Quick. Name three things toddlers hate:
I’ll go first:
How’d I do? Pretty close?
I’d like to submit for your consideration that toddlers have a boatload in common with our inner critics.
Unconvinced? Read on.
They both despise change.
To wit: ever tried to get a toddler to leave the playground/library/house? Ever tried to launch something new? Decided to take a bold leap? Oh, the howling. The HOWLING.
And if you ignore the screaming…
What happens next? They (both) go ballistic. Flinging sippy cups and beratement your way.
But if you lean in and listen…
…REALLY listen, you’ll hear they both want just want to know that they’re safe. Loved. Heard. Held. That you’ve got this.
I know, I know. It's hard.
They know how to play you (‘cause they have the inside scoop and know your trigger points) and they do. And we KNOW there’s no negotiating with them. But for all the “kick ‘em to the curb” language in the land of self-development about dealing with the inner critic, it really doesn’t work. Nor does screaming at it, cutting it off, walking away or shaming it. (And we know you wouldn't dare try any of that crap with a toddler).
Your inner critic is a part of you. A noisy, messy part of you. But an integral part.
Just like you might with a tantrummy toddler*, imagine getting down to eye level with your inner critic, taking a deeeeeeep breath (or three) and calmly, patiently and with curiosity ask what they REALLY want. What they’re here to tell you. And then listen. Listen deeply. Listen for the fear.
Most often, I think you’ll hear:
I’m afraid we’ll look foolish.
I’m afraid that we’ll fail.
I’m afraid we’ll lose it all.
Do you see why they’ve been so vocal? This is big. For them, this is even bigger than big. It’s everything.
Now hand them a metaphorical mum-mum while you absorb what they’ve just shared.
What are they trying to show you? What do they want you to protect on their behalf? Which of your values are they fiercely wanting you to honour?
Maybe their “we’ll look foolish” is pointing to your value of accomplishment.
Maybe their “we’ll fail” is pointing to your value of excellence.
Maybe their “we’ll lose it all” is pointing to your value of freedom.
Take a moment to notice how much calmer they are already. (You both are). In their outburst, there was 2% of truth that they needed you to hear. (The other 98% of sheer red-faced rage has been dissolved). Can you hear that truth? That those values are sacrosanct to you and that you must find a way to honour them as you move forward? And that you will?
And now, will you thank them for their deep care and assure them that you’ve got this? Kiss them on their sweet forehead as you tuck them into her snugli and get going. Proceed as planned, holding those values sacred. The waters are calm…and we’re ready for your new. So are you.