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HOW TO TAME YOUR INNER CRITIC

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We all have that sneaky little voice at the back of our heads…

The one that judges.

The one that’s never satisfied.

The one that blames, likes to play the victim and keeps us stuck.

That voice is your inner critic.  It’s the way we keep ourselves safe.  It also keeps us stuck. The critic is fluent in criticizing appearance, intelligence, emotions, and just about anything about us. Its presence can be painful and is often directly involved in low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and a variety of self-destructive behaviors.

When you stop identifying with your negative thoughts, everything can change.  Taking risks doesn’t seem so bad, making better decisions comes naturally, and showing up as the best version of yourself is a regular occurrence every single day.

 

What is the Inner Critic?

The critical inner voice is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others. The nagging “voices,” or thoughts, that make up this internalized dialogue are at the root of much of our self-destructive and maladaptive behavior.

The critical inner voice is not an auditory hallucination; it is experienced as thoughts within your head. This stream of destructive thought forms an anti-self that discourages us from acting in our own best interest.

 

How Does the Inner Critic Affect Us?

The critical inner voice is an internal enemy that can affect every aspect of our lives, including our self-esteem and confidence, our personal and intimate relationships, and our performance and accomplishments at school and work. These negative thoughts affect us by undermining our positive feelings about ourselves and others, and fostering self-criticism, distrust, self-denial, addictions and a retreat from goal-directed activities.

 

Where Does My Inner Critic Come From?

Most people have an inner critic.  To varying degrees these ‘voices’ or negative dialogue patterns are developed over time starting early in childhood.  As children, we may be less able to deal or cope with life experiences and information we receive.  We make decisions and form beliefs about ourselves while processing this information.  These inner voices usually come from early life experiences that are internalized and taken in as ways we think about ourselves. Often, many of these negative voices come from our parents or primary caretakers, as children we pick up on the negative attitudes that parents not only have towards their children but also toward themselves.  Our voices can also come from interactions with peers and siblings, or influential adults.

 

We also fall victim to comparison. We compare ourselves to others and what they have…or what we think they have that we don’t.  Especially in this age of constant social media filled with images of perfection, we can be bombarded by what we don’t have.   Over the years you have been comparing yourself and your accomplishments — or lack of accomplishments — with other people. This today has now created doubt in your mind, and wherever there is doubt, that is when your Inner Critic steps in and puts you in your place.

 

All those emotional wounds and unresolved insecurities, of course, manifest from the unhelpful thoughts you have allowed yourself to dwell upon. These thoughts have sprouted limiting belief systems, and these limiting beliefs have subsequently shaped the attitude you bring to every situation. You have essentially made yourself most vulnerable, and your Inner Critic is now in a prime position to take advantage.

 

Your Inner Critic will tell you all sorts of crazy and very believable stories about what you are and what you are not capable of doing or becoming. But it’s of course up to you to decide whether or not to believe them. However, making this decision isn’t always easy because we’re talking about things that you value most in life. In fact, we’re talking about things that you are afraid of losing or doing. There is, therefore, a lot of emotional energy invested here.

 

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

 

 

Every time you don’t meet your personal expectations and accomplish something you set out to do, you may have a tendency to blame yourself for the result. Well, “playing the blame game” has now woken up your Inner Critic. He too now wants to “play along” because he sees how much you are hurting as a result of not getting what you want. As such your Inner Critic is now committed to making sure that you don’t experience this pain ever again; and so he will tell you absolutely anything to ensure that you stay safe and away from pain.

 

These are painful moments where your Inner Critic simply won’t stand-by and watch you get hurt. No way will they allow any person or situation put you in that same position ever again. And for this very reason, your Inner Critic decides that if you’re not going to make more sensible decisions (on your own) to avoid pain, then they will do it for you. Now, of course, they don’t physically do it for you, but your Inner Critic does play a significant role in influencing the decisions you make; potentially to your own personal detriment.

 

While silencing the inner critic is possible, I want you to understand that it won’t happen by just watching a few videos or doing an exercise. It’s a process that takes patience, time, and willingness to let go of your old negative thought patterns.

 

What is the difference between the Inner Critic and a Conscience?

Many people think if they stop listening to their critical inner voice, they will lose touch with their conscience. However, the critical inner voice is not a trustworthy moral guide like a conscience. On the contrary, the l inner critic is degrading, punishing and often leads us to make unhealthy decisions. Not to mention that the inner critic is not based in fact.  These negative voices tend to increase our feelings of self-hatred without motivating us to change undesirable qualities or act in a constructive manner.

 

How Can I Silence The Inner Critic?

