How to Smack Down Your Inner Critic Once and For All

How to Smack Down Your Inner Critic Once and For All

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do you have an inner critic that taunts you every time you trip up?

You know, that taunting voice that erupts the second you make a mistake?

You don’t know when it started, but for as long as you can remember it’s been with you, waiting for the slightest opportunity to launch its next attack.

And while you suspect its intentions are positive — to protect you from failures — in practice all it does is make things worse.

Favorite taunts of the ruthless inner critic

I’ve been absent-minded for as long as I can remember. I have difficulty focusing on one thing for long, which often leads to silly mistakes. Like losing things.

And this is where that inner critic jumps in.

“How could you be so careless?”

“Will you ever learn?”

“How could you be so irresponsible?”

This incessant voice was truly bringing me down. It was eroding my self-esteem. Every time I forgot something, it would nag me to the point of paralysis, unable to remedy the situation.

Things came to a head and I decided that I had to find a solution. I had to silence this inner critic once and for all.

At first I tried addressing the tendency to be absent-minded by creating lists using the Getting Things Done approach. This helped me get more organized but didn’t silence the harsh critic when I did forget things albeit less frequently.

I tried meditation and that helped to calm my mind but I struggled to keep up a daily practice that lasted for much more than a few minutes each day. I’m still working on expanding the length of the daily sessions.

After a bit of research, I discovered that cultivating a mindfulness practice was very powerful. I think of it as meditation in action. This turned out to be the answer I was looking for.

Mindfulness — an antidote to the chattering monkey mind?

Mindfulness is a psychological concept. It can be defined as being consistently attentive and aware of one’s mental patterns in a non-judgmental manner.

By using the breath as an anchor the practitioner is able to step back and ‘watch’ her thoughts without identifying with them.

Every time she becomes aware that her mind has run away with her thoughts, she consistently and gently brings her focus back to her breath and resumes watching the thoughts without identifying with them.

One of the benefits of a mindfulness practice is the capacity it creates in the mind of the practitioner to objectively observe, and then change deeply ingrained mental patterns.

I spent the next few months cultivating a mindfulness practice. I would watch my thoughts using my breath as an anchor. Inevitably I’d get lost in my thoughts and I’d use my breath as an anchor to go back to ‘watching’ my thoughts.

My first big test of my mindfulness practice

A few months after starting my mindfulness practice, I found myself on a familiar mental roller coaster. My mind had been particularly unruly that morning.

At about 11am, I discovered that the remote control key to my garage at home was missing.

I felt panic! Fear!

The monkey mind is a cruel mind

The usual tirade of thoughts filled with self-blame and shame ensued. The panic-driven questions seemed so reminiscent of my (well intentioned) caregivers from during my growing years:

  • “How could you have been so careless?”
  • “Can’t you even look after one little remote?”
  • “You should be ashamed of yourself. Seriously.”

… On and on it went.

As the barrage continued my morale dropped.

The shame, anger and hopelessness became overwhelming. I felt that familiar pit in my stomach. My shoulders dropped into a slouch.

At this point something interesting happened.

My mindfulness practice came to the rescue

Instead of slumping into my usual state of paralysis, I went into ‘automatic mode’ and I found myself taking a deep breath.

My attention came back to my breath. The destructive thinking continued to play itself out as I watched.

I chose not to react. Instead I objectively watched my thoughts play out the painful cycle of self-blame.

This act of objectively watching showed me that I had a choice not to react. Not to believe the thoughts like I had in the past. Instead I could choose to just let them pass across my mind like clouds moving across the sky.

I could choose to stop beating myself up. Right now!

Choosing not to identify with destructive thoughts. (Detachment)

I made the obvious choice. I didn’t buy into the destructive thoughts.

Instead, I watched them as my mindfulness training had taught me. I didn’t try to push them away but I didn’t indulge them either.

The destructive thoughts slowed down. They petered out into a mumble. They no longer had any power over me.

Then silence!

A spacious mind inspires constructive action

The silence created a certain ‘spaciousness’ in the mind.

Now my mind started to think constructively.

Rationally.

Now that I had moved past the destructive thinking I was free to take constructive action — i.e. to actually look for the remote.

I decided to retrace my steps to the café that I’d been to earlier that morning. I asked the owners if they had seen the remote. They said they hadn’t. My heart sank.

For a moment the anger and self-blame started to kick in again. The thoughts started to return

“You’re never going to find the remote, it’s lost”

“You’ll have to get another one. That’s a hundred bucks! ”

I went back to my breath. I “watched” the thoughts.

Soon they dissipated.

Spaciousness.

Again.

A-Ha!

At this point it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a good look under the table where I’d been sitting.

