3 Simple Strategies to Silence Your Inner Critic
About 5 minutes to read
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had negative thoughts about someone. Now raise your hand if that someone was you. I see that sheepishly raised hand and empathise because there’s a tiny part within that’s quite ashamed to admit this. However, thankfully, you are not alone. Dr Robert Firestone describes those negative inner thoughts as being our critical inner voice, (inner critic) the part of us that is turned against ourselves. The voice consists of the negative thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that oppose our best interests and diminish our self-esteem.
For some that inner critical voice is like a chattering monkey that never shuts up. From the time we awake, its commentary never ends.
“You’re so fat!”
“You’re so ugly”
“You never finish what you start”
“He says he loves you, but you’re not very lovable”
At times, the inner critic is quiet and we feel almost free and whole, enjoying our lives when it stealthily approaches and strikes suddenly as if out of nowhere.
“Why did you have to go and say that? Nobody cares about what you think”
“Well you’ve messed that up haven’t you?”
“You waste your life and have nothing to show for it”
“You’re too different and will never fit in”
Have you noticed this inner critic seldom speaks to us in the first person? It’s always in the accusatory. You this, You that. Perhaps your critical inner voice sounds like a parent, teacher, sibling, or spouse, or perhaps it’s your own voice, lowered in pitch, menacing and threatening.
Where does this critic come from?
From birth, we begin to unconsciously engage with and adopt the negative perceptions and opinions of the world around us, which form our negative thought patterns and beliefs. We identify so strongly with our inner critic at times that it can assume the role of saboteur in our lives, effectively ruining our relationships with others and ourselves. Is there any hope for us you may ask.
How to overcome the inner critic
There are two main schools of thought on how to deal with the inner critic.
- Treat it as an enemy, fight it and overcome it
- Treat is as an ally, befriend, and transform it.
We can use a mixture of these strategies when dealing with our inner critic but first make awareness and compassion a daily practice in your life.
I love this quote from the Dalai Lama because it is through compassion that we create more peace, joy, and happiness in our lives; and it is awareness that enables us to be compassionate.
3 Simple Strategies to Silence Your Inner Critic
1. Separate Yourself, Become the Observer
The inner critic is like an ancient creeping vine that has insinuated itself within our minds, blinding us to a key fact: we are not our thoughts. Specifically in Western societies we have adopted the adage from Descartes that “I think, therefore I am” as truth. However, we are, even without thinking and we know that thoughts have no substance or form. They rise and they fall like the Mad Hatter in Wonderland, scampering back and forth. How can we trust such lunacy? Therefore, take on the role of the observer of your thoughts and separate yourself from them. This can be difficult because some thoughts are like favourite meals that we like to gorge on, but let’s be honest if we gorge on the perpetual negativity and madness in our heads, are we not like a dogs eating its own vomit?
2. Confront the Beast with Truth
99% of the time our inner critic sprouts lies to us and about us. This beast does not have our best interests at heart; in fact, it seems hell bent on keeping us small and insignificant. This is not who we are. In Neale Donald Walsh’s book Conversations with God Book 1, God says, “Yet if you knew Who You Are — that you are the most magnificent, the most remarkable, the most splendid being God has ever created — you would never fear. But you do not know Who You Are, and you think you are a great deal less.”
You are magnificent, remarkable, and splendid! Let that sink in for a moment. Better yet, feast on that for a lifetime! When we know the truth we then need to imbibe and embody the truth. It’s a full body experience starting in our minds and permeating to each cell of our bodies.
Yes, it is very difficult to extract oneself from the creeping vine and stand tall in one’s own identity, but this is where we use truth as a sword to confront the inner critic. What are the lies you are upholding as truths?
Confronting them with the truth would look like this:
You are fat. I am overweight, but I am healthy and abundant.
You are ugly. I have gorgeous eyes / mouth / teeth / hands…
You are insignificant. I have purpose. I have value. I have meaning
You are unlovable. I AM LOVE
It is imperative that you remain vigilant and on guard because those lies are like thieves in the night, they can slip in so quietly and quickly. Therefore remain aware, compassionate and knock them on the ass with truth bombs when you catch them lurking around.
I love the teachings of Don Miguel Ruiz and a great way to uphold truth in your life is to be impeccable with your word. Another powerful way to entrench more truth in your life is to keep a little notebook with you and notice when the inner critic strikes, what it says and then write down the truth to combat the lie. Make this a daily practice to embrace the truth about your beautiful self.
3. Reclaim the Mansion
In her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Debbie Ford speaks about how each of us came here with a house like the most magnificent mansion we could ever imagine. As our lives progress we invite people into our house.
“Look mom! Look at this beautiful painting in my living room.”
“Mmm it’s nice, but not really my style. Why don’t you put up a Monet”
And quietly, in deep disappointment and hurt, we softly close the door.
“Look dad, I have a beautiful fireplace in my kitchen. Come sit with me for a while let’s have some coffee.”
“I’d prefer a beer and you need to be careful with fireplaces, they are dangerous to a young person such as yourself!”
And scared and fearful we run out the kitchen never to return again.
We live our lives in this cycle of disappointment, rejection, and negative interaction. One day sitting quietly in our studio apartment we look around and wonder what happened to that beautiful mansion. There’s a burnt out exoskeleton of it somewhere in our soul and we feel lost and incomplete, a shadow of who we know we’re meant to be.
This is why we need to reclaim the mansion. Reclaim those parts of ourselves that, with the help of our inner critic, we have lost and abandoned. This requires dedication and perseverance to rediscovering yourself and returning to wholeness.
Download the BONUS Exercise RECLAIM THE MANSION
Learning to manage our inner critic is not easy, but when we take back our power, live with awareness and self-compassion the rewards are manifold.
Here’s to stepping into your magnificence!