We all have different voices: one that uplifts and one that pulls us down, one that is encouraging and another that is discouraging. All these voices play different roles in shaping our lives. The critical inner voice focuses on what you are doing wrong while the inner nurturing voice brings encouragement. However, some people’s inner critic goes beyond, giving the feeling of aggression and shame.
What is an inner critic?
Inner critics are streams of destructive thoughts that discourage people from expressing their interests and living their lives. These voices may sound like, “why can’t you?” “What is wrong with you?” “you are fat,” “it is impossible,” “that is hard for you.” The critical inner voice constitutes of all the emotions, beliefs and thoughts that try to control people’s lives by telling them they are doing something wrong. These internal thoughts develop as we grow older.
Our inner critic is shaped by any external input, including our interaction, environment and the society in general. As young kids, we depend on our caregivers. Basing on their conditions, they try to raise us to ways that conform to there believes of reality. They shape us by giving reinforcements if we behave the way they want us to or punishment if we behave otherwise. Since we are dependent on them, we tend to suppress our enthusiasm and aliveness to act the way they want us to. In the long run, we get to internalize the rewards and punishments, limiting our views and range of action.
Our inner critic can be painful and harsh, depending on our upbringing. However, everyone has a critical inner voice that can impede our expressions. To learn and grow, we need to manage the critical inner voice.
Self-awareness – The first step to managing the inner critic is by being aware that they exist. Most individuals do not know that they have an inner critical voice because it has been their all their lives. So it feels natural. Pay attention to the voice that downgrades your accomplishments and catch yourself when you are too negative. Observe the continuous patterns of discouragement and doubts.
Stop ruminating – When you do something wrong or have embarrassed yourself, it may feel natural to keep replaying it over and over again in your mind. In most cases, the critical inner voice focuses on chastising rather than providing a solution. This makes you feel worse. When you find yourself ruminating, get a distraction, like talking about something or taking a walk.
Get that friendly advice – If a friend is doubtful about something, you will be compassionate enough to offer words of encouragement. “You can do it,” “it was not your fault.” Treat yourself as your friend and encourage yourself. Be kind to yourself.
Challenge your inner voice – In most cases, we try to ignore our inner critic. This is worse because the more you ignore the inner critic the stronger it becomes. You can challenge it by evaluating the evidence. If your inner voice says, I am never going to succeed in this job,” look at the evidence that supports and negates it. This helps evaluate the situation rationally.
Get a balance between acceptance and self-improvement – We all have flaws. Embrace your flaws and work to improve them. There is a big difference in accepting you have a fault and reminding yourself that you can be better. Acknowledging your flaws does not mean that they stay with you.
It may seem challenging to overcome the critical inner voice but is possible. You deserve positivity in your life!