good at, it’s much easier to shift or change the parts that aren’t working well.   You are coming from strength, which is really effective.  One of the crucial aspects to making small changes work comes down to figuring out where the ‘sticky part’ is!

What I’m really trying to say here is that you don’t have to crawl through broken glass or become a different person to find more fulfillment or inner peace.  It’s more about narrowing in on small changes that can have a big impact.

Those changes are mostly around what we make up!   We make up stuff about:

  • How we are ‘supposed’ to be
  • What others want or need from us
  • What others think about us
  • How we judge ourselves

Which all comes down to a large pile of judgement (Inner Critic) which makes changes look big, hard, scary, and downright impossible.  And yet some changes are truly just small shifts.  Now those small shifts that make a big difference often seem to be in the land of boundaries.  Remember those?  Those handy little fences that manage everyone’s expectations!

So how about experimenting with making some small changes, and setting some simple boundaries between yourself and others?  What might happen then?  Oh and what might you do with those super talents of yours if you had a wee bit less distraction and judgement circling you?


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore just what boundaries to set where give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Rabbit Holes

While working with a client the other day, I hit upon this amusing way to conquer your inner critic.  Well maybe not exactly conquer?  More like avoid getting swamped by?

It’s all about Mr. Bunny here.   He’s a great example of how that inner critic (gremlin, monkey mind, whatever) works — it focuses on distracting you, big time!  Think about all those cartoons where Bugs drives Elmer and others wacky with distractions, interruptions, and wild antics.

The result is that the object of all this behavior just cannot think straight or function.  And that is exactly what your inner critic wants.  It wants to keep you safe by not having you do ANYTHING different.  After all you are currently safe, right?  You are not, in this moment on fire, so you must be safe.  What I’m pointing to is that your critic has an exceptionally narrow criteria for safety.  As long as you are not in imminent danger, it does NOT want you to do ANYTHING different.  Guess what — the best way to keep you from doing something different is to distract you!

This distraction technique can be very irritating, and hinder your progress.  I propose a new way to both think about it and react to it and it’s about the rabbit in two big ways:

First, it’s about the distraction technique of taking you down a rabbit hole.  Changing the subject, fussing about some detail, even getting angry — all examples of ‘falling down a rabbit hole’.  If you can imagine Bugs pushing you down that hole, it just might give you the idea of avoiding the hole!

Second, it’s all about the ‘Yeah, but…’ technique, which to my ears sounds amazingly like or at the very least rhymes with “Wabbit”.  You remember Elmer Fudd saying: ‘You wascally wabbit!‘  The ‘Yeah but…’ happens when someone has an idea.  Before the idea can actually get any traction the critic instantly blurts out a ‘Yeah but…’   Yeah but we don’t have the money for it.  Yeah but it will be hard.  Yeah but you’ve never done it before.  Yeah but…on and on it goes! The result being more distraction to take you off course, to stop you from getting anywhere close to going after your dreams or goals. What if when you said:  ‘Yeah, but…’ you could picture Elmer and the wabbit (yeah/but) in your brain?  It just might grab your attention long enough to help you recognize the ‘yeah, but’ as the distraction it is designed to be.

Here’s the bad news: Sorry, our critic voices are not going away — AND — you CAN choose to not let them overtake you  and run your life!  A very effective way to do that is with humor.  Our inner critics want you to take them seriously.   And one of the techniques they use to help that along is to get you seriously distracted from anything that might result in you doing something new and different.  Humor is a very effective way to interrupt the critic’s game!

Frankly, my job and goal is to help you actually leap into doing something different because as the old adage goes:  ‘You can’d keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’  See if a bit of Bugs can’t help you create new and different results!

Okay, it’s a bit cliche, but I can’t resist it ‘That’s all folks!’

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in avoiding your own rabbit holes, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.

Which Voice Are You Listening To?