I looked under the table …  and there it was!

The little remote was wedged beneath one of the legs of the table. Nicely tucked away out of sight — only visible to someone who was actually looking for it.

How mindfulness broke my cycle of self-blame

If I hadn’t been mindful I would never have retraced my steps or gone to the café. Even if I’d gone to the café I wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to look under the table.

After having been told by the owners that they hadn’t seen the key, I would have interpreted their message as being confirmation of my underlying belief.

That I was incapable, irresponsible and that I didn’t really deserve to find my garage keys since I’d lost them.

Mindfulness brought these destructive underlying beliefs out in the open and I got to watch them play through my mind as they tried to sabotage my day. I then had the opportunity to choose not to believe them anymore.

Are You Ready to Silence Your Inner Critic?

If you choose to cultivate a consistent mindfulness practice you will be amazed with the results.

The following are some specific ways in which mindfulness will vanquish your inner critic – once and for all.

1. A strong mindfulness practice can bring destructive thought patterns out into the open. Cultivating the capacity to ‘watch’ these destructive thought patterns means you can choose not to be victimized by them. Instead, you can take constructive action.

2. If you watch your mind consistently, using your breath as an anchor, you will start to see your mind’s workings with greater clarity over time. You won’t be a victim of destructive thinking and will make better choices that lead to constructive action.

3.You don’t need to either push the thoughts away or indulge them. You just watch them as they work through their ‘life cycle’.  The act of watching is extremely powerful.

Do you have an inner critic? Does it berate you and undermine you, often without you realizing it?

If you do, then just stop.

And listen to your thoughts.

I mean truly listen.

Breathe. Listen.

Breathe. Listen.

It all starts with one deep breath.

Why don’t you give it a try? Right now.

How has your inner critic undermined you today?

Photo by Anthony Cain

Ash Roy

Ash is a freelance writer and blogger with an MBA, and 15+ years of international corporate experience. His mission is to help 1 million busy professionals and entrepreneurs become time affluent. Visit him on http://www.worksmartlivebetter.com follow him on twitter @AshRoyHelps or circle him on google+.

Latest posts by Ash Roy (see all)

62 Comments

  1. Hey Ash,

    Great post, I recognise all of these qualities – a little in myself but a LOT is my husband. He beats himself up so badly and uses up so much energy! Just printed this off to give to him – thanks. It’ll come better from you than me! julie

    Reply
    • Hi Julie,

      thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated.

      I’m really glad that you felt this post would be useful for your husband. :-)

      Which of these qualities do you find are the most prominent in you and your husband?

      Reply
      • Hey Ash, my husband is just so hard on himself over the ‘wrong’ things. It’s like anything he deems as ‘ well a man should just get this stuff right first time’- he just punishes himself over! He loved your post though! Thanks

        Reply
        • Ah yes. That old chestnut.

          I too expect to get things right the first time – which is particularly ridiculous when you have chosen and entrepreneurial path.

          :-)

          My best wishes to your husband. I hope he finds the printout of the post helpful and is able to use the information to become aware of his patterns … and hopefully use and effective mindfulness practice to change those patterns over time.

          :-)

          Thanks again for your kind words and for taking the time to share your thoughts :-)

          Reply
  2. My inner critic most often revolves around financial mistakes. The following quote helps me to view matters with a different perspective; “No power in society, no hardship in your condition can depress you, keep you down, in knowledge, power, virtue, influence, but by your own consent. “~William Ellery Channing, 1838

    Reply
    • Hi Chas,

      Thanks for sharing that very powerful quote.

      It’s really is inspiring and empowering at the same time. It connects you with your inner resources and gives your spirit a real boost.

      I see from your website that you have heard Alan Watts. Wasn’t he an amazing speaker. I’ve listened to quite a few of his talks and have found every single one to be nothing short of enthralling.

      Have you heard of the Alan Watts app (on iOS)?. It’s a collection of several of his best talks. I listen to it often.

      Reply
  3. Good article, Ash! I’m curious about whether your mindfulness practice is a sitting practice or not. Because if it is, it sounds a lot like meditation to me (at least some forms–I know there are many kinds of meditation). Because I think one of the benefits of cultivating mindfulness is that you *don’t* always have to be sitting still and watching your thoughts for it to work. Like when you drew on its power in the moments when you’d lost your remote. :)

    I also really like the image of watching your thoughts pass by like clouds. Very helpful!

    Reply
  4. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for your comment. Great question/point.

    My mindfulness practice is not a sitting practice. While I do try and sit for meditation once-a-day, I try and bring the ‘witness state’ into my day-to-day activities through mindfulness. I think of mindfulness as meditation in action.

