Category Archives: Stress Management

How to Quiet Your Inner Critic

Girl with index finger at lips: "Shhh"
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. I’m so unworthy. Nobody loves me. I have to be perfect. I’ll never get this right. It’s not okay to make a mistake. 

If you’re like everyone else on the planet, you have a critic who lives inside you. And it never stops talking. Sometimes your critic is a perfectionist. Sometimes it’s a tyrant. Regardless of how it shows up, that critical voice does everything in its power to hold you back, keep you down, and make you feel like you’re not enough.

So, should you just shut the door on your inner critic? Try to ignore it?

Well, not exactly.

That voice began as a helpful guide. 

You see, we all come into the world entirely dependent on our parents or caregivers. We need them for our survival. And each day, they teach us how to be human: i.e., what to say, what to do, how to think, what’s acceptable behavior, and what isn’t. 

As you grew up, important grownups in your life tried to do you a favor and help you fit in. As you expressed yourself in young and clumsy ways, grown-ups told