Sometimes we forget that we always have a choice as to which voice we listen to.  These days we are bombarded with all sorts of voices all the time.  A bunch of them are angry, or at least fearful, aren’t they?  And those are just the external voices, the ones out there in the world.  The more important voices are the ones in your head.  Which one of those are you listening to?

It seems that as humans we often think of things in terms of extremes—good/bad, off/on, black/white, etc.  It’s no different in our brains.  We all have many inner voices which could be thought of as aspects of our personalities—and we DO have a choice as to which ones we listen and respond to. For now let’s look at the big two: The “Inner Wisdom” and the “Inner Critic” voices.

Most of us know the Inner Critic (also called the gremlin, monkey mind, saboteur, etc.).  It’s that voice with a “tone” and a pointing finger attached to it.  It says: “you should”, “you must”, “who are you to think you can…”   It’s nagging, belittling, and judgmental.  Functionally it’s there to keep us safe.  The problem is that it has a very narrow idea of safety.  Frankly it thinks that safe is where we are right now.  We aren’t on fire, the building isn’t exploding—so why mess with things?  Leave it like it is.  So what if we are in a job that makes us miserable, or up to our butt in credit card debt, or in a rotten relationship.  Frankly, this voice comes from the concept that any change is bad and might make things worse.  It’s fear based and loud, and laced with tone and drama.

The other voice I call your Inner Wisdom.  It’s also know as intuition, and for some the “God voice”.  It’s not so noisy, and it is completely without judgement.  It’s always neutral in tone, and just sort of plops into your head or consciousness.  Sometimes it feels to me that it is the the voice of my wiser future self—the one that has been through it all and knows what to worry about and what to let go of.

So here’s the deal.  In order to be happier, saner, calmer, and more successful, we need to stop giving air time to our Inner Critic and pay more attention to our Inner Wisdom.  That in itself can be challenging, so here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • It’s really helpful to start distinguishing which voice you are hearing.  Does the voice have a tone or energy to it, or is it neutral in it’s delivery?  Is it judgmental or loving? It it noisy or quiet?
  • You can’t actually ever make the Critic voice go away.  You can choose to listen to it or not.  The most effective technique with it is to see it as a “signal”.  When you hear it nagging recognize that it must be doing that because you are about  to do something different, and then lean toward that different thing.  Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?  Your critic wants you to stay right where you are, doing what you have always done.  It gets riled when you step up to something new.  Ah, so in an odd way what you want to do is make it nervous, yes?
  • You can encourage more communication with your Inner Wisdom by giving it some calm time, time when you are not tied up in thinking.  Ever notice how you get brilliant ideas in the shower?  It’s because you are usually in there enjoying the water instead of fretting.  Your intuition will show up when you are meditating, gardening, walking—in essence giving yourself some ‘down’ time.

Most important of all is for you to recognize that you always have choice.  You can choose which inner voice to listen to, as well as which outer ones to listen to.  It takes being more present and aware in order to make that choice, and it’s well worth it!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you find yourself struggling with which voice you are listening to give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

Signs Of A Dysfunctional Family

Okay, so we all probably come from a dysfunctional family.  I get it.  There may be people who have perfection in that area, and if that’s true the numbers are slim, and I don’t actually know any of them.  The important thing is just how dysfunctional was your family, and how are you coping with and recovering from that? And what does Dysfunction really mean?

Earlier this year I ran across a blog post by Marriage anddysfunction Sex Therapist, Todd Creager .  He had a video post on the 7 signs of dysfunction, and with his permission, I’ll share a bunch of it with you.

The most important thing he said, the thing that really drew me in was: Dysfunction means you come from a family where you are afraid to be your true self. Wow!  There it is in a nut shell, plain, simple and true.

Let’s look at the 7 signs:

1. You have a hard time figuring out what you want.

2. You feel guilty a lot, your feelings of guilt lasts longer than 10 seconds

3. You end up in non-reciprocating relationships

4. Too much or not enough conflict in your intimate relationships

5. You are really hard on yourself.  Your inner critic never lets you be!

6. You have a hard time relaxing.

7. If you are a parent you are extreme.  You either run the family like a “boot camp” or are far to laissez faire in your parenting.

