Dealing with the inner critic is a lifelong task. Develop the right mindset and coping skills to transform the negativity of the inner critic into something positive and constructive with these four steps. (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes)
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”— Brené Brown
Step in front of a mirror and look at yourself straight in the eyes for a couple of minutes.
Pay attention to the voices inside your head while you do this.
What do you hear? Do you hear words of praise? Or do you hear a diatribe on all the things that need to be “fixed” in your life?
If you’re like most people, you probably heard the latter.
That condescending voice that tells you that you’re not good enough or that you don’t do enough in your life is no stranger. You may have heard it in past incidences, particularly during times when you didn’t feel confident. The voices may have said something along these lines:
- “You’re not smart enough to get a promotion or to start a business.”
- “They will never go out on a date with you so don’t bother asking them out!”
- “Don’t take that risky step – you might fail. Your life is fine the way it is.”
This negative self-talk, that rains on your parade, comes from an entity known as the Inner Critic. The Inner Critic represents an amalgamation of all the limiting beliefs that you have about yourself. These beliefs originate from your childhood, major life experiences and other social influences.
The power your Inner Critic has on you is based on how you choose to interpret things based on your beliefs. Ultimately, your perception of everything depends on how attached you are to your beliefs.
Accepting what the Inner Critic tells us is like dumping toxic waste into our psychic river, which seeps into all the tributaries of our life. For this reason, managing the Inner Critic is one of the most important skills to master because of the significant impact that it has on every facet of your life.
It affects how we feel about ourselves, the way we relate to others and, most importantly, what we accomplish in life. An individual who is heavily influenced by their Inner Critic will find it very difficult to step into any unknown territory that requires risk-taking, even if it promises growth and progress.
In my coaching practice, I’ve met clients with tremendous potential, who avoid taking chances because of their insecurities. No matter how qualified, smart or beautiful they were, what ultimately determined the trajectory of their life was what they believed about themselves and their capabilities.
I sympathize with them because I know what it feels like to be under the grip of the Inner Critic. For years, I berated myself for not meeting the high standards I had set for myself.
Every time I messed up, my Inner Critic would crack its whip. After a certain point, I grew weary—chasing perfection felt like chasing a mirage that I could never reach.
I knew that the only way to liberate myself was to find out where these voices came from. After a couple of years of digging deep into my personal history with my therapist, I was able to trace them back to key events.
I unknowingly absorbed all kinds of negative messages from home, school, and the media. I developed the belief that the only way to obtain a sense of worthiness and power was by attaining material success.
Although it drove me to accomplish a lot of great feats, it came at hefty cost of an eroded self-concept. Every time I fell short, a flurry of worrisome thoughts about my inadequacy would overwhelm me.
Over time, I released my mental grip on my these unreasonable standards. What comforted me was realizing that I was not alone in my struggle and that everyone faces it. It’s a universal challenge that’s part of being human.
We aren’t to be helpless victims, drowning in this sea of negativity. With more self-awareness and discernment, we can reclaim our power.
We can override the domineering authority of the Inner Critic by making it work for us rather than against us.
Like a cranky professor that dwells in the faculty of our minds, it must be tamed. Because the truth is, the Inner Critic can offer some valuable kernels of wisdom that will help us reach higher standards of success.
Here are some general guidelines on how you can begin working with your Inner Critic:
1. Acknowledge the Inner Critic: Whenever you feel the voice of your Inner Critic clouding your consciousness, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. This will instantly relax you and bring you into a more centered state, making it easier for you to acknowledge it without resistance.
2. Manage your emotions and triggers: It’s important to remain objective and detached when evaluating the Inner Critic’s message. For this to happen, you’ll need to become aware of the unpleasant emotions it brings up within you and process them in a healthy way before you decode it.
3. Dialogue with the Inner Critic: When you speak to the Inner Critic from a place of curiosity and neutrality, you’ll be able to distill its core message in a way that is conducive to your wellbeing. For example, if it says that you’re incompetent at your job, ask it why it feels that way and if there are areas that need improvement. You can get some valuable insights on how to improve in important areas of your life.
4. Convert the Inner Critic into your Inner Coach: At your core, you’ll find an abundance of wisdom and compassion. By toning down the harshness in the Inner Critic’s message, you’ll get in touch with this more loving part of you. Every time you hit a brick wall, your Inner Critic will guide you with constructive wisdom without hurting you.
Learning how to deal with your Inner Critic is a life-long process that require attention and care. It can be strong and belligerent at times, but you must persevere! Remember that you are the captain of your ship and you get to choose which direction to steer your ship towards by choosing healthy thoughts that support your growth and wellbeing.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What role has the Inner Critic played in your life so far? How have you been dealing with your Inner Critic? What can you do to build a better working relationship with it?
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