When I first moved to Stockholm as an English-speaking therapist, fika was the first of many things I fell in love with about Sweden. Fika is a coffee break, but more than a coffee break. You sit down with a friend to drink coffee tea hot chocolate, have some delectable bakery, and slow down to appreciate life. It’s a Swedish expression which means, “hey, let’s catch up.” It’s a time for reflection, connection, as well as the pleasure of very good coffee and something sweet.
Like the title of this post says, I want you to have a “fika” with your inner critic.
Is it really such a good idea to spend time with such a negative part of you?
- You’re so stupid, why did you do that? You know that never works!
- Of course you screwed that up, because all you do is screw things up.
- Oh sure Cathy says she liked it, but Cathy likes everything. Her opinion is meaningless.
The message could be right but the delivery is much too hard. Your well-intended inner critic needs some help with its communication style. Although your inner critic is not so fun to hang out with I am suggesting you invite your critic out so it can tell you more of these things.
Think of it like this: don’t you wish your inner critic would take it easy with all the criticism? Lay off?
Maybe even just relax and give you a break if you make a mistake?
Fika time is just the right time to get to know your inner critic better. Then enlist its help by asking it to relax back. Here’s how it would go.
Some quick ground rules before inviting your inner critic to fika time
First let me be clear about one very important thing:
- During the fika you are not trying to reason or negotiate with your inner critic
- You’re not trying to prove it wrong with facts
- You’re also not signing yourself up for a beating
Feeling bad is not the goal here. You should actually feel stronger after the fika. Read more about the steps and you’ll see what I mean.
#1: During fika time, listen to your inner critic
Listen for a pattern inside of you when your critic is there. You are feeling bad. What are you saying to yourself?
Try to be as accurate as possible, maybe even write down your inner speech exactly as you hear it.
Writing down the thoughts will bring in that good compassionate listener. You can be that friend to you on the inside. When that happens you learn more about yourself and can step out of your old habitual ways of relating inside and out.
So, listening to your inner critic:
- What words do you use when you are judging or criticising yourself?
- Are there certain phrases that come up over and over again?
- What is the tone of the inner voice?
- How does this inner critic think it helps you?
When your inner judge is active you want to pay attention and see what is going on. Try to get a clear sense of how you talk to yourself.
While you’re listening, notice what sounds true and what sounds exaggerated from your inner critic.
Exaggerated is a reactive part of you having a reaction towards a more vulnerable part inside of you. Walking around with your own naysayer and critic can be quite demoralizing over an entire life time.
It would be better to choose your inner critic when it is needed, for what it does best, instead of having it be on full volume all the time. However, this inner critic might need some help to relax back if it has been hanging around and coaching in its critical harsh way most of your life.
There are ways to help it relax back.
#2: Help your inner critic relax back
Let’s take a look at a way to do this on the inside. When you can do it with yourself you will find you can also do it with others. When that happens connection will happen on the inside and outside.
Next, make an active effort to either soften the self critical or judging part towards you inside. Keep the message and soften the delivery.
Say to this part,
“I know you are trying to do what you think is right for me but could there be other ways too? I could improve but your harsh words don’t help. I feel really bad because of your critical voice what are you concerned would happen if you weren’t so critical?”
Listen to the answers you receive, and write them down too. What is your critical part concerned about? Your critical part will relax just knowing it was heard.
Use supportive Self talk making it even easier.
#3: Use some supportive Self talk
Your inner critic will notice the problem and judge you. It will say:
“Stop being so weak. Being emotional never helps. Let’s move on.”
Hear the words of your inner critic and reframe them differently.
“Feeling emotions is part of being alive. Could we just slow down and feel these emotions. How could that hurt?”
“How would a loving caring person react to you if they knew you were sad. How could you be that person, for yourself?”
Keeping the lines of communication open with your inner critic
Fika is a regular event during the Swedish workday. Regular meetings are a good thing to build and maintain relationships. Taking the time to help your inner critic relax regularly will help you weather troubled times more easily. If your inner critic knows you are making the effort to really listen to what it is trying to say on a more regular basis it will not need to be on full volume constantly. It too might appreciate a vacation.
Just remember, a part is only a part of you. Not all of you so when you are in a part viewing your situation or event you do not have access to all your inner resources. You are fixated on one strong way of being.
Staying connected on the inside makes us happier inside and out. Better connection on the inside and better connection on the outside.