Sure, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘your own worst critic’, but for very many of us we often take this inner criticism to a whole new level and it can be mentally debilitating.
As a trained spiritual life coach at Soul Awakening Academy, I spend a lot of time helping people get over the trauma and reframing their inner critic so their inner voice becomes supportive and helps them achieve their goals more easily.
Most of us have an inner critic, also known as a ‘critical inner voice’ which refers to a subpersonality which serves only to judge, demean and belittle us. It deafens all our positives, such as our incredible skills, attributes, kindnesses and achievements, and serves only to demoralise. Our inner critic and the associated negative self-talk are often formed from painful childhood experiences where we have experienced, or witnessed, hurtful attitudes towards either ourselves or someone very close to us. As we get older, we unconsciously adopt this thought pattern and integrate the associated behaviours which are directed predominantly towards ourselves, but sometimes towards others, too.
Being open to constructive criticism is a good thing: none of us is perfect and there are always things we can do to improve ourselves and our skills. Every day is a school day, after all. And it’s also worth bearing in mind that listening, occasionally, to our inner critic can help prevent embarrassing situations, avoid disaster, and help us achieve our goals or make improvements. But it’s when constructive criticism changes and turns, and slowly becomes insidious and toxic negativity, that we need to take action and alter our mindset – and silence our inner critics.
When your internal narrative is negative it can leave you feeling defeated and sabotaged as it influences how you feel, behave and live your life. Fortunately, there are strategies and coping mechanisms you can employ to help silence, minimise and reshape the negative thoughts, feelings and voices, and turn them into sources of immense personal strength, motivation and inspiration.
How to silence your critical inner voice
Understanding your inner critic’s voice is louder and harsher than your gentle, kind and nurturing voice, which coexists alongside, is paramount. So allowing your nurturing voice to have its say is essential otherwise all you will hear is your inner critic telling you that:
- You are unworthy.
- You are of no importance.
- You have nothing interesting to say.
- No one likes you and you have no friends.
- You are stupid and incapable.
- You are an imposter.
- Other people are so much better than you at doing X, Y, or Z.
- You don’t deserve this job/this promotion.
- You are fat and/or ugly.
- You don’t deserve to be happy.
Of course, you are none of these things. However, your loud, brash critical inner voice is having a field day and is literally thrashing your self-confidence, and trashing your ability to trust your instincts.
Your critical inner voice won’t disappear; however, there are tools and techniques you can employ to teach your inner voice to show kindness, positivity, self-compassion and understanding instead. With the right guidance, you can distance yourself from the constant criticism and negativity, and put a stop to self-judgement.
Be kind to yourself and harness your sense of humour
Whenever your critical inner voice rears its ugly head, stop, take a step back and try to show yourself the same compassion and empathy that you would show to others. Release the judgement and negative thoughts and behaviours, and focus on being kind instead.
Furthermore, harness your sense of humour and treat your critical inner voice with comedy, which is a great neutraliser. Imagine it as a daft cartoon character or a silly/pompous/incompetent fictional character, or even give it a name. Use these tactics to diminish and silence your critical inner voice. Or why not take inspiration from Disney’s film, Luca, where one of the boys helps his friend to overcome his fears by silencing the voices in his head with, ‘silencio Bruno’. Not only is it fun, but it’s a great cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tool as you can take action there and then, at the moment.
Understanding your critical inner voice won’t ever disappear
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Understanding that your critical inner voice won’t disappear is half the battle. We all have an ongoing inner dialogue where we ‘talk to ourselves’; it’s normal as it helps us to work things out. However, altering how you react to, and engage with, your critical inner voice is paramount to keeping it in check.
Be on ‘team you’
Rather than constantly battling against yourself, change your all-consuming negativity to being ‘pro-you’. Think about the thoughts, emotions and feelings you are experiencing and jot them down. Now think of an adjective (describing word) which is the total, and positive, or opposite to describe each emotion and focus on the more optimistic versions.
Be aware of when your critical inner voice appears
Rather than just waiting in fear, be proactive and listen for when your critical inner voice starts to raise its head. Are there trigger points – a place, time, person, situation, event etc. which cause you to wobble? Or is it something else which throws you off course? Knowing and identifying the how, why, when and where will help you to develop strategies which alter your negative behavioural patterns.
How did your critical inner voice develop?
Finally, understanding how your critical inner voice started will help you gain insight into the reason it’s a problem for you. What happened in your childhood? Was it a specific event or a series? Do you associate negative feelings with someone or somewhere? Were there any underlying triggers or events in your past? Take a step back and be an observer. This will help you to stop reinforcing negative thoughts.
Anne-Marie Mayers is the founder of the Soul Awakening Academy. Anne-Marie helps people to transform their lives for the better.