How to silence your Inner Critic once and for all
How often do you hear that nagging voice in your head telling you things such as "You will never get that job", "You are not ready to get that promotion", "You are too fat".
If you have never heard that, well, congratulations! You really are a confident person.
But, if you hear that voice and, even worse, believe what it is saying, you are not alone. Some people call it the Inner Critic; others define it as The Gremlin. You can name it whatever you want, but it is still the same voice telling you that you are not the marvellous, whole, good enough person that you actually are.
I know it well because I have been dealing with that since my teenage years. Even after years of coaching other people and self-coaching, I sometimes still have to shut it up. And so do many of my clients who still struggle with self-criticism, discourage and self-blame, despite having reached undeniable success in their personal and professional life.
The best way to silence our inner critic is to focus on how negative self-talk can influence our actions. This way, we can change our attitude from self-criticism to self-acceptance; or, even better, "self-cheer".
Negative voices originate from messages that we got in our childhood and early years: messages that we received at home or at school from parents, teachers, schoolmates. Or friends who said something that, at that moment, scratched our self-esteem, and the scar is still there.
The ultimate aim of our inner critic is not to hurt us, but to protect us. It wants to help us avoid failure and disappointment. Unfortunately, at the same time, it blocks us from experiencing new things, leaving our comfort zone and moving towards our goals.
The good news is that we can beat our critical inner voice and silence it once and for all (or, at least, befriend it).
Just take these steps. It will not happen overnight, but, with practice, you will be able to stop your mind from making unhelpful judgements. So you will increase your self-esteem and feel more powerful and accomplished, as I have been able to do over the past years.
The first step is to listen to what your Inner Critic is saying. It may sound counterintuitive but, if you really want to beat that limiting voice speaking inside your head, you should not run away from it. Better to confront it and pay attention to its words.
What does it say?
What language does it use? Does it use words such as "You should, You ought to, You can't, why should you...". What negative message/s is it reinforcing?
What emotions do such words trigger?
Negative phrasing tends to point out what cannot be done, what is wrong about you, how you (negatively) differ from other people. It is crucial that you understand clearly what your voice is trying to tell you so that you can oppose the right arguments to it.
Use pen and paper to write down your negative thoughts and emotions and the evidence you can use to challenge them. It will help you get things off your chest and will also be beneficial for your mental health, as recent studies show.
ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS
If you want to silence your Inner Critic, you should also reflect on its statements and look at them from a distance.
Would you accept such criticism from a friend? Would you say these words to your younger self?
If the answer is NO, so why would you take such words from the most important person for you in your life: you!
CHALLENGE YOUR CRITIC'S WORDS
Once you have acknowledged that the criticism and judgements from your inner voice would be unacceptable if they came from someone else, it is time to challenge them.
"In what occasions did I show the world my true abilities and skills?"
"How many times was I complimented for my ideas, my contribution to a project, or the way I look?"
Evidence for the opposite of what your Gremlin is saying will help you re-programme your brain and influence your ability to regulate your feelings, thoughts, and behaviour under stress.
Here is an example of positive self-talk: Instead of thinking "I really made a mistake", try "I can try to do it again in a different way".
CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE AND THAT OF YOUR THOUGHTS
Remind yourself of how amazing you are. Write self-affirmations on sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror or on the fridge. Write a list of your strengths, skills, capabilities and keep it in your wallet, or take a picture of it and use it as a screensaver for your laptop. And every time you notice that you are using a skill you did not think of, write it down as it occurs.
You can also write a gratitude journal (download my template here) to help you reflect on all the good things that happen to you. Beating a negative voice and using a more positive outlook is like growing a muscle, it requires exercising and should be done every day.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE
The motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that "we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with".
The people we surround ourselves with are pivotal to set the course of our life; they have a significant influence on our thoughts, behaviours and results.
So, having around you people who inspire and motivate you is a powerful way to help you go past your comfort zone and reinforce your self-esteem.