    I’m glad you liked the imagery around mindfulness being like watching your thoughts pass by like clouds. Here is another analogy for mindfulness that I used in a previous post:

    “It’s a bit like sitting on a beach watching the waves (thoughts) on the ocean (mind). I’m absorbed in the expansive ocean and the waves rising and falling in the ocean.

    Sooner or later my attention gets caught up in one of the waves and I lose sight of the ocean. Once I become aware of this I gently bring my attention back to my breath and continue watching the ocean.”

    Do you find that analogy to be helpful?

    Reply
  5. Hi Ash, I couldn’t agree more with all your statements. I have been in the healing industry for many years now and firmly believe in this form of mindfulness. I look forward for reading more information from you in the future.

    Reply
    • Hi Matt

      Thanks for stopping by. The mind and the body are so intricately connected and they affect each other much more than most of us realise. I’m sure you see that a lot in your work.

      Thanks for your kind words re: looking forward to reading more information from me in the future. I look forward to sharing it with you :-)

      How long have you been in the healing industry? Have you seen evidence of mindfulness improving physical health? I’d love to hear about specific instances if you would like to share them in the comments.

      :-)

      Reply
    • Yep, Ash, I do find that to be another helpful analogy. And I also can’t help but notice how often we use nature imagery for these kinds of things.

      It would be much less common, for instance, to come across a statement like, “Picture your thoughts as multiple photocopies being churned out by your mind, the copy machine. Now turn off the power button…” :-)

      Reply
      • Oops! Obviously, I posted my reply under the wrong comment. :-)

        Reply
        • That’s fine. It’s the thought that counts – not the placement of it ;-)

          Reply
      • Haha @ “Picture your thoughts as multiple photocopies being churned out by your mind, the copy machine. Now turn off the power button … ”

        That’s hilarious!

        It is interesting that we use nature for our imagery.

        But you know what? I think picturing your thoughts as multiple photocopies is a very very powerful image. I think it drives home two important points:

        1) The repetitive nature of our thoughts (a major drain on our mental energy)
        2) The fact that mindfulness can be practised in mundane everyday situations (as I tried to illustrate with the garage key example)

        Thanks so much for stopping by again and sharing your amusing but profound insights.

        :-)

        Reply
  6. Great article Ash. Thank you for explaining the mindfulness practice and applying it to a real life situations – no matter how “ordinary” they might seem. Oh to be a master of my mind in every moment – especially when kids are getting out of control and the dinner is burning on the stovetop and I have to make a deadline. But “practice” is the key word here, right?

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Hi Tajci,

      Thanks for your kind words about the article.

      It means a lot to me that you appreciate the application of mindfulness in real-life situations regardless of how “ordinary” they seem. That is exactly what I was trying to convey in the post.

      “Practice” is most certainly the keyword. The more you practice mindfulness the more you remember to be mindful and the more your life improves.

      It’s very much like building muscle. Using resistance training to “push” the boundaries is exactly what helps the muscle grow.

      The biggest challenge I find with mindfulness is remembering to be mindful. Sometimes hours go by and I realise that I haven’t been mindful of my actions.

      At these times it’s very important that I don’t beat myself up about having not been mindful but rather gently bring my attention back to the practice.

      Over time I’ve found that the intervals of time that go by without me remembering to be mindful are decreasing and my practice is getting stronger.

      Working from home as a writer, I can so completely relate to the challenges of juggling children, domestic and responsibilities and work-related deadlines.

      Are you mindfulness practitioner? If so, for how long have you been practising?

      Reply
  7. Thanks for sharing this with us Ash! You have a way of painting a picture with words yet still teach practical application. I have been needing a simple example and method like this, I often teach my clients but forget about myself! No more inner critic :-) Becoming and remaining rational and mindful is key to conserving energy and success.

    Reply
    • Hi Vanessa,

      I’m really glad you were able to see ‘the picture’ in the words and still get a clear understanding of the practical application of the teaching.

      As a writer, I find your words to be extremely encouraging. That is exactly what I was trying to convey through my words (in this post) : I was trying to paint a picture that illustrated mindfulness in a practical and day-to-day setting.

      So thank you very much for taking the time to express your thoughts.

      I’m also extremely happy to know that you intend to apply this in your own life and vanquish your inner critic. If practised consistently over time, a mindfulness practice can certainly quieten that judging voice if not banish it completely.

      :-)

      I agree the remaining rational and mindful is the key to conserving energy and success. Not only because of the direct benefits of mindfulness, but also because of the indirect benefits e.g. mindfulness enables us to make better choices and not based energy in pursuits there are externally imposed on us but are not aligned with our own internal values.