In order to take power over this destructive thought process, you must first become conscious of what your inner critic is telling you so you can stop it from ruining your life. To identify this, it is helpful to pay attention to when you suddenly slip into a bad mood or become upset, often these negative shifts in emotion are a result of a critical inner voice. Once you identify the thought process and pinpoint the negative actions it is advocating, you can take control over your inner negative dialogue by consciously deciding not to listen.  Let’s now take a look at a four-step process to help you tame your Inner Critic to get your life back on track.

 

Step 1:  Awareness: Identify Your Inner Critic
The first step in solving any problem is to openly acknowledge it. Notice the presence of the inner critic.  Paying attention to the negative patterns.  Identifying the internal dialogue of negativity and criticism is crucial to changing this dynamic. Negative thoughts like “I’m stupid” or “Nobody likes me” are very common. Typically as a result of childhood events or trauma, we assimilate these understandings deeply into our subconscious.
Try to identify what your critical inner voice is telling you. Acknowledge that this thought process is separate from your real point of view. Remember that your critical inner voice is not a reflection of reality. It is a viewpoint you adopted based on destructive early life experiences and attitudes directed toward you that you’ve internalized as your own point of view.

Catch the dialogue immediately.  The next time you’re feeling anxious, distracted or numb, identify the voice of the inner critic and what it’s saying.

Pay attention to the language that’s being used.  Notice the use of “I am..” and “I am not…”.  Changing small pieces of the language creates massive impact.  For example, “I am depressed” means something completely different than “I have depression”.   One is an incorrect reflection of who you are, while the other is something transient that can change.

 

Step 2: Understanding:  Identify and Dig Deeper

Identify the situation that triggered the inner critic. What you’re your true feelings about the situation?  Remember that the inner critic helps you to feel in control.  Ask yourself, what am I afraid of?  What would it mean if that happened?  And what would that mean?  Pay attention to what triggers these thoughts.

Get real with what’s going on and allow yourself to dig deeper and find your most vulnerable feelings about the situation.  This is what your inner critic is protecting you from feeling.  Do you need to be protected from that or is it ok to feel it?

Journal around your new awareness of the dialogue.  This is a particularly good habit to get into to track not only what the dialogue is, but what the triggers are, what you are thinking and feeling and viable options to the current dialogue.

One way to help you differentiate from your critical inner voice is to write these thoughts down in the second person (as “you” statements). For example, a thought like “I can’t get anything right. I’ll never be successful” should be written as “You can’t get anything right. You’ll never be successful.” This will help you see these thoughts as an alien point of view and not as true statements. Notice how hostile this internal enemy can be.

 

Step 3: Self-compassion:  Respond to Your Inner Critic

Life isn’t perfect. Neither are we.  It’s unnecessary to beat ourselves up over our shortcomings or things that we would like to change.  And, it’s pointless.  Inner criticism doesn’t pave the way to empowerment and that’s the key to change.  Be kind to yourself:  if you wouldn’t say it to a friend or someone you love, why are you saying it to yourself?

Stop comparing yourself to others.  It’s easy to look at social or friends or television and think about all the ways our lives just don’t measure up to someone else’s.  This presents an easy game for the inner monster to rise up and criticize us.

You can respond to your inner critic by writing down a more realistic and compassionate evaluation of yourself. Write these responses in the first person (as “I” statements). In response to a thought like, “You’re such an idiot,” you could write, “I may struggle at times, but I am smart and competent in many ways.” This exercise isn’t meant to build you up or boost your ego but to show a kinder, more honest attitude toward yourself.

 

Step 4: Acceptance (not complacency):  Monitor Your Reactions

When you accept that you have these thoughts and stop fighting it, you can see that they are simply thoughts and that you have the choice to chose otherwise.  Resisting them only makes them stronger.  When you truly let them go, they will disappear.

To get rid of the chatter in your mind, it’s often not enough to meditate or do yoga. You need to rewire the way your brain thinks.   We are creatures of habit.  We like and choose what is familiar.  Therefore we are comfortable (although there is discomfort) with telling ourselves these negative statements. It’s a pattern developed over years and years…a simple habit that can be broken.

Remember not to act on the directives of your inner critic. Take actions that represent your own point of view, who you want to be and what you aim to achieve. Your critical inner voice may get louder, telling you to stay in line or not to take chances. However, by identifying, separating from, and acting against this destructive thought process, you will grow stronger, while your inner critic grows weaker.

 

It’s important to shift the focus and start to affirm yourself by being grateful for what you already have in your life. Find the things that you like about yourself and focus your attention on them. Pivot and be open to people, expect good things to happen to you and don’t underestimate yourself.

This critical inner voice can be a prevailing force that derails your best attempts at happiness.  Becoming aware is the first step in an ongoing process to silence, or at least quiet it.

xo

Katrina Murphy
Katrina Murphy

Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.

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