Have you ever been in a situation where the voice inside your head is saying phrases like; “you don’t know what you’re doing”, “everyone is more experienced than you”, “who are you to say that?” This sounds like your inner critic is at work. We all have an inner voice that expresses criticism, frustration or disapproval about our actions. The actual self-talk is different for each of us, as is its frequency or intensity. Once you are consumed with the inner critic, you may find that you start to lose confidence, and this stops you from being effective.
It’s a common thought that negative self-talk can motivate you to change your behaviour, but in fact the inner critic can take over be big and powerful bringing you down, playing off your anxieties and giving its dialogue with you an addictive quality.
Your inner critic often has positive good intent and can tell us about where we might have gone wrong, giving us something to focus on. But more often than not, the inner critic can be harsh, going over the top with nit-picking, fault finding and shaming.
Alongside your inner critic, you have your inner mentor who has the ability to bring compassion and encouragement, but only if you will let it. The good news is that there are many ways you can reset the balance of power between the inner voices by restraining the inner critic and strengthening the inner mentor. If you are only hearing one voice, that of the inner critic, then you will need to listen even deeper for you to be able to hear your inner mentor.
When you hear your inner critic starting to do its work, consider how you respond to it, you could use one of the following techniques;
1. The first thing to do is to acknowledge that this thought process is separate from your real point of view. Remember that your critical inner voice is not a reflection of reality. It is a viewpoint you have adopted based on life experiences and attitudes directed toward you that you’ve internalised as your own point of view. Don’t act on the views of your inner critic, stop and take a breath.
2. Ask yourself is the statement being made by your inner critic true, false or don’t you know the answer?
– If it’s true, then think about how you can learn from it and take action to make a change
– It’s if false, then try your best to discard that information, mentally throw the comment away
– If you don’t know, then do what you can to find out?
3. You could imagine your inner critic as a ridiculous character, something that you can laugh at that has no credibility with you.
4. Imagine that you have a team of cheerleaders you can turn to when your inner critic starts, who are the people close to you that you trust and you know think you are more than capable, a partner, best friend, children? Imagine them cheerleading you on.
5. Acknowledge your inner critic by responding with your own mantra which might be something along the lines of:
a. So what? (if you think that? It doesn’t mean it’s true)
b. Who cares? (Do you think that means something to me? It doesn’t)
c. Big deal! (Seriously? Big deal, no big deal!)
d. Why not? (Why shouldn’t I do this? I’m going to do this because I can and I will!)