      Reply
  8. Thank you Ash for a concisely written, informative article. Mindfulness appears to be a very powerful tool, to calm mind and body, shake off years of negative conditioning and focus on what is important in the present. Finding the car remote was a great example. Will try and practice “mindfulness” instead of getting irate and overwhelmed by work and life challenges.
    Cheers, Nilima

    Reply
    • Hi Nilima,

      I’m really glad you found the article to be informative and concise. Yes mindfulness can be very powerful if practised consistently and over a period of time.

      I’m glad you found the car remote to be a great example. I deliberately chose the ‘mundane’ event to illustrate the application of mindfulness in an attempt to avoid the mysticism associated with the general philosophy and to drive home the practical application of it.

      I with you all the very best with practising ‘mindfulness’ in your daily life and would welcome the opportunity to answer any further questions you may have.

      :-)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      :-)

      Reply
  9. Great article. I also tend to berate myself for inadvertent mistakes, forgetfulness, emotional outburst etc. Mindful living is the key message from Buddha. You have nicely elaborated it. you are also right that meditation is not necessarily an exercise done while sitting in the prescribed asana. It can be done while performing routine chores. Anchoring in the breath is the art.

    Reply
    • Hi Mahavir,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.

      I too get down on myself often. But I’ve found that focusing on the breath is a great way to disengage from negative thought patterns.

      The reason I think it works so well is because focusing on the breath engages your mind with something non-conceptual. And when your mind is engaged with the breadth is almost impossible for it to simultaneously engage in negative thinking.

      Meditation is a good activity and ideally should be adhered to every day. But mindfulness gives you the opportunity to carry that meditative state into your daily activities and use them as opportunities to transform yourself. Mindfulness helps you to become aware of your reactive patterns in everyday situations and then use that awareness to change those patterns ….

      I guess you could say that mindfulness enables you to use your daily experiences as “Grist for the mill” … to transform your mind.

      Do you practice mindfulness and/or meditation? If so, for how long have you been practising?

      Reply
  10. Hey Ash

    Great article, definitely relate to your story as my inner critic often gives me similar barrages.

    I appreciate the tips of walking through mindfulness and being able to silence my critic

    I learnt to observe my thoughts discussions and arguments in my mind whilst doing Bikram Yoga.

    Being a mindful observer has changed my life.

    I am glad you are to share your insights without us having to be in a hot room for 90mins!!

    Reply
    • Hi Mick,

      Thanks for stopping by. So glad you found mindfulness has changed your life.

      I’m really glad that you’ve found this as a good alternative to being in a hot room for 90 mins practising Bikram Yoga … Haha …

      But then again … Maybe that’s another great opportunity to be mindful of your aversion to the heat and discomfort?

      :-)

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  11. Hi Ash,

    Amazing and reasonable post, I have been thinking of doing meditation for a long time, moreover I have done it for a short span before but failed to continue it for the lack of proper reason. Well you have given me the proper reason here, why it should be done, how it works. It is not something I’m unknown with, but you have cleared my vision & doubt by sharing your experience with comments above adding more meaning to it. By the way I have been pressing myself very hard to express myself; I have problems finding right words to express my feeling even thought I speak fluently. With your post giving me the “why” which I wanted, I’m gona start the process of mindfulness and I feel it’ll help.
    Thanks for sharing:)

    Reply
    • Hi Darshan,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It is extremely gratifying to know that you found the post clarified things for you. I’m really glad you took the time to read the comments as well because I have tried to include useful information with each comment I’ve responded to.

      Most importantly, I’m delighted to know that you’re going to start a mindfulness practice.

      If this post galvanises even one person into action by motivating them to start the mindfulness practice, then I think it’s done its job.

      Feel free to send me any more questions you may have (just reply to this comment) and I’ll respond as soon as possible.

      :-)

      Reply
  12. Ash, thank you for this interesting and enjoyable article with a simple solution to allay one’s sense of panic/fear. often a first reaction to misplacing an important article ( your ex. remote, key). I agree meditation does not necessarily require one to sit in a spot and work on it. For me feeling contented. relaxed and at ease is meditation in action. Mindfulness is a great tool and of course the old adage “Practise makes perfect” says it all.

    Reply
    • Hi Ratna,

      You’re most welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      Yes, I still notice my mind ready to panic when I realise I’ve misplaced my wallet or my keys. Over the years I’ve become more aware of the ‘movement of my mind’ before it gets flooded with fear. Sometimes I am able to catch it early enough to remember to bring my attention back to my breath and head off ‘the attack’.

      Other times I realise after the fact that I am panicking and try to ‘watch’ myself panicking. This act of watching my mind go AWOL usually helps to calm things down eventually.

