We all struggle with negative thoughts and feelings, but an inner critic takes this self-doubt to a whole new level. An inner critic is an internal dialogue that focuses on your perceived faults and shortcomings, often leading to feelings of guilt, shame, or even worthlessness.
To help combat the power of your inner critic, it’s important to recognize it when it appears and have strategies for pushing back against its destructive messages. This article will provide insight into what an internal critic looks like and offer common examples and tips to silence it.
What is an inner critic?
The inner critic is a term used to refer to negative, self-critical thoughts about oneself and one’s life. It is an internal voice that judges and belittles, making you feel inadequate in some way. It can be incredibly harmful as it stops you from achieving your potential and enjoying life. The inner critic can take many forms – from judging your physical features, beliefs, or behavior to questioning your accomplishments or capabilities.
What is the purpose of the inner critic?
The first step in taking control of your inner critic is to understand why it exists. Although your inner critic’s main goal is to keep you safe, it frequently causes anxiety and a lack of self-confidence. When it comes to your inner critic, keep in mind these five things:
1. The Inner Critic Is Not Always Wrong.
- Sometimes it sounds like a parent, sometimes it sounds like a teacher, and sometimes it sounds like a friend. But no matter who it is, it’s there to help you improve.
2. The Inner Critic Can Be Helpful.
- Your inner critic tells you when you’re doing something wrong, or when you’re doing something right. They also give you feedback so you can learn how to improve.
3. The Inner Critic Helps You Grow.
- However, sometimes your inner critics become too loud, and they drown out other voices. This happens when you let them control your thoughts and actions. You start to believe the negative messages, even though they aren’t true.
4. The Inner Critic Makes You More Compassionate.
- Your inner critics help you develop compassion for yourselves and others. They remind you that you’re human and make you more empathetic toward others. In fact, research shows that people who have a strong inner critic tend to be more compassionate than those with weaker inner critics.
5. The Inner Critic Protects You From Harm.
- This voice inside tells you when you’ve done something wrong, when you should feel ashamed, and how much you need to improve. It’s there to protect you from harm.
Inner Critic Examples
Here are 5 instances of typical inner critic remarks to help you understand what this inner critic is saying:
1. The Judge: This inner critic forces you to come up with a solid ‘right’ answer for whatever is happening in the present moment.
- This inner critic can manifest in phrases such as “you should have…” or subtle feelings of dissatisfaction that always seem to be lurking around the corner.
2. The Perfectionist: This voice drives you to strive for excellence and perfection in nearly everything you do.
- The Perfectionist’s inner dialogue often sounds like “It isn’t good enough” and “I should have done better.”
3. The Gossip: This inner critic will hold onto other people’s misdeeds and use them against you to make allegations against your character or intentions.
- The Gossip’s tone tends to be judgmental and critical, and it usually says things like “You must have done something wrong or else why would they behave this way? See what you did?” or “That would never happen to so-and-so…they do such a better job than you.”
4. The Alarmist: Anticipates all the worst-case scenarios and conjures a negative picture of how events could unfold around you.
- For example, if you don’t get something right on the first attempt, the Alarmist might start overgeneralizing this one instance with “You never do anything right!”
5. The Cheerleader: Also known as an overenthusiastic coach, this voice encourages one-upmanship, competition, and combativeness instead of coexistence, community, collaboration, and consideration of others’ wellbeing.
- It’s important to recognize when the Cheerleader is present so that you can practice self-compassion instead of focusing on competitiveness and perfectionism.
Using Self-Compassion to Overcome the Inner Critic
Having an inner critic that never stops pointing out perceived weaknesses and flaws is mentally draining. But instead of listening to this negative voice, it’s possible to use self-compassion to silence it and build confidence. Here’s how:
Separate Yourself from Your Inner Critic.
- The most effective way to challenge your inner critic is to remember that it is not really you. It is simply a part of your psyche, shaped by years of negative experiences.
Related: Self Compassion for Beginners: How To Be Kind To Yourself
Challenge Your Inner Critic’s Negative Thoughts.
- Pay attention to what your inner critic says and actively examine if it is true or not. Reframe any distorted messages, such as “I am too stupid” or “nothing ever works out for me” with kinder, gentler ones like “I have learned a lot of valuable lessons in life” or “each day I make progress”.
Talk to Yourself With Compassionate Words & Affirmations.
- One of the most important things you can do when overcoming your inner critic and building confidence is to learn to speak to yourself kindly. Make an effort to use words that soothe and strengthen, such as “you did your best” or “I will get through this challenge.” You can also take it one step further and create daily affirmations for yourself.
- These short, positive mantras will help to guide you, reframe your narrative and give you the optimism required to persevere.
Practice Kindness & Self Care Habits Regularly.
- It can be easy to dismiss practices such as meditation or journaling, but making time for small self-care activities on a regular basis is incredibly important. Allowing yourself to engage in “small moments of kindness” will help you to cultivate an attitude of love and compassion towards yourself.
Related: The 6 Types of Self-Care and Why You Should Practice Them All
Why Your Inner Critic Is Holding You Back Conclusion
The inner critic that many of us experience pushes us toward perfectionism and makes us feel unworthy when we fall short. It’s critical to be aware of the presence of your inner critic so that you can look for solutions to deal with it.
These unfavorable thoughts can be silenced and used as a source of inspiration for achievement if you can learn to be kind and understanding to yourself.
What is one tip you plan on using right away? Let me know in the comments below.
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