Have you ever heard an inner voice telling you are disempowering things, like “I don’t think I can do this,” “What if I fail?”, “I’m stupid,” This is too hard,” “I’m ugly, no likes me”? and on and on, buzz buzz buzz – you get the picture?
What is an Inner Critic?
We all have an ‘inner critic.’ You know, that voice inside your head that is continually buzzing negative self- statements. And that gets free rein when we feel stressed, anxious, or depressed.
The Inner Critic is often buried deceptively amongst the thousands of thoughts we have every day. It’s the voice we use when we criticize and judge ourselves negatively. The one that encourages us to use avoidance behavior instead of living our lives and doing the things we want. The one that keeps us feeling bad about ourselves and our lives.
Our self- esteem and self- image is developed by how we talk to ourselves, how we think of ourselves.
The inner critic is part of our ‘ego defense mechanism’ set. Its purpose is to keep you in the safe zone and protect you from any possible emotional injuries like judgment, rejection, blame, or shame. It is an internal resistance to change and the unknown, and the main reason for you playing small and not daring to go for your dreams.
Your inner critic does an excellent job of keeping you safe; however, it might hurt your life by possibly making you:
- Doubt yourself and your abilities
- Admire others for their achievements without being able to acknowledge your own.
- You might put essential things on hold instead of just doing them.
- Feel stressed and anxious when trying to achieve something important to you.
- Worry excessively about what other people think of you
- Take things personally or let others put you down.
- Stay in an unhealthy relationship with
- Stay stuck in a job you don’t like or even hate, afraid that changing it
Every time it ‘attacks’ it keeps our self-worth low and stops us living a productive life. It becomes the boss of us. But we can change that… It is never too late to fix unhealthy thinking, and it’s entirely possible to SILENCE THE INNER CRITIC!
How do we silence the inner critic?
‘Personalise and Externalise’ the inner critic. Stop seeing it as an evil toxic monster! Instead see it as a stupid, confused, irrational, unhelpful bossy pest. Most importantly, remember that it’s not YOU! See it as a separate thing to our actual fabulous self. Create a visual image for your own nagging unhelpful stupid inner critic. Make it small; make it ridiculous; give it a silly voice. Make it look and sound as foolish as it is. Remember the inner critic thinks it’s helping you, making you avoid or recognize things to keep you from shocks and hurts and disappointments – so it’s not a troll.
- Learn to recognize its arrival
Begin to become aware of the situations when the inner critic pops up.
Maybe when you’re feeling down:
- Adverse, stressful events, e.g., meeting new people, when you make a mistake, when you are being criticized or when you’re dealing with challenging people where your fight or flight turns on, and you get flustered.
- When you’re mind reading how you think other people are perceiving you and your behavior (‘he thinks I’m thick’)
- When you’re negatively fortune telling an event that hasn’t even happened yet (‘it’s going to be awful, I’m not able to..’ ).
Whenever you’re feeling an emotional disturbance, the inner critic is bound to be around, clouding our rational brain, popping up to ‘help’ and ‘analyze’ and ‘problem solve’ the situation.
- Thought Stopping:
When we recognize the Inner Critic in action, we need to ‘thought stop’– and then to speak to him literally. Create your mantra to stop him in his tracks. Something like: “You again! No! That makes no sense. How much do you cost me? Have you been helpful in my life so far? “
I especially advise meeting the inner critic with kindness and acknowledgment Like ‘I appreciate that you came into my mind, trying to protect me. But I’m going to try this anyway, and I’ll see what happens.” Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks
And then to go and do exactly that, instead of automatically complying with its nonsense.
A widely used NLP technique is to wear a loose rubber band around your wrist and to snap it lightly each time you notice the inner critic, this can create a tremendous psychological association for routine and rejecting the thoughts.
- Compassion for Extra Difficult Thoughts
Sometimes your critic can be aggressive and causes you to be very angry at yourself when you do something ‘wrong.’
My recommended the strategy is to use a soothing self-talk voice that kicks in immediately when you recognize the inner critics’ arrival. E.g., Instead of calling yourself a stupid ******!, and reacting with rage, you can instead decide to shove away the inner critic idiot immediately and us a deliberately calming ‘whoops, aw don’t worry [insert affectionate name for yourself], you haven’t done anything wrong, it’s only a little mistake, these things happen. Don’t worry, I’m here to take care of it, relax, it’ll be okay, it’s okay…’.
The practice has shown that this kind of self-talk and the visualization of taking care of yourself ( your own ‘inner child’ if you like) kindly and compassionately in an unconditionally accepting way gives excellent results in feeling good and having healthier behaviors. It’s even more powerful when you add the visualization of your adult self hugging your arms around your child self that needs to be taken care of at that moment in time, addressing yourself affectionately, and using gentle language.
These Inner Critic Techniques:
- Separate the internalized voices and beliefs you might have learned from others
- In a short space of time, you learn a lot about how and when you attack yourself, and the consequences
- They allow you to interrupt and challenge irrational automatic negative thoughts and beliefs
- Give you rational responses and control over your moods and behaviors
- If you can use humor, the usual emotions of fear, depression, or anxiety are challenged – humor and negative emotion cannot co-exist, so it halts the typical inappropriate strong emotions long enough to allow you to ‘think differently.’
- Learn to clarify blame/responsibility for negative automatic thoughts away from the ‘self,’ so relieving guilt and shame.
Sounds ridiculous? But give this a go, have fun with it, and perhaps these approaches are so effective is because of their child-like simplicity? –Who cares!? It works!
Okay, go for it.
Externalize your internal critic – describe him/her/it – draw it –
Compose a ‘whacking’ mantra to use when thought stopping and telling it to get lost…