How to Stop Your Inner Critic
Do you find yourself wrestling with a hyper-critical voice in your head that makes you feel bad and stops you from doing what you want?
Hey there, you gorgeous, inspiring and powerful creature!
That’s right, I’m talking to you! Maybe when you read that, you thought, “that’s not me.” Or maybe, “damn straight!”
Think back to a time when you felt gorgeous, inspiring and powerful.
Notice if that’s hard to recall, or maybe something did come to mind, but you talked yourself out of it. What did that voice tell you? That it was too small? Or it didn’t count? Or you may have felt inspiring, but not powerful? Or maybe you didn’t deserve it, or the credit really belongs to someone else? Blah, blah, blah…
Let’s take a look at this voice – this Underminer of Accomplishments, the Joy Thief, the Worry-Wart, the Negative Neil, the Bullshit Factory, or whatever feels like a fitting title to you.
We all have an inner critic. It might sound like that demanding English teacher you had in 6th grade, or a nagging parent, or a version of ourselves.
Whatever the origin, it comes in to protect us from our fears and insecurities, promising it can prevent us from experiencing failure, shame and embarrassment. As long as we listen to it and don’t buy into the idea that we could be successful if we took a risk, or that we have innate strength and beauty, we’ll be okay.
Gosh, what fools we’d be to think we’re great, then come up short! Much safer to preempt our inevitable failures by insulting ourselves out of getting started. CRISIS AVERTED, RIGHT?!
WRONG!!! As you know if you’re struggling to overcome an inner critic, this pain-in-the-ass voice keeps us stuck listening to the same stories again and again, critically damaging our self-esteem. These hits take their toll! And it shows up especially strong when it comes to the stuff we care about most. And that’s no accident, because those are the things that arouse our deepest fears and insecurities. The problem is, although preying on our deepest fears evokes the strongest reaction within us, it doesn’t make the inner critic’s claims accurate.
Make a list of the claims your inner critic props itself up on. They tend to be extreme, all-or-nothing statements, like “I always completely humiliate myself with new people,” “No one really likes me” or “It’s stupid of me to try.” And my guess is, the logic breaks down pretty quickly. (“I might say things I regret, but I don’t ALWAYS humiliate myself,” “There are people that seem to want to spend time with me,” or “I wouldn’t encourage someone else in my situation not to try.”) It can’t back up its guarantee of a failure-proof life, it lies to us and actually, all its worrying and negativity keeps us from failing forward, learning from our mistakes, and building success over time.
Choose one of your inner critic’s beliefs to rewrite and practice acting differently on. Write something more accurate, that acknowledges how you feel, but allows for a more optimistic, and more likely, outcome. “I always completely humiliate myself with new people” might become: “Although it scares me, meeting new people can make me feel less alone and exposes me to opportunities that can help me meet my goals.” Challenge that inner nay-sayer and prove that you know what serves you better than a cranky, jaded amalgamation of past fears and perceived failures. All you have to do is rewrite the script, and believe in yourself enough to follow it. You’ve got this!