      Over the years I have become better at detecting the ‘movement of my mind’ before it’s in full flight and sometimes I’m able to head it off at the pass.

      :-)

      Reply
  13. Ash,

    You have written so well how being present in the moment is where all our power is.

    So great to silence that negative critic! Then you have space for inspiration.

    Susan

    Reply
    • Hi Susan,

      Great to see that the article conveyed the importance of being in the present moment.

      The present is the point of power and I forget that so often!

      You’re right, It really is great to silence that negative critic. The spaciousness that creates almost invariably leads to valuable insights and inspiration.

      Do you practice mindfulness? If so, how long have you been practising?

      Reply
  14. What a great and insightful post Ash! I loved it.

    It actually reminded me a bit of my favorite quote from Frank Herbert in his Dune books series. It goes like this:

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    Keep up the great work Ash, I enjoy reading your posts.

    Reply
    • Hi James

      Wow! That is an extremely powerful quote from Frank Herbert. Thank you so much for sharing it.

      I’m really glad you enjoy reading my posts and I sincerely appreciate you saying so.

      Frank Herbert’s quote and your encouraging comments have inspired me to write more. It is through writing that I often find enough detachment to watch my emotions play through my mind — this is particularly true with fear.

      Reply
  15. Nice article, Ash! I’ve been trying something similar — I think of unwanted thoughts as waves crashing on the shore and I am an observer on the beach. I do sometimes get dragged away by the waves though :( I’ll try your “clouds in the sky” technique next time. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hey Sumitha,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s uncanny but I used the same analogy to describe my mindfulness practice on a post I had written on my first website. Interestingly the analogy offers a solution to getting caught up in the waves

      :-)

      Here is the analogy:

      “My mindfulness practice best explained with a simple analogy1. It’s a bit like sitting on a beach watching the waves (thoughts) on the ocean (mind). I’m absorbed in the expansive ocean and the waves rising and falling in the ocean.

      Sooner or later my attention gets caught up in one of the waves and I lose sight of the ocean. Once I become aware of this I gently bring my attention back to my breath and continue watching the ocean.”

      The trick is to recognise that your mind will inevitably get caught in the waves end when you become aware of this, gently bring your mind back to your breath (the beach/shore)

      Reply
  16. Hey ash,
    Great post! I’ve been practising mindfulness for several months now and I’ve seen an amazing progress in my whole life. But There are times when I still get lost in thoughts, and I’m not able to tern back to mindfulness once again. I think that it’s because I try to get rid of those thoughts rather than let them go, but sometimes is really hard. Do you have any advise for those moments when just breathing is not enough? Or it’s just practising and practising?

    Reply
    • Hi Roxy,

      I think you touched on the answer in your question. You probably find it hard to turn back to mindfulness because you’re trying to get rid of the thoughts rather than let them go.

      The key to understanding mindfulness is to associate it with a sense of spaciousness.

      So, a “spacious” approach to your mind when it is caught up in thoughts is to step back and watch your mind in the process of being caught up with the thoughts.

      Try saying the words “I see that I am caught up in my thoughts right now and that’s okay”. I find that by telling myself “it’s okay” I can create that little bit of wriggle room that hopes to disentangle the cacophony of thoughts in my agitated mind.

      The key here is not to force it but rather to allow it to happen. Mindful approach is about creating the conditions for mindfulness and then letting go of the results.

      Does that help?

      Reply
  17. Hi Ash, Great article and great conversation, thank you! I have certainly allowed my inner critic to rule the roost in the past, much less so today, but is still a challenge from time to time, so your tips on how to practice mindfulness are very much appreciated, thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Janice,

      Congratulations on making progress with your inner critic. I’m really glad to hear that.

      :-)

      I too find my inner critic to be a challenge … Far more often than I would care to admit. But over time I’m coming to realise that my inner critic is probably going to be a companion for the rest of “my journey”.

      I think the trick to “this game” is to realise this fact and use the inner critic as a trigger to practice genuine patience and tolerance and kindness towards oneself. i.e. mindfulness

      :-)

      Reply
  18. Thank you for this article, Ash.
    It’s a great example of how to apply mindful thinking to everyday life, rather than something you have to sit down and “do” in a specific meditation session, which I think is a deterrent for many people. I’m inspired to try and think this way more often!
    I also think it can also be helpful to work out where your inner critic came from. For many of us it began in early childhood with a critical parent. It helps to remember that just because Dad (or mum) criticised you all the time, it doesn’t mean you have to carry on doing it yourself. It helped me a lot when I decided to forgive my dad and move on – he was after all doing what he thought was best for me. When I look back I realise that he actually criticised my younger brother even more, but my brother was thick-skinned and able to laugh it off, whereas I was much more sensitive to criticism. So if I hear that inner voice I remember where it come from and that I don’t have to let it affect me any more…and to be more like my brother!

