3 Steps to Make Friends with Your Inner Critic
The “inner critic” is the voice in your head that perpetuates fear and creates a barrier in your relationship with yourself and others. It’s the voice that tears you down when you look in the mirror, causes you to question the motives of others, even those closest to you, and stands in the way of your success and happiness.
The inner critic is like an insatiable bully living within you that constantly holds you back or keeps you feeling stuck. It’s the voice that says “you’re ugly… no one likes you… you’re stupid… you’re not worthy of love… you’re incompetent and incapable… you’ll never be good enough.”
So why would you ever want to befriend this part of yourself?
Well, let’s think for a minute about where this voice came from. This is not something you were born with. No one is birthed thinking that they suck in every way and are destined to be a failure. Your inner critic develops over time, beginning with your earliest experiences in life. It’s fueled by all of the times you’ve encountered or witnessed negative and hurtful attitudes or reactions.
Every day your mind absorbs information and files it away to use at a later time to influence your decision-making and actions. However, it’s not terribly good at assessing what information may actually hinder or hurt you in the long run.
In fact, the intent is not to hurt you, but to protect you from being hurt in a counterintuitive sort of way. So with that known, you could make the claim that your inner critic is actually a defense system created to help you avoid harm. Whether you like it or not, it’s a part of you so it’s in your best interest to learn these steps.
Step 1: Acknowledge and Accept
Many self-help writers out there will encourage you to ignore your inner critic. Do whatever you can to distract from it or suppress it altogether.
Here are the problems with these strategies. One, this is avoidance and does absolutely nothing to address the issue. Two, it doesn’t work. Try telling yourself to stop thinking about something and see how long it takes until you actually stop. Your attempts to avert certain thoughts will actually result in bringing more attention to them and keep you stuck in a self-defeating loop for longer.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Instead, acknowledge the thought as it is. Thoughts are not facts; they are simply thoughts. Your inner critic does not reflect the reality of a situation; it’s just a perspective that lives in your head. Accept that it’s there without putting it on a pedestal and giving it too much power.
Step 2: Differentiate
It’s hard to tell the difference between your true inner voice and the voice of your inner critic. This step is probably the most important. It allows you to separate the parts of yourself to provide opportunities for new perspectives and healthier dialogue within you.
Start by giving your inner critic a name that’s different from your own. This will help you to compartmentalize critical and fear-based thoughts under a persona separate from you. To bring awareness to the dialogue occurring in your brain, take some time to write down your thoughts.
When you come across a thought that belongs to your inner critic, write it as a “you” statement instead of using “I.” For example, instead of writing “I did a horrible job in that meeting today; everyone thinks I’m an idiot,” you’ll write “You did a horrible job in that meeting today, everyone thinks you’re an idiot.”
This will help you to see these thought patterns as a different persona than your true self. The more awareness you gain from writing out the thoughts floating through your mind, the easier it will be to observe the inner dialogue at the moment. Eventually, you’ll be able to imagine yourself and your inner critic as two people having a conversation, and it’s at that point that your inner critic loses a lot of its power.
Step 3: Empathize and Offer Compassion
When responding to your inner critic, whether you are writing or verbalizing internally, do your best to come from a place of empathy and compassion. Don’t be a bully back, even if that seems like it would help. The idea is to develop a loving relationship with yourself, one similar to the kind of relationship you may have with a friend.
Remember where your inner critic came from. It’s a part of you that has been hurt in the past and has built thick walls to protect and prevent you from being hurt by anyone or anything again. Offer yourself validation, understanding, and reassurance when you hear your inner critic speak out of fear.
When your critic says “you’ll never be good enough,” consider that this part of you fears judgment and often feels like a failure. Respond by saying something like “I may struggle at times, but I know I’m doing my best. I define what it means to be enough and I accept myself as I am.”
This may be difficult to do in the beginning. To be honest the negative thoughts may get more intense or louder; but by practicing these steps, you’ll ensure that you are making choices and taking action based on your true perspective and not that of your inner critic.
For more tips and tricks like this, stay tuned to our Bayview Therapy wellness blog. You don’t have to fall victim to your maladaptive thought patterns. You can learn to team up with all parts of yourself and overcome barriers that stand in the way of your best life.
Reach out today at 954-391-5305 and let me help you untangle and weed through the thoughts that are holding you back. For more information about my services, click here.