If we’re exploring what self-criticism is like, there’s many ways to learn more about this.
Whilst self-criticism may sometimes be trying to protect us from something (as we explored here) the way it does the criticism can often cause us a lot of distress and pain.
But it can be hard to notice this at times, especially because we can become so used to this voice inside our heads, that we become accustomed to its presence
So it can be helpful to find ways to start to experience our self-criticism in a different way – and one approach to this is to take it from inside our head, and put an image to it, and see what it feels like to experience it as an external entity.
By doing this, we can gain a new perspective on the power and emotion of the critic
Putting an Image to the Self-Critic
There’s a short but powerful imagery exercise that can help people to experience the impact of their self-critic.
Go carefully with this, and when putting an image to the self critic, try to make sure that the image is not of a really person in your life, who has been critical and hostile to you. Instead, try and allow an archetype to form in your mind – it could be human, an animal or something else.
To start, close your eyes and bring to mind the things that you tend to criticise yourself for (15 secs).
Think about the types of triggers, and the words you say to yourself when you’re self-critical (30 secs).
Try to imagine what your self-critic would look like if you could see it in front of you. So, if you could take it from inside your head, and see it in front of you, what would it look like? Try to allow a fantasy image to appear, so that it’s not linked to anyone you know. (30 secs)
When an image has formed, notice its qualities – its facial expression, voice tone, whether it’s bigger or smaller than you, static, moving or making gestures at you. (20 secs). What emotion is this image of your self-critic directing to you? (15 secs). What emotions or feelings do you have in the presence of the image of your self-critic (15 secs). Does this image want to see you do well in life? Does it want to see or help you flourish?
After you’ve done this, make a few notes guided by the following questions
- What did you image look like – try to outline its appearance
- What emotion was it directing to you?
- What emotion did you feel in its presence?
- Does it want to see you do well in life?
- Does it take joy in your happiness? Does it want to help you flourish?