As a life coach, I’m often working with clients to help quieten the voice of the inner critic. That little voice inside your head isn’t always balanced – it’s generally ready to remind you of your failings but it’s just as ready to dismiss your achievements.
The inner critic has its origins in early judgements from parents, siblings and teachers and those judgements were generally designed to protect you and keep you safe in the world. But when that voice becomes overly loud, it can make us fearful, overly cautious and feeling that we’re falling short in some way.
The result of an overly vigilant inner critic is that we modify our behaviour to fit with the expectations of others. We become less clear about our personal values, less confident in our decision-making and more inclined to make choices that please other people or conform to what society suggests is best for us.
The most effective way to contain the inner critic is to begin to notice when it is operating. As you catch the critic’s voice, pause and take a few breaths and make a conscious choice to connect with the part of yourself you might call your ‘wise’ or ‘true’ self. From this place, it’s likely you’ll find that you can gently challenge the internal judgement and replace it with a more balanced and grounded perspective.
It requires a concerted effort to quieten the voice of the inner critic but once you begin to engage the more confident part of yourself, you’ll make life choices that are genuinely energising.
1. Pay attention to the judgements you make about yourself and others
All of us make judgements of ourselves and others but the people who have the loudest inner critic generally find that they’re more judgemental of others too. Try not to judge the fact that you’re judging but rather, simply begin to notice each time it’s happening.
2. Aim to become more accepting of others first
Remind yourself that human nature means that we’re all different and imperfect and this is what makes life rich and interesting.
Find a mantra that allows you to make room for individuality such as, “everyone is different” or “they have an interesting perspective” when you become aware of a difference of opinion.
Acknowledge any black-and-white thinking and remind yourself that in between the polarities of right and wrong, there’s plenty of room for difference.
3. Notice your critic’s most common messages and actively reframe them
Start to tune into the negative thoughts you repeatedly have about yourself. They’re most easily recognised as some version of feeling not good enough in some way.
Once you acknowledge a thought, find a way to reframe it. If your critic’s message is, for example, “I’m not confident in group social settings,” you might instead say to yourself, “My preference is to catch up one-on-one.”
The key is to begin to accept your difference without adding judgement.
4. Have an internal conversation with the inner critic
Consider how the wise and compassionate parts of you might approach your inner critic with understanding. If you find this difficult to do as a conversation in your head, try journalling as though you’re having a conversation between your wise self and your inner critic.
5. Bring another aspect of yourself to life
Try to actively engage the assertive or lighthearted aspect of yourself to balance out the voice of the inner critic.
Even if you find this difficult to do initially, keep practising and remind yourself that it is possible to access the wisdom you have within you.