Everyone has at one point in their life faced a bit of criticism. Both wanted and unwanted. For most of us, the first criticism came from our parents, teachers, and loved ones.
Now, depending on the severity of their words and advice, our little inner critic was born. Subcouncesly and quickly, we had a harsh little voice, preventing us from making drastic decisions that could impact the rest of our lives. Sound great, right!? Wrong.
I wish it were as simple as that, but as humans, our conscious brains love to ruminate around negativity more than positivity, which makes this inner critic a tough crowd to please.
In this blog, I would like to provide a more detailed explanation of how to silence your inner critic, without being too critical of yourself, to begin with.
Why am I too critical of myself?
“The inner critic or “critical inner voice” is a concept used in popular psychology and psychotherapy to refer to a subpersonality that judges and demeans a person.”
Believe it or not, most of the awful things we say to ourselves don’t really originate from us. This is why your inner critic isn’t actually you…It’s just an echo of some, perhaps negative comments you’ve received from the people you trusted or even still trust.
Naming this inner critic helps our brain distinguish the difference. Give it a face, and a name, and don’t be afraid to get specific. The more you specify its features, the better. Especially if you decide to give your inner critic a maybe less threatening physical appearance. Maybe you decide to give it a funny cartoon-ish face. This can trick your brain into thinking that its words shouldn’t be taken that seriously.
After all, remember that isn’t really you speaking to yourself 90% of the time.
I am not the Negative Voice inside my Head
Similarly to what we just talked about, understanding where this voice originates from is just as important! Sometimes, the source may come from multiple people and places, but figuring out at least one major determinator is vital to silencing your inner critic.
Here are some inner critic examples and where they might have originated from:
“I think you could do a better job at shading, your figures need a bit more depth”, said the respectable art teacher to her student, who to this very day stresses a bit every time she starts shading on her drawings.
Just because you weren’t ready to hear something doesn’t mean it wasn’t detrimental to your growth! It also doesn’t mean that what once may have been true is still true to this day. Maybe your shading is picture-perfect now.
In this case, the teacher was doing what a teacher should, but regulating how we react is a big step in increasing our confidence the next time we are in a similar situation.
“I don’t think you should wear that dress at the wedding, it accentuates your curves in a bad way”, said a mother to her daughter. This is something this mother didn’t know would influence her daughter for a very long time. She didn’t know her daughter would start dieting and avoiding dresses.
I will say this until you truly hear me, your inner critic isn’t you. It’s who and what hurt you a very long time ago. Your brain just kept ruminating around that thought until it became completely out of your control.
The flaws we sometimes see within ourselves aren’t always there.
We are just so uncertain about a topic that we keep seeing past ”mistakes” where there aren’t none. It’s most similar to body dysmorphia, a disorder where people don’t see their body for what it really is, so they are overly critical of what they wear or eat.
That’s also what this inner critic does, it looks, talks, and makes conclusions for us. In a way, this makes us feel like we have “control” over a specific situation. “If I predict it in advance, I’ll save myself the heartache”.
Life becomes rather miserable if we live like that, don’t you think?
This false sense of control shields us from others commenting on and criticizing our lives. Unfortunately, this never actually works and is only anxiety-provoking and never genuinely motivating.
In turn, it makes us avoidant, which leads to further issues such as procrastination, anxiety, depression, isolation, and many more.
Another issue with being too self-critical is the eventual desire to not be seen. This means turning down event invitations, never raising your hand to speak, allowing others to talk over you, and never actually respecting yourself enough to speak up.
Having some reflection on past mistakes and trying to improve is a very healthy and natural thing. But cursing everything and anything we do is only gonna set us back, rather than forth.
How to quiet your inner critic?
Finally, the part you all came for. How do we actually silence our inner critic? How do we become happy in our own skin again? Is it even possible?
Yes, it is very possible.
Befriend your inner critic.
Firstly, you have to accept your thoughts as they truly are: they are thoughts, not facts. Sit with them, allow the worst-case scenario to play out in your mind and you’ll see that handling it wouldn’t be as bad as your brain told you it would. Since your thoughts aren’t reality, feel free to observe them, rather than drown in them. Once your mind is a bit clearer, you’ll see which thoughts are genuine wishes to do better, and which are just harmful fiction.
I feel like most of us forget to breathe when we’re going through a negative thinking period. We forget to stretch, go outside, watch a good movie, and even laugh. We are on autopilot.To fix this, start small. Set your alarm for deep breathing every day at the same time. I know it sounds like it’s not going to help, but it really is. Breathe into your stomach, hold for a few seconds, and exhale for a bit longer. Do this every day for 10 minutes to regulate your nervous system.Anxious thoughts take a toll on our body, so treat it extra kindly during those periods.
Think of your inner child.
In times when the inner critic seems the loudest, imagine they’re talking to your child self. Would it say to them what it’s saying to you? If your 5-year-old self came into the room and asked you if they looked bad, would you say yes? Of course not! You would make sure those harmful thoughts were as far away as possible because your adult self knows how harmful they are. The more you’re hurting yourself, the more you’re hurting that child you once were. They need some kindness too.
Accept what you can change.
When we face ourselves with the utmost honesty, we can objectively say we want improvement in one way or another. For example, you don’t need to be a better writer, but it’s perfectly okay if you want to be a better writer. Accepting what we want and can change is the first step to accepting ourselves as we are. It’s okay if you’re not where you want to be yet, there’s no race or deadline you have to accomplish. It’s your life, you set your own alarms and deadlines, with as much time as you need.
This one is a personal favorite of mine, and I’m super excited to share it with you.
In the last couple of months, I started saying this to every excessively negative thought I had.
“You’ll get fat if you keep eating like that.”…” Okay, and?”
“They didn’t respond back, what if they hate you!”…” Okay, and?”
Another one of my favorites is looking at an imaginary camera every time things don’t go my way. Exactly like they do in Modern Family and The Office.
It’s funny, stupid and maybe even a bit nutty, but we stay alive by reminding ourselves that life isn’t as serious as we sometimes make it out to be. And not just alive, happy too.
I think that’s a great way to end this. Life isn’t that serious really. We walk around on a floating rock in space, pay taxes, purchase furniture, and make eggs in the morning.
Everything that happens in between is the memories we will one day cherish, so why not make them as beautiful as we humanly can?