“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”
― Gautama Buddha

I used to suffer greatly from a bad case of self-criticism, in my teenage years, it was so severe that I could never ask a girl out on a date. I feared that she’d say “no” and I’d end up spending the next week getting down on myself for my failure.
Finally, at age 17, I hit “threshold” and decided to get rejected by 10 girls in one day. I figured the best way out of my prison of fear was to face it head on.

I promised myself that if I got 10 rejections; I’d treat myself to a trip to Hawaii. By setting it up that getting 10 rejections equaled my ticket to Hawaii, I hoped to sidestep getting down on myself for being rejected so many times.

So I began this personal assignment at the university bookstore. As I approached the first girl, my knees were shaking and a bead of sweat dripped down my face.
Finally, I went up to an attractive young woman and said, “hello.” This girl turned to face me and quickly noticed that I was shaking and sweating.

With real concern she said, “Are you alright? Do you need me to call an ambulance?” She thought I was having some kind of seizure.

I told her she didn’t need to call an ambulance and an awkward conversation ensued. Finally, I asked her out, to which she nicely said she had a boyfriend and was not available.
She asked me once again if I was okay; I assured her I was. I walked away and took out a note card and marked down “one rejection.” Nine more to go.

I continued to gather rejections and with each girl I approached, it got easier. Soon, I had a “script” I was using that made it kind of fun. I was proud of myself for facing this formerly debilitating fear.

By defining success as actually getting 10 rejections, I saw that I was able to sidestep what would have previously been horrendous self-criticism for “failing.” Yet, the seventh woman I approached ruined my momentum.

By now I was pretty relaxed. I walked up to the young woman and said, “I’m new here and I’m trying to meet people. You look like a nice person. Would you be interested in having lunch together some time?”The girl looked at me for a long moment, then said, “Sure.” It was at that moment I realized I had no “script” for “sure.” It hadn’t occurred to me that someone might say “sure.”I said, “Sure what?” Finally, she had to convince me to write her phone number down. Soon, other “yeses” followed. In fact, I got 8 straight dates.

It was actually hard to get my three final rejections, but I finally managed to do so by acting like a jerk as I asked women out. So I went to Hawaii and my love life was set for my freshman year. More importantly, I realized that self-criticism was something I could circumvent by doing something differently in my head.

I am still committed to outmaneuvering the cancer of self-criticism. Rather than rewarding myself for failure—as I did with my “rejection experiment,” I’ve turned to other methods.

For example, recently I saw I was criticizing myself for not getting enough stuff done during the day; this is one of my “inner critic’s” favorite themes.

Since I kind of knew how my inner critic would “operate” in this situation, I was on the lookout for my self-critical inner dialogue. Predictably those thoughts were right on schedule.

Anytime I tried to relax for a moment, my inner critic was right there to scare me back into action. However, since I had anticipated this voice and knew how it worked, it didn’t fully “get” me.

It was as if my inner critic was over in the corner yelling, rather than being inside my head screaming at me. It made all the difference in the world. I could feel some peace—even with my inner critic trying to trip me up.

So anticipating your inner critic and knowing how it operates is one good method to lessen its impact. Fortunately, there are many antidotes to the dis-ease of self-dislike. I’ll briefly outline one more of my favorites.

I’ve noticed that the voice of self-criticism always speaks inside my head with a certain urgency, condemning tone. If I change the tone in some funny way than the “sting” of self-criticism disappears.

Over the years, I’ve come to use a method I affectionately call “The Disney Voice.” In this technique, I lessen the impact of any self-critical thoughts by changing the tone of my inner dialogue to sound like a Disney character.

For instance, if I notice I’m putting myself down for being late to an appointment, I might use the tone of Mickey Mouse instead of my normal tone. I imagine Mickey talking to me in his very high pitched tone, saying stuff like “You’re going to be late again.”

It’s hard to take such a high-pitched voice seriously. Depending on my mood, sometimes I use the voice tone of Donald Duck (lisp and all), or perhaps the forgetful, anxious fish from Finding Nemo (played by Ellen Degeneris).

Whichever Disney character you find to be humorous is the right one for you. By substituting that character’s voice tone for your normal one you’ll find that all the power of your self-critical thoughts quickly evaporate.

I enjoy making fun of my self-critical thoughts. Using the “Disney Voice” method gives me a quick moment of perspective and humor. I’ve learned that laughing at my neuroses is a lot more fun and helpful than disliking myself.

At one time my inner critic ruled my life. But now I know its methods, what it says, and how it says it. By anticipating its ways and making fun of my inner critic, I have gained the freedom to be more of who I am…

Author's Bio: 

Jonathan Robinson, M.A., M.F.T. Is a psychotherapist, best-selling author of nine books, and a professional speaker from Northern California. He has reached over 250 million people around the world with his practical methods, and his work has been translated into 47 languages. Articles about Jonathan have appeared in USA TODAY, Newsweek, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as dozens of other publications. In addition, Mr. Robinson has made numerous appearances on the Oprah show and CNN, as well as other national TV talk shows. He has spent over 35 years studying the most practical and powerful methods for personal and professional development.
Mr. Robinson’s first book, “The Experience of God,” included interviews with such notable people as the late Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Scott Peck, and over 30 other well-known seekers. Jonathan’s second book, “Life’s Big Questions,” became a New York Times bestseller, as did his book “Communication Miracles for Couples.” Mr. Robinson’s other books include: Instant Insight; Real Wealth; Shortcuts to Bliss; Shortcuts to Success, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Awakening Your Spirituality, and Terror Proof Your Mind and Money.
As a professional speaker, Mr. Robinson has spoken to many of the Fortune 500 companies. He is known for providing his audiences with immediately useful and powerful information, presented in an entertaining and motivating manner.