(to see and hear the entire video go to http://toddcreager.com/7-signs-you-came-from-a-dysfunctional-family/)

Pretty interesting isn’t it?  I know my score is pretty high.  I’ve been working on this stuff for years.  I’ve shifted a bunch of it, and am still a “work in progress”.  The thing I love about this test is that it’s not only approachable but has that sense of practicality.  I heard it and thought…”oh yes, I see that.”  Some of the things I never had really tied back to the family experience, but had thought were somehow just how I was.

And, just because I can’t resist it, let’s see where money would reflect this.  Remember how money is reflective?  How it shows us what we are up to?

Do you have trouble shopping?  Is it hard to choose?  Or do you buy things that you don’t seem to really like once you get them home?  There’s number 1: figuring out what you want.

Number 2: feeling guilty a lot.  This shows up a bunch with my clients.  They feel guilty about many aspects of money…not having enough, not being good with it, not tracking it, etc.

Number 3, un-equal relationships, can be a bit tricky.  Maybe you pick up the check too often, or like several clients you “over gift” and “treat” others?  How about number 4: conflict in your relationship?  We all know many couples do fight about money, and on the other end they hide what they are doing with it from each other.

Number 5: the Inner Critic is all over our money stuff, all the time.  If I had a magic wand, it is the top thing that I would change.  I would stop those heinous, nagging, distracting voices in all our heads!

I blame number 6 mostly on number 5.  It’s hard to relax with the Inner Critic ragging on us to do more, and more, or less and less.

And, finishing up with number 7, it’s unfortunate but most people do the same extreme parenting thing about money with their own children that their parents did with them about money.  That usually looks like keeping it in the taboo, un-talked about place.

So yet another place where money shows us what is driving us and where we are.  It reflects.  It doesn’t actually ‘make’ things happen.  It shows us what we are choosing.

Let’s all work on making different choices.



The Signal

What is the signal that this little girl is sending us?  My guess is that she’s either trying to tell us that she needs a nap, or she’s had too much sugar!  She hasn’t said either one of signalthose things, has she?  She’s just sending a signal.

It’s not a calm, rational signal; it’s a big raucous one.  She not only wants to get our attention, she wants to keep it!  She wants us to do something…NOW!

That is exactly what the inner critic voice in your head is doing.  Trying to get your attention.  It’s trying to distract you from what you are doing, and change your focus to it.

And the problem is that you let it.

You misinterpret what is going on.  Instead of listening to what the critic is saying, you need to just see it as a signal.  That’s the only thing that matters.  Just like our screaming little girl, what the critic is saying doesn’t matter.  The fact that it’s a signal is all the information you need.

And what does the critics’ signal communicate?  What is the equivalent of too much sugar or needing a nap?  The critics’ signal is this:  ‘YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT…and the critic doesn’t like it!’  The inner critic wants things to stay the same, the old status quo.

That’s it.  Just that.  It’s going on and on about what you should be doing, why you’ll never succeed, how wrong, stupid, whatever you are.   None, and I repeat, none, of that matters, or even warrants any attention.  All that matters is that you interpret the signal correctly, as a signal letting you know that you’ve rattled the critics’ cage by doing something out of the box.

And doing something different is EXACTLY what you want to do, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what growth, change and the pursuit of happiness is all about?

If you want a more effective life you’ll have to do it differently.  If you want something other that what you are getting you have to change what you are doing.

That’s all there is to it.  That voice in your head is a signal, nothing more.  And it’s a signal that is trying to distract you from making those changes, the changes you want and need to make.

So, bottom line, instead of listening to the critic rant at you, instead of giving it attention, recognize it for what it is, and tell it to take a nap!  You’ll feel better, be less stressed, and actually accomplish more!