How to Let Go: Steps for Taming the Inner Critic
- Ohmygosh, Why did I say that?!
- That was unfair. Why didn't I speak up?
- I did the best I could; why can't I let this go?
Recently, I had the opportunity to face my inner critic yet again when I made an offhand remark to a friend and later wished I'd held my tongue. A colleague told me last week that he'd made a blunder that was keeping him up nights. While it sounded like a minor miscue to me, it was interrupting his sleep and sapping his usually upbeat energy.
How Do We Let Go?
It's a question that comes up all the time in my workshops. Most conflict is with ourselves, I think. It may be generated by something that happens on the outside, but eventually I have to go inside and consider what to do about it. How do I handle this situation and manage myself in the process?
Sometimes I reengage, speak up, explain my remark, or offer an apology. Yet even when I've remedied the situation, I can mentally replay the incident ad infinitum. Especially if the outcome isn't what I'd hoped for, it can take a long time to let go of it.
Because I have so much experience with the "How do I let go?" question, I've explored a lot of strategies, and many of them do help. They at least distract me for a time, and at best they turn those horrible moments into Ki Moments: moments when I am fully aware of my life force and my ability to influence my inner and outer environment.
Ways to Tame the Inner Critic
Stop, breathe, and direct your awareness towards the center of your body, about two inches below your navel. As you think about the situation from center, it will change.
Time, I've noticed, does heal. The charge lessens. Each day, the inner critic's voice is softer. Gradually, I let it go.
As you're probably aware, I practice Aikido, a martial art in which we practice aligning with the attacker and redirecting the attack energy. So I ask myself, in life's conflicts, where I'm resisting this alignment. When I'm angry with myself, it's usually because I did something that's "not me." I resist this version of myself. Yet ... I did do it. Accepting and integrating my action as part of me helps. I recognize that I am capable of it. Then I forgive myself and let it go.
Appreciate your positive intention. Where did that remark come from? Maybe you were trying to help someone and it came out wrong. Or you were trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Be honest. If your intentions were positive, give yourself some credit.
The inner critic is ever present. Just say hello and move on. Like, "Hi, I hear you. Thank you very much. I need to move on now. I've learned and I won't do that again." You may have to do this more than once, but I've found it does work.
My new CD, Simple Gifts: Making the Most of Life's Ki Moments, includes a lovely and poignant song by Stephen Sondheim, called "Anyone Can Whistle." Sondheim writes:
It's all so simple,
Relax, let go, let fly.
So someone tell me, why can't I?
I'll bet it fits for many of us.
What's hard is simple,
What's natural comes hard.
We can slay dragons, dance tangos, build businesses, and get straight A's, but we struggle to relax, let go, let fly. I'm learning to let go more each day. Like whistling, it takes practice.
Listen to "Anyone Can Whistle" from my new CD, Simple Gifts.