Inner Critic

Inner Critic.

Do you have an inner critic? I mean that voice that monitors what you do, what you say, and how you say it. Or even better, this inner critic has a running commentary on your life.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a social media site and saw a person’s comment about one of my yoga classes. The student never mentioned my name, but I knew by the class and its location that this person was talking about me. The person stated she would take a class, ANYWHERE but at that location. I read that comment and my heart sank. The thoughts that followed were something like this, “Oh my gosh, she hated my class. I wonder what I said or did. I wonder if she’s told her friends and family…” Part of me wanted to respond, but didn’t know what to say. I felt hurt, annoyed, angry, embarrassed. A few days later the comment still bothered me, and it bothered me that it bothered me.

We think the point of life is to avoid any discomfort, but those uncomfortable moments are growing us, teaching us. I used her comment in my own practice and brought it into my meditation. I first questioned my thoughts. Often times we think we know why a person says or does something. Do we really? Did I absolutely 100% know she had something against me as a teacher? It could have been the location itself, the cost of the class, the other students, the style, or it could have something to do with me as a teacher or person. .

My first response was all about me and how I felt: my own thoughts, concerns, and questions. Then I shifted it to the woman. Part of me had a lot of questions about her comment, but then I asked myself, “What do you want for this woman?” I stilled my body, closed my eyes, and relaxed my breath. It felt vulnerable, and part of me resisted. I just sat with the resistance until it shifted. And then what I wanted for her was clear: I wanted her to have the best possible yoga class and the right teacher. Aaahhhhh. When I focused on wanting the best for her and for myself, the tightness in my body released. I felt open, and in that quiet space sent her some peaceful vibes.

I realized that the woman felt like a critic because she reflected my own inner voice that too often will focus on the areas where I need to improve, areas where I could work on. My inner critic always has a long list of things where I fall short and things I could do better. In the past, I’d listen attentively to everything the inner critic had to say. Meditation has taught me to observe these thoughts. I don’t have to act on all of them, I don’t have to let them direct my life. I take this inner voice less and less seriously, just observing what it says. I understand why this part of the self is called “monkey mind”. There is another part of the self, the witness. When I shift to the witness and notice what comes up, the conflicting and often confusing thoughts, I am at peace. It's not so much what happens in my life, but my relationship to it. The woman's comment was a great teacher, to accept I can't be everyone's teacher. Not everyone has the same path, from that space I could accept her. More importantly, I can also accept myself.