    Reply
  19. Thank you for this article, Ash.
    It’s a great example of how to apply mindful thinking to everyday life, rather than something you have to sit down and “do” in a specific meditation session, which I think is a deterrent for many people. I’m inspired to try and think this way more often!
    I also think it can also be helpful to work out where your inner critic came from. For many of us it began in early childhood with a critical parent. It helps to remember that just because Dad (or mum) criticised you all the time, it doesn’t mean you have to carry on doing it yourself. It helped me a lot when I decided to forgive my dad and move on – he was after all doing what he thought was best for me. When I look back I realise that he actually criticised my younger brother even more, but my brother was thick-skinned and able to laugh it off, whereas I was much more sensitive to criticism. So if I hear that inner voice I remember where it come from and that I don’t have to let it affect me any more…and to be more like my brother!

    Reply
    • Hi Si,

      You’ve touched on a very important point.

      We’ve all had challenges in our growing years. I believe every single one of us has. It’s impossible to grow up without some kind of trauma or unhappiness no matter how idyllic your childhood was.

      And yes you’re right, in most cases parents do the best they can with what they have. Sometimes the parents themselves are broken because of circumstances that they couldn’t control. It might be a mental illness or the unexpected death of their spouse or even stuff they went through when they were children themselves – that they never really overcame.

      Mindfulness gives you the tools to step outside “the cycle” and watch these patterns that you have picked up along the way — regardless of their source.

      The moment you recognise that you can change these patterns — by using mindfulness to become aware of them and then overcome them — is the moment you gain freedom.

      It’s a long journey and I feel like I’ve just started. But I think it’s very worthwhile.

      :-)

      Reply
  20. Enjoyed your article Ash, I definitely agree with your thoughts on Mindfulness. I practice it regularly and truly believe that there is power in the moment. Why? Because it is the only time that is real. The past has gone and the future hasn’t yet happened, so the potent properties of life itself, is happening now, in the present moment.

    We have the potent energy of now at our disposal and can utilize it to create all we desire.

    A very simple practice to see how powerful Mindfulness is to simply bring yourself in the moment as you eat lunch. Bring your attention to the taste and textures of the food in your mouth. You will immediately experience an amplification around your taste buds and an appreciation of the various tastes in your mouth.

    Being in the moment or Mindfulness allows you to capture the creative properties of the Universe which is all happening in the moment.

    Great to share, thanks for a mind provoking article.

    Michee

    Reply
  21. Hi Michelle,

    You’re absolutely right. The only moment that we really every have is this one. Right now. The past and the future only exist in our our memories and imagination.

    I do practise mindfulness when I eat sometimes. Not nearly as often as I’d like to though. I think you’ve articulated the process of eating mindfully beautifully. I have to try that next time and see if I experience the same amplification you are referring to.

    I daresay this mindful eating practice probably also regulates food intake because we tend not to overeat tasty stuff if we’ve really savoured the taste in each moment in the first place.

    You’re most welcome re the article.

    How long have you been practising mindfulness?

    Reply
  22. Ash, thanks for sharing. I read this article with great interest because I’ve dealt with the inner critic for most of my life. While I agree that you can deal with this negativity in the way advocated here and it’s certainly beneficial, I feel that it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. I don’t want to discount your method – it certainly can help! However, the key here is identifying where this comes from… which you mentioned was early childhood:

    “The usual tirade of thoughts filled with self-blame and shame ensued. The panic-driven questions seemed so reminiscent of my (well intentioned) caregivers from during my growing years: “How could you have been so careless?” “Can’t you even look after one little remote?” “You should be ashamed of yourself. Seriously.”

    That’s the key. We all have negative experiences (usually from childhood) that become part of who we are. Many hide, repress, and deny these negative experiences, never dealing with them appropriately and in a healthy way… Unfortunately, some of these experiences can boil up inside and come out later in bad ways – sometimes even unknowingly – and we hurt the ones we love as a result. I know this because for many years I took on the negative messages from my real mother who tried to kill my father and put our family through hell because of postpartum depression and likely her own negative experiences from her upbringing. These messages became a part of me, and thus I became self-critical and highly critical of others, sometimes seriously and other times (dangerously) through humor. I didn’t understand where all of this was really coming from until I attended a weekend for men (www.thecrucibleproject.org) and got help – the kind of help where I was safely able to deal with it the root of the problem after realizing the source. No words can describe how free I felt afterwards. My mind was clear and I was able to fully understand this part of my “shadow” which helped me control it. Subsequently, my relationships with others improved, more so from my perspective since my detrimental self-talk went away.

