Do you know your inner critic? Did you know that every person has their own inner critic? It’s often the most constant of companions, no matter how much you want it to leave.
Your inner critic probably likes to beat you up and point out how you made yet another mistake—even when you didn’t. It’s the voice that questions even the smallest of decisions. It makes you second guess yourself and spend hours mulling over how an acquaintance might have mistakenly understood your interactions.
The inner critic is never happy. It may hold you back and suck the joy out of everyday life. And it can make you feel horrible and engender feelings of shame.
But it is possible to make peace with it. — How?
1. Learn to Understand Negativity Bias
Many therapists believe that the inner critic evolved as an important way to keep early humans safe. You can think of it as being a part of the primal fight, flight, or freeze response which is designed to protect us in the face of any danger. In the world of our ancestors, remembering risky mistakes ensured future survival.
Even though today we’re not dealing with potential sabre-toothed tiger attacks, we still carry this deep autonomic nervous system which has virtually remained unchanged for 200,000 years! Our inner critic thinks that it is keeping us safe, even when it’s destroying us emotionally. Safe and miserable.
Because of this, counsellors often point out that humans are more prone to remember the negative than the positive. This is unfortunate, of course, because there is often so much more good than bad in our lives.
2. Practise Mindfulness Often
Learning to practise mindfulness is a great way to tune down the voice of the inner critic. Mindfulness just means focusing on the here and now, the immediate present. And it means directing your thoughts away from the million distractions in your brain (with kindness and support).
When you focus on the present, you can more easily see the good. You can appreciate simple things, like the softness of the sweater you’re wearing, the joy of a steaming cup of tea, and the little bird outside your window. The more you do this, the more you are able to tell your inner critic to back off.
3. Engage in Daily Gratitude Practice
Maintaining a daily gratitude practice is a time-proven way to silence your inner critic. Many people will keep a small notebook where they can list the good that happened each day.
You might start by aiming to list three items you’re thankful for. Once you get started, you will notice more and more things, big and small, that you appreciate and enjoy. Over time, this grows into a sense of peace and self-contentedness.
4. Remember That You Are Not Your Thoughts
It’s easy to forget that you are not your thoughts. Just because your thoughts tell you something, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Think of your thoughts like clouds passing overhead. They are there, but they will pass. They only linger if you give them more attention than they are due.
5. Learn to Counter the Voices of Others
Sometimes people inherit their inner critic. It can sound suspiciously like a parent, a mean-spirited teacher, the school bully, or someone else from your past.
Take time to identify potential sources of your inner critic. Make the connections. As you do this, you will learn to talk back to the voices in a way you couldn’t as a child or younger version of yourself.
6. Know That You Are Enough
Society and family pile expectations upon us. You can easily learn to (falsely) believe that your meaning and worth is determined by your career and financial status, marital status, weight, or fashion sense. But this is a lie. You are enough just because you exist. Your life has meaning and importance, no matter your station.
Accepting and believing this will go a long way towards making peace with your inner critic.
The inner critic likes to lurk, even when you’ve made progress. Don’t let that discourage you. Learn to acknowledge it and then ignore it. Practise the above-mentioned tips and you will make peace with it.
Therapy is also a powerful way to overcome your inner critic. If you’d like to learn more about the scientifically-proven methods I use in my counselling office, please sign up for a free test drive or email me to learn more.