Some time ago, I started imagining my inner critic as a grumpy old man sitting high up on a porch, yelling out at unsuspecting folks strolling down the road. Being able to visualize an actual being made those thoughts and comments that passed through my mind so much less intense. I could hear them without personalizing them when I called this character to mind as the speaker of said comments.
Today, I did this exercise with my students. They came up with images of Oscar the Grouch-esque characters, their younger selves, a little gremlin, an exhausted dog, and more. When I asked them why it might be helpful to visualize this character, they said,
(1) It helps to create some distance around the critiques and notice them more when they are there.
(2) It helps them not take them so seriously and accept the inner critic.
Often when we practice mindfulness, we are creating space around our thoughts to see them more clearly. We can scaffold this process when it comes to difficult thoughts with this psychological trick:
Try envisioning your inner critic as a being. Notice when it’s voice makes its way into your thoughts. Embrace it.