    Reply
    • Hi Ron,

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and for sharing your personal story. I’m sorry to hear about the difficult experiences you wen’t through earlier on. My sincere congratulations to you for having overcome those challenges.

      Great to hear that the mens retreat made a big difference to your life. Identifying where the negative thinking comes from does help enormously.

      Being present for those thoughts and watching them arise and then pass away is a very powerful practice that builds over time.

      Once again, thanks for your sharing your experiences so openly and honestly.

      Reply
  23. Great article Ash!

    I found it insightful and very helpful!

    It’s easy to be mindful when you’re by yourself, but you showed it can be done even when you’re with other people and feeling very stressed!

    Good lesson!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Hi Quinn,

    Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I’m so glad you found the article to be practical and applicable during times of stress. That was exactly what I was trying to communicate to the readers.

    Mindfulness is not something that’s practiced on a cushion for 20 mins every morning while meditating. It’s meditation in action. It enables you to bring your meditation and your meditative state into your daily life.

    I’m so glad the article communicated that clearly. Glad you enjoyed the article. I look forward to writing more articles for you :-)

    Reply
  25. Hi Ash,
    I read your article and all the comments with interest.
    Perhaps I should say at the beginning that I never practiced meditation. I was always “practical” to the core of my bones. I was always using analytical skills to solve my problems. Identify, analyse, fix. My husband always called me “human doing”, I was a perfectionist and a control freak. I needed to see that all is perfect, everybody’s needs satisfied. Living as an expat and moving around the world, it is not often possible which left me frustrated, inadequate and angry.
    No traumatic changes happened in my life but about two years ago, depressed by my rising unhappiness, I recognised a need for a major change.
    I decided that my happiness should be my priority, rather then happiness of others. Almost two years later, I have changed many ways of thinking and understanding my world. Yet I still can not find an equilibrium.

    Someone in the comments said:
    “Enjoyed your article Ash, I definitely agree with your thoughts on Mindfulness. I practice it regularly and truly believe that there is power in the moment. Why? Because it is the only time that is real. The past has gone and the future hasn’t yet happened, so the potent properties of life itself, is happening now, in the present moment.
    We have the potent energy of now at our disposal and can utilize it to create all we desire.”

    That is where I struggle. I never seem to be able to enjoy the “very” moment. I will be somewhere doing something I truly enjoy and yet I cant fully cherish it. My head will be full of other thoughts. My head is always full of thoughts, it feels like an overloaded bin that needs emptying. On top of that I seem to have a extremely good memory, I remember mostly everything people said. Unfortunately I always seem to draw the negative things from my memory, I spend too much time remembering and analysing my past.

    I would like to use Mindfulness to be able to help me better myself. I do not panic when I cant find the remote control or loose keys.
    Perhaps meditation and Mindfulness could help me to be overly critical of myself and free of negative thoughts.

    I would like to read much more about it and start practising it. Could you recommend any literature, please.

    Reply
  26. Hi Martina,

    Wow! What an amazing story. You sound like a very intelligent person and in some cases a very good intellect can have it’s disadvantages. In my opinion, highly intelligent people can have a harder time incorporating mindfulness at first because their minds tend to always be on overdrive. Much like you described yours a couple of years ago.

    It’s not uncommon to have a head full of thoughts. In today’s information saturated society it’s completely normal. You’re not alone.

    It’s also quite normal for humans to focus damage minimisation (avoiding threats) as opposed to opportunity maximisation. That’s what helped us survive as a species and that got hard wired into our DNA over the millennia as we evolved.

    A great way to start practising mindfulness is to watch the breath. That forces the mind to engage in something non conceptual and over time it can be very effective. After watching your breath for a while your attention will inevitably wander. When you become aware of this, gently bring your focus back to your breath. If you find yourself berating yourself for having strayed from your breath, notice that you’re berating yourself and bring your attention back to your breath.

    It’s all about paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.

    You can also focus on bodily sensations. That helps too. I’ve written articles on mindfulness which you can find by typing in the phrases “mindfulness productive insights” and “mindfulness 34 benefits productive insights” into google.

    Another great website that has over 400 talks on mindfulness can be accessed by typing the word “zencast” into google. It’s the top result that comes up.

    You can also find some great books on mindfulness John Kabat Zinn. Shunryu Suzuki wrote a great book called Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.

    Hope that helps. :-)

    Reply
  27. Hi Ash,

    Great article demonstrating how practical mindfulness is and how you didn’t need to assume a meditative sitting position and get into some zone! The breathing settles and one can then “step back” and re-assess. Being mindful just means being aware and not getting caught up in the frenzy and inner critic backlash.

