How To Silence Your Inner Critic #1

Last post I described my house mates.

More my “head mates” really.  Personifications of the voices that used to yammer away inside.

A few of you have shared you live with some of these as well ~

  • The critic
  • The task-master
  • The slob
  • The pessimist
  • The skeptic
  • The saboteur

and you’re keen (to quote one reader, thanks  Carrie!) to know  “how the hell do I get them out of here?”

I’ll tell you, I promise.

But first, I want this post to be an inspiring look at what life can be like without the inner dysfunctional family having a constant go at you.

Meet Colin.Scanned Image

Here he is, climbing up a peak near Sun Valley Idaho one sunny March day back in the late 1980s.

Can you tell from this photo how unusual he is?

I couldn’t, at first anyway. As we climbed a snowy hill together I had no idea what an impact he would have on my life.

Until I watched him ski.


Three things became apparent once we reached the highest point.

  • The only way out was down
  • Colin had neglected to mention that he hadn’t skied before
  • He was totally up for the challenge.


The trailLearning something new, under duress, with an audience has never showcased my best self, I gotta admit.  So, not optimal conditions for Colin.

He was a visiting Kiwi (those of you who know New Zealanders will recognize this as a code term for up-for-anything) whose Bucket List included some snow time. He’d accepted an invitation to play in the mountains around Sun Valley on borrowed equipment and it had never occurred to him (nor us, apparently) to talk about how to use the darn stuff. We all used thin, highly cambered, light-weight cross-country skis, long poles, and low leather lace-ups. (Remember – we’re back in the 1980s all you hard-core mountain folk who ski anything today on short, wide skis and knee-high plastic boots).


Here we are near the top, still smiling.Mark, Karl, Colin

Climbing skins off the skis, we’re ready for the descent. Colin’s looking at Karl (middle) and my husband Mark (left).

We’re laughing because Colin’s just mentioned he hasn’t skied before.

We’re sure he’s pulling our legs and will soon zoom down in a series of elegant linked telemark turns.

Meanwhile, my inner nay-Sayers have been hard at work all day:

Task-master       ~  Can’t you pick up the pace. Look, Mark’s been breaking trail for ages.  You’re such a mooch… step it up there.”

The slob              ~  This is hard work. It’s OK to slow things down. Maybe call for another chocolate break.

The saboteur     ~  “I should have opted to stay home. I’m in a filthy mood right now. None of this snow is going to be any good by the time we turn around anyway.

The pessimist       ~ “And you’ll be last down the hill as well as up. You’ll fall the whole way down and be an utter disgrace as usual. How long have you been learning how to ski now? When are you going to get it down – eh?”

So when Colin, still chuckling at our disbelief, pointed his skis down the hill and crashed spectacularly into a shrub about 30 feet below us, we all paused.

He couldn’t ski!

I won’t describe how Mark skis. To this day it’s slightly depressing. He’s smooth, elegant, flawless and constantly grinning. He’s in his element. Karl and I were on a perpetual learning curve. We all joined Colin at the bush and now I was curious and my inner voices were having a field day:

The critic                ~  “Well, at least you won’t be the worst on the hill for a change.”

The task-master    ~  “Better pick your game here girl, so you can show Colin a thing or two.”


Here’s what Colin did.

He picked himself up and said, with a mix of excitement and curiosity, “So, teach me how to do these turns, they look beautiful!

We all gave our versions of how to (essentially back then) genuflect down the mountain. I found a fun old video if you’re interested!  And Colin applied himself. He did what we suggested and of course, fell down a few times. It’s a tough turn to master on smooth terrain, and here was Colin on a wind-swept mountain.

I watched him for a long time. He’d pick himself up from the latest crash and say, partly to himself and partly to us,   “OK, so I think I forgot to bend my downhill knee but I stepped into the turn well and feel I’m getting the weight distribution right. What do you think?”

We’d make a few pointers and he’d try again.

Within about 300 feet of the summit, he was linking his first few turns.

Karl and I had taken some spills too and was I speaking so gently, thoughtfully and constructively to myself?

Hell no!

The critic        ~  “Good heavens girl you’re a hopeless bundle of muscle-free, uncoordinated body parts. You know how to do this and here you are totally shown up by  a total newbie. Come on!”

Versions of this went on for the entire descent.

Colin, who had no experience of using the telemark turn on cross-country skis, loved himself down the mountain. At each turn he was celebrating accomplishments and gently correcting his setbacks. He was never mad at himself, only curious and brave and confident he would eventually master the turn.

There was I, hating and berating myself down the hill, same as I had for the previous six years of learning how to ski. I doubt my skills advanced at all that day.

Colin mastered a new skill by allowing his core Self to take the lead.

This core Self (which we all have by the way) is ~

  • Calm
  • Clear
  • Compassionate
  • Connected
  • Courageous
  • Confident
  • Curious
  • Creative

and ever so much more fun to live with!

Over a warm drink later that night I asked Colin how come he wasn’t disgusted with himself when he fell, or critical of himself when he didn’t get something right, or grumpy or pushy or skeptical or any of the voices I seemed to activate in the face of a typical day.

He laughed.

“Oh I had ‘em all in there alright.  It was crowded and nasty and I was pretty miserable through my twenties. But everything changed when I tried a whole new approach…”

Next: How Colin silenced his inner critic (and all those other tough inner-relations) and learned how to lead from his Core Self.





6 thoughts on “How To Silence Your Inner Critic #1

  1. Pingback: How To Silence Your Inner Critic #2 | Gemma Utting ~ Relationship Therapy

  2. Pingback: Imagine | Gemma Utting ~ Relationship Therapy

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