How to Tame Your Inner Critic

People send me great questions on the regular. Whether it’s a client, student, member in my Society of Trailblazers, or radio show listener, I get asked a lot of questions about clutter, its meaning in our lives, and what we can learn from it.

Here is one question that came in:

Are there any great techniques to quiet the inner critic which seems to get louder when you try to change the status quo? 

To answer this, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book What Your Clutter Is Trying to Tell You (now available in audio format!) about that pesky, little inner critic who seems to sabotage us at every turn.

The Secret Behind Your Resistance

Doesn’t the idea of open, flowing channels of abundance sound fantastic? To be free of the weight of should, fears, and overwhelming thoughts? Imagine that open space, allowing you to see options, opportunities, and possibilities.

Pretty cool, right?

Even with that vision, you may feel completely unmotivated to do anything about clearing your clutter. So what’s going on with the resistance? Are you lazy? A slob? Only you can say for sure, but even if you are one of those things (which I doubt), I can tell you there’s more to it.

I’d like to introduce someone I’m sure you’re quite familiar with: your inner critic.

Your inner critic is not a fan of change and will fight it at every turn. She’s happy right where she is, where it’s familiar and safe. She sees no reason to rock the boat. She is the puppet master behind your procrastination.

Even if it’s clear the change you are striving for will make things better, your inner critic is not having it. She can be a real brat who wants things her way and her way only. Do something outside of her comfort zone, and she’ll sound the warning bell to keep you right where you are.

And she’s a clever one. She’ll change the language of those sirens, grabbing whatever your most vulnerable thoughts are at the moment, to be sure to get your attention in the quickest and most effective way.

Let’s say one fear is that the job will be too big to handle. She’ll chatter on about things like:

“You’ll never get that done. You need hours to tackle that. Maybe next weekend.”

“Where will you even begin?”

“Maybe you should just hire a professional organizer.”

Those distraction techniques have the greatest chance of stopping you in your tracks, because that’s where your fear is currently focused.

Maybe you dread facing what’s in those boxes. Your critic’s script changes:

“You know you can’t get rid of those cards. Mom gave them to you.”

“Do you really want to be reminded of your failed marriage?”

“Oh, yeah, let’s go through those books from the degree program you never finished.”

And she’s got you again.

But here’s the thing: your inner critic is just a loving little liar. She really doesn’t mean you any harm. She’s scared, so she makes up all sorts of excuses so you won’t make progress. Because in her eyes, any change is bad.

The clutter she thinks you can’t handle could be what’s stopping you from getting that dream job, finding that loving partner, traveling the world, or improving your health. It’s not the clutter your inner critic wants to hold on to. Instead, it’s the protection she believes it gives her from what seems to her like your big, scary goal.

The best way to handle your critic, no matter how persistent or bratty she gets, is with love and compassion. When you join forces instead of fighting against her, there’s no stopping you. You become a powerful team!

To best partner with your critic, you need to focus on well-defined steps. “Winging it” doesn’t work for her. She is easily distracted, and therefore so are you. Eliminate as many distractions as possible and work within the parameters you set. To help her get comfortable with change, take things in super small steps. If you find yourself procrastinating, break down the action you’re trying to do; chances are it’s still too big for your critic. She needs evidence that she’ll be safe to get on board, so don’t expect her to take big leaps out of the gate.

The other thing she needs is to feel heard—hence the persistent squawking. This part is key. If ever she feels dismissed or ignored, chaos ensues. This chaos can take many shapes—more clutter, a nasty head cold that knocks you down for a week, a distracted mind, aches and pains, a family member or friend telling you not to get rid of this or that, or a sexy invitation for the exact time you had scheduled your clutter clearing—anything that will stop you in your tracks and throw a wrench in your clutter-clearing plans so she can continue on her merry way and not have her status quo disrupted.

You may be the one doing the heavy lifting in the relationship, but that’s not to say you’re in charge all the time. You need each other. Your inner critic needs your structure, commitment, and strategy, and you need her creativity, playfulness, and inquisitiveness, so when she’s raising the red flags, take a moment to acknowledge her. Doing so will make you much more successful in your clearing.

In fact, I suggest you make it a regular part of your clutter-clearing routine. Each time you get ready to sort physical clutter or take steps to address emotional clutter, take a couple of minutes to check in with your resistance and see what’s going on. Oftentimes, that check-in is all you need to remove the current block and before you know it, the two of you are cruising right along!

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future post? If so, click here to email us and we’ll put you in the queue!

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