How to Silence Your Inner Critic
There’s no crueler critic than a harsh internal critical voice. Every negative message, especially from early in our lives – telling us we’re not good enough, not capable – become part of our internalized monologue. Once there, those messages can be challenging to remove or reframe. But the good news is it’s not impossible.
An inner critical voice is a self-destructive stream of thinking inside our minds, that always undermines our happiness and ruins our success. It’s not our true thoughts, but a reflection of our worst fears. Some call this voice the “inner mean girl,” as if the Rachel Adams character Regina George, all dressed in pink, is out to get you.
A harsh—or even abusive—inner critic can be silenced. Our internal dialogue can be transformed into a positive, comforting companion. It takes some work and doesn’t happen overnight. Always remember your inner critical voice is not telling you facts.
It’s not congruent with reality at all, and there are many ways to shut that voice down. Consider the following steps on your path to shedding an inner critical voice.
- Cultivate an awareness of your inner dialogue. Most people have a voice running through their thoughts all day, every day. That voice is a negative reflection of our self-image, our self-esteem. When you feel down over something, pay attention to your thoughts. Are they straying into the unrealistically negative?
- Let mistakes go. Stop beating yourself up over mistakes, failures or embarrassments. There’s just no use in ruminating over things that didn’t go right. Sometimes people think that be replaying whatever went wrong over and over, they can somehow learn not to make that mistake. In reality, it’s just fodder for our darkest thoughts about ourselves.
- Be kind to yourself. Ask yourself if you’d speak to a friend in the same way your critical voice speaks to you. Would you tell someone you loved “You always mess up,” or “Why bother? Everyone thinks you’re ridiculous.” Of course, we don’t talk that way to people we value, but we bash ourselves with those terrible statements daily. Extend yourself the same kindness and love you give others. At the very least, courtesy!
- Contradict your inner critic’s exaggerations with facts. The inner critic always exaggerates. For example, an inner voice who tells you that you’re always weak can be countered with your writing or saying to yourself, “No, I have problems sometimes, but here I am. I get through my problems.”
- Consider what’s the worst that could happen. If your inner voice is screaming that you’re going to blow an important presentation and be fired and never get another job, redirect that scary exaggeration. Consider: even if you got fired, you’d find another job. Make sure to confront your inner voice with reality.
- Think of your inner critic as scared. Your inner critic is your deepest fear, and by speaking up they are trying to protect you. The trouble is that it’s often irrational and not based in reality. Thank your inner critic for caring enough about you to try and protect you, but let her know you’re fine without her feedback.
Finally, practice positive self-talk. When your inner critic gets going, tell yourself that the fear isn’t you. Sometimes you’re afraid, because you’re human, and everyone is afraid sooner or later. However, that fear isn’t who you are, and it’s not going to stop you.
When it comes to your inner critical voice trying to scare you into immobility, remember that it’s ok to be scared. Be scared and still go forward boldly with your life! You’ve got this. Regina George be damned.
In a world with so many things to do, kids to manage and pandemics to worry about—just kidding, thank god there’s only one of those right now—let’s find one thing to count on that will help you focus on yourself when things are tough.
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