All too often, the voice that’s loudest in your head is not your encouraging, supportive, best self—it’s your peevish, sulky curmudgeon, who refuses to believe in your capabilities. Dealing with this constant inner critic can be a huge drain, exhausting your efforts before you even get started. And unfortunately the self-criticism often comes as a trifecta, teaming up with depression and anxiety to ensure deflation. Self criticism often comes with difficulties in relationships too, as the criticism spreads toward everything in your frame of reference.
Typically, your inner critic is no stranger, but someone who has been haranguing you for years, perhaps ever since childhood. Psychologists say that children may internalize and exaggerate the expectations of parents or peers or society. The critic becomes so embedded in the fabric of our being that we almost can’t imagine life without that constant negative feedback loop. Our doubts and insecurities seems like a part of personality, impossible to severe.
Here are a few ways to soften that frontal assault and make it less restrictive:
Doubt the doubter: The voice in your head, predictably, always questions your abilities, intentions, and worth. Turn the doubt back at the doubter, and let her know you are wise to her ways. Recognizing the tendency to always put down is the first step toward lessening the critic’s power. Once you recognize the trigger, you can question your critic’s motivation.
Fact check your judgments: Typically, your critic likes to globalize, such as you always do everything wrong; and make catastrophic assessments, as in “this is going to be a disaster, you’ll ruin everything.” Try to questions these global accusations. If you call yourself a terrible person, ask yourself if that is always true. If your heading toward catastrophe, bring yourself back by really examining what is the worse that can happen.
Remind yourself of your priorities: If your criticism tends to be focused on how you look, reflect on whether the goal of being a head-turner is actually worth pursuing. Make sure the qualities you are berating yourself over are worth having. If they are, try to transform the criticism into a catalyst for positive change. For example, if you frequently lose your temper, look for ways become less reactive.
The first step to silencing the constant critic we carry within is noticing the habit. When you can witness, you can detach, and when you detach you can question. Realizing you don’t have to believe everything you think is the beginning of a much freer, unfettered way of being in the world.