    The inner critic is, of course, a throwback to our childhood and what others (adults and peers) said either due to their own issues and projections of their own selves or being deliberate. Finding a way to silence or at least turn down this voice, requires the positive self to voice itself more loudly. We are designed by nature to focus on the negative but little steps daily can build to more gentle self talk which then leads to greater confidence.

    Reply
  28. Hi Zita,

    I couldn’t have put it better myself! You said it.

    It’s not about sitting in meditation. It’s about bringing the meditative state into your daily life and ‘watching’ your thought patterns to enrich your life every day. One moment at a time.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply
  29. Hi Ash,

    Thanks for your post. It was easy to read and your example was great. I love those real life stories, it brings such connectedness, which of course opens the heart to learn.

    Your sharing sparked these thoughts that I’d like to share. In my own process of working with mindfulness I have found it advantageous to identify the voices. Many times dialoging with myself has produced such insight which allowed me to eliminate the criticism and also meet the need of the part of myself that listens and hears it, the part that believes it. Then that process of “smacking down the inner critic once and for all” isn’t just another part of the dysfunction.

    In my opinion the true key is self-respect. By listening and attending to the varied aspects of myself I am able to cull the value from each part. That builds a strong sense of self, and with the love and compassion I attend with, the whole inner family learns to respect themselves and each other.

    And now I don’t make mistakes or hear criticism, just opinions, that have nothing to do with me.

    Thanks for your sharing the power and self-love you emulate. That is a powerful gift.

    p.s. I sure hope I find my glasses soon. lol

    Reply
  30. Hi Sari,

    Wow! What a thoughtful comment. Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable thoughts.

    I’m really glad you found the post easy to read, and that you liked the example.

    I really like what you say about listening to the varied aspects of yourself and finding value in each.

    I completely agree that we need to teach the whole “inner family” to respect themselves and each other. In fact, I love the inner family analogy.

    P.S.

    Did you find your glasses?

    Reply
  31. Hi Ash
    thanks for the beautiful post, wish I was able to write down how I often feel, my inner critics destroys me, makes me weak and leaves me with no confidence. If I fail or get rejected or make someone feel bad which I never meant to then for few days I will have no peace. Will re read this post a thousand times and practice what you’ve said…I so badl

    Reply
    • Hi Mii,

      It’s common to feel agitated after feeling rejected. You’re not alone – almost everyone feels the same way.

      The most important thing is be aware of your feelings as they are happening. Be aware of your thought patterns – this is how you become free of them.

      Reply
  32. Actually I did. My son had thrown them away, long story, and as I was raking up where the trash was I found first the frame with one lens, and then I actually found the other lens as well. Now to take them to the eye doctor to be repaired. Must have been good juju to add that on my post.. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Sari,

      Glad to hear you found them. What a journey – first the frame without the lens … And then the lens. Congratulations on finding them!

      :-)

      Reply
  33. Hey Ash, great story to make a point. I’ve recently been getting into meditation breathing and yoga. The feeling afterwards is phenomenal. I was in the city the other day and stood at the water front, closed my eyes and just breathed the atmosphere into my heart. Felt so relaxed and at peace for ages!

    Reply
  34. Hi Jason,

    Glad to know that you enjoyed the story and the point it was trying to make. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your kind and encouraging words. Comments like these really inspire me to write more. Thank you.

    I’m looking forward to putting another post together for the Change Blog soon.

    Meditation and yoga are very powerful if practised consistently.

    The image of a waterfront is very calming. Glad to hear you felt relaxed and peaceful afterwards. Which city are you in?

    Reply
    • Hey Ash, I’m in Brisbane Australia. Days are finally starting to heat up :)

      I think even if people don’t practice consistently it’s still beneficial although like most things the benefits gain exponentially the more often you do something.

      The experience definitely inspired me for a few different blog post ideas.

      Reply
  35. Hey Jason,

    I agree completely. Practising (inconsistently) is definitely better than not practising at all. And yes consistent practise brings exponential results.

    Great know now that you were inspired with a few blog post ideas. What do you write about on your blog?

    Reply
  36. Hi Ash,

    Thanks so much for this. Yes, I agree with you. Mindfulness can be such a powerful practice to incorporate into our lives. It’s amazing how well it works when I actually remember to do it!

    As a mental health therapist I often work with my clients to help them learn to notice their thoughts for what they are: just thoughts.

    I’ve written about a simple mindfulness exercise anyone can use anytime on my blog:

    If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts:

    http://juliakristina.com/2014/11/a-quick-and-easy-mindfulness-exercise-no-meditation-required/

    Thanks again Ash,

    Julia Kristina
    http://juliakristina.com/blog

    Reply

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