Is your inner critic a loud, in your face, kind of voice that constantly bangs on and on, punishing you for not being good enough or for not following the rules that have been set down at some point in your life, for making mistakes? Or is your inner critic a mild annoyance that pops up every now and again, perhaps in those moments when you are under extreme pressure to perform and do your best, or step courageously into a place of vulnerability in order to fully show up?
No matter how large or small the voice or how often it shows up, your inner critic, gremlin or saboteur, can be debilitating and ultimately stop you from leading your fullest life.
Identifying your inner critic
Most of us will recognise the negative voices that pop up in our heads when we’re just about to:
- deliver a presentation at work – “This isn’t good enough. They’ll realise I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
- attend an interview – “There’s so many other candidates better than me.”
- take an exam – “I’m bound to fail”
- post a blog – “No-one will want to read this”
- walk into a crowded room where everyone else appears to know each other – “I’m not very interesting to talk to”
- eat another biscuit – “I’m so fat. I’ve got no willpower.”
- find your last date never phoned back – “I’m not attractive or fun enough to be loved.”
The inner critic can make us feel shame, fear and anxiety causing us to compare, procrastinate and avoid, to name but a few. It can feed our imposter syndrome, a belief that you’re not good enough which in turn makes you feel like a fraud.
Where did all this negative talk come from?
The inner critic has stored up all the rules on how you ‘should’ be and then punishes you if you don’t follow them. It often believes the negative feedback you’ve received over the years and constantly reminds you about it so you can work to be better. It stops you from trying new things in case you make mistakes and continually tries to compare you to others as a way of demonstrating how incapable you are. It often stores the voices of parents or teachers or anyone you have wanted to please, so that you have a clear idea of what these people expect and how you are to behave or be.
Crikey this feel a bit bleak. Don’t despair! There is hope!
Taming your inner critic
With some conscious thought and by making conscious choices we can start to manage our inner critic for the better. Fundamentally we’re looking to develop a more positive mindset, whilst acknowledging that negative thoughts are normal! We must also accept that in putting ourselves out there, living our fullest life, we will invite criticism of some kind or another. But we have a CHOICE. We can choose what to listen to and what action to take as a result.
Brene Brown talks passionately about managing your critics, both real live humans in the outside world, but also the one you control and often has the most power over you, your inner critic, in a number of excellent talks… here’s one for starters
But if you’re looking for some quick tips, there are many techniques that can help you to manage your inner critic. These are the things that have worked for me:
- Start to develop an awareness of your thoughts. Notice what the voices say and when they show up.
- Challenge your inner critic and ask yourself, where is the evidence that this thought is true?
- Ask someone you trust for help in identifying your best attributes and anchor your thoughts in experiences where you have been at your best.
- Jot down the negative chatter, cross it out and write down an empowering statement that overrides the negative thought.
- Practise self-compassion. Think about what you would say to a friend or loved one going through the same experience. Now say it to yourself.
- Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small.
- Plan for when you know your critic will show up, so can you can bat it away quickly!
I hope this helps, but if you’d like to talk it through and need some help in working out what would work best for you, please get in touch. Alternatively if you have any other handy hints and tips on how you manage your inner critic, please add them to the comments section below. I’m always keen to learn more!