Silence Your Inner Critic
Posted: Thursday August 19 2021
By: Abbie Coleman
How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Be Kind To Yourself
We’ve all got one.
I call mine Betty.
I’m referring to your inner critic, that pesky voice inside your head that never has a good word to say about anything that you do.
Your inner critic tells you that you are not good enough, not intelligent enough, not pretty enough…. basically, not enough.
If you are in a meeting and you make a point that others don’t agree with it’s the voice in your head that says, ‘well that was a stupid thing to say’.
If you give your child an apple cut up the wrong way (at least in their eyes), it’s the voice in your head that says, ‘I’m a terrible mother’.
If you go for a run and you are exhausted after a mile, it’s the voice in your head that says, ‘who do you think you are going running anyway, you are fat and unfit’.
Our inner critic rears its opinionated head when we are feeling at our most vulnerable, when we are overwhelmed or doubting ourselves. The internal voice adds fuel to the ‘I’m not good enough’ fire by reminding us of our flaws and inadequacies.
After we’ve had a talking to by our inner critic we are often left with feelings of shame, low self-esteem and even depression.
Left unchecked it can lead to crippling self-doubt and prevent you from taking the steps required to move forward in your career and your life.
While having an inner critic is normal, the good news is that we don’t need to let it take over and run the show.
Here are my 5 strategies to help you silence your inner critic and be kind to yourself:
Recognise Your Inner Critic
The first step is to recognise when you start to hear the voice of your inner critic in your head.
In much the way a toddler is silenced when you respond to the cry of ‘Mum, Mum, Mum!’ often your inner critic can be stopped in its tracks when you recognise it.
The next step is to take note of what happens when you hear your inner critic:
- When does your inner critic kick in? Are there particular triggers or events?
- What stories does your inner critic tell you? Notice if any common patterns and themes emerge.
- What is your default response when your inner critic starts to tell you these stories? Do you automatically believe everything it tells you? If so, what could you do instead?
Acknowledge Your Inner Critic
We can’t turn off the voice of our inner critic. It has developed over many years based on our past experiences. It will always be there to a greater or lesser extent.
However, we can acknowledge our inner critic and accept that the story it is telling us is not necessarily the truth.
You can even give your inner critic a name so that you can acknowledge its existence but detach yourself from it. You can then view your inner critic as a third party that is sharing an opinion that is not fact.
I will often tell Betty, my inner critic, that she needs to go away because I don’t have time for her or I am not in the mood to hear her negativity!
You can take control by recognising that your inner critic is telling you a story rather than the truth.
Change the Background Tape
The voice of our inner critic is like a background tape running in our mind. The good news is that we all have the power to change that background tape to one that better serves us.
This is a large part of the work that I do with my 1:1 clients. We:
- Identify the beliefs that hold them back
- Understand where and how those beliefs formed
- Change those beliefs to ones that better serve them so they can get what they want from life.
This process doesn’t happen overnight, but you can make a start using this exercise based on The Work by Byron Katie, an American self-development author.
The next time you notice your inner critic telling you a negative story about yourself, ask:
- Is that true?
- Is it absolutely true? How do you know?
- What happens when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
- What will you believe instead?
Your inner critic has been feeding you with unhelpful thoughts for a long time. As a result, you have been gathering evidence to reinforce these negative thoughts for a long time.
You now must gather evidence to support the new positive background tape that you have developed.
You can use this as an excuse to treat yourself to a lovely new notepad and pen or you can even create an online folder.
Regardless of how you do it, start to gather evidence to reinforce the positive beliefs that you are forming about yourself.
It could be:
- Extracts from performance reviews
- Messages from satisfied clients/stakeholders
- Positive feedback from team members
- Notes of thanks from friends or families
You can refer to this dossier of evidence anytime that self-doubt kicks in and you are tempted to listen to what your inner critic has to say.
Give Yourself A Break
We are all much harder on ourselves than we are to other people.
Your colleague is in a team meeting and makes a point that others don’t agree with. Do you think she said something stupid?
You friend cuts up an apple for her son and he gets upset because he thinks she has cut the apple up the ‘wrong way’. Do you think she’s a terrible mother?
Your watch your neighbour going for a run, and they barely make it to the end of the street. Do you think, they are so fat and unfit, why are they even bothering?
I’m guessing that your responses to your colleague, friend and neighbour were much kinder and more compassionate than when you imagined yourself in those scenarios!
The next time your inner critic kicks in, ask yourself:
- If I heard someone else speak to themselves this way, what would I think, how would I act?
- How can I choose to show myself some compassion today?
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