Learning to Silence Your Inner Critic
This article was first published in Affinity magazine in July this year but I’m posting it here as I know we all have an inner critic. The good news is that it can be silenced though that might take time and effort to reduce the shout to a whisper that eventually falls into silence.
We all might respond differently to criticism from others. Some of us can find it constructive but we have probably all experienced times when it has been hurtful. But unless you are in a situation where someone is criticising you every day, in which case you probably need to change that situation, then the criticism of others is likely to cause less harm than that which is dished out daily by our inner critic. The voice we hear in our head that often provides a kind of commentary to our lives.
Clearly this is something that is worse for some than others but I imagine almost everyone reading this will have had times when silencing their inner critic has been quite a challenge.
|Low self-esteem results when the inner critic prevails.
Of course in some ways it is essential, that inner critic can be a reality check and in some ways can keep us safe. But like a lot of essentially helpful things, if it goes unchecked it can cause damage, lowering our confidence and self-esteem, preventing us from doing new things or putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone, and in all sorts of ways making us feel less happy. In fact sometimes it can get us into a terrible downward spiral. Say you are not getting on with something that you know you should – there goes the inner voice giving you a hard time and be honest – does it make you actually get on with it! Usually not! More likely you will just slide down in a negative spiral that makes it even harder to do whatever it is you need to do.
But don’t panic there are things you can do to silence it, so follow the tips below next time that inner voice starts giving you a hard time.
I know it sounds silly in many ways, but to ‘fight back’ and silence that voice you first need to actually take notice of what it is saying. Often our response is to try and ignore it but actually that can be incredibly hard to do as it keeps chattering on in the background. So take a moment to identify what it is actually saying and then you can launch your counter arguments. Some people find it even helps to write some of the ‘accusations’ down and then deal with them.
|Be aware of the negative self-talk and listen in with curiosity and compassion instead of guilt and shame.
- State some truths
Clearly what you reply with will depend on what is being said. It might be ‘so what’ if you are going to try something new and the voice is saying ‘you’ll never manage it’. Or it might be stating times when whatever it is saying hasn’t been true. The inner critic voice often talks in absolutes so if it says things like ‘you always mess things up’ or ‘you can never make good decisions’. So try to make a list of the times when this hasn’t been the case. Back it up with other universal truths, you are of value, people love you, what you think and feel matters, your opinion counts, and so on.
|If you gave your inner genius as much credence as your inner critic you would be light years ahead of where you now stand.
- Insist on Kindness
What amazes me about our inner critic is that we allow a part of us to treat us and speak to us in a way we would never speak to others. So if that voice is saying ‘wow you made a right mess of that’ imagine what you would say to a friend in that situation. Nine times out of ten you would be kind even if critical. It seems we have a wealth of compassion when dealing with others but can be short of it when it’s our own internal critic. So be sure to treat yourselves the way you would treat others. When you ask yourself if you would say the sorts of things your inner critic is saying to you and the answer is ‘no’ then quite simply you need to stop listening.
|Your inner critic is getting in the way of all those great things, which you deserve and are meant to accomplish. Drown out that negative voice with a louder, more powerful voice. A voice that believes in you and defends you, encourages you and loves you.
- Get busy
The problem with our inner critic is that it can convince NOT to do things and a sure fire way to shut that voice up is to get on a do ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ might be. But even in more general terms getting busy, productive and creative will usually turn down the volume of that inner critic if not silencing it completely. When you do get busy it does need to be with something that will occupy your mind so that in effect you squeeze out the voice or something directly related to what it is saying. If it is saying you are hopeless with people than go and meet up with some mates, if it saying that you won’t get a job you are going for then throw yourself into some reading or research so that you are just too busy thinking about other things to give it room at all.
|If you hear a voice within you saying ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh
So next time that inner critic starts to give you a hard time, stealing your motivation or confidence then simply follow the steps above to silence that voice so that you can get on living the life you are meant to live.