Who is your most persistent critic? Many of us might say, “I am,” in answer to the question. Any thought I have about myself that has a negative slant to it I see as a form of self-criticism.
I’ll share some examples. Some are in first person. “Oh, no, I have an old lady’s neck!” Some are in second person. “Did you hear what you just said? What were you thinking? You can do better than that.”
There can be relationship recriminations from ages ago. “Why wasn’t I a better mother/husband/student/sister/son/employee?”
“I wish I were ____.” Fill in the blank with your particular brand of wanting something to be different than it is (i.e., taller, slimmer, smarter, richer, nicer). You get the idea.
A Road to Self-Compassion
About eight years ago, I wanted to take a closer look at what some refer to as the inner critic. It was obvious this behavior was not serving me, and I was looking for ways to change it.
I decided to view the habitual, spontaneous negative thoughts as if they were comments being made by sock puppets.
It helped me distance myself from the intensity and impact of the thoughts to imagine them coming from cute though misguided sock puppets. Doing this brought an element of humor to the situation, which gave me an extra moment to stop and laugh at the audacity of the puppets insulting me.
I shared my experiments and discoveries with those closest to me. My friends supported me in my quest to be kinder to myself. When I caught myself whining about some complaint or other and suddenly said, “blah-blah-blah” while my bare hand pantomimed the opening and closing of a puppet’s mouth, my friends chuckled and knew I was acknowledging my sock puppets. In fact, some of them began mentioning their sock puppets, too.
I hosted an afternoon workshop about becoming more aware of negative self thoughts. As part of the program, we made actual sock puppets. It was an enjoyable way to take a look at our thoughts and to begin to bring more compassion to our lives.
Imagine Your Own Sock Puppets of the Mind
You are invited to consider that the snide inner remarks are being made by funny looking little sock puppets. Observe what critical thoughts about yourself crop up as you go through your everyday life. You might choose one or two particular ones you want to weed out. What is it like to pretend sock puppets are saying them?
If you are inclined, create a puppet from an old sock – or one whose mate mysteriously escaped during a laundry cycle. I’ve wondered what might happen to use this approach with children. What would our self-esteem and comfort levels be now if we had played this game of moving away from self-criticism when we were kids?
Robert Wall interviewed me in one of his podcasts. I mentioned the Sock Puppet phenomenon as part of our discussion. At one point in the interview, I exclaimed, “There go my sock puppets, again!” Lo and behold, he entitled the podcast exactly this: There Go My Sock Puppets, Again! If you want to give a listen, follow the link. Robert has a cool conversational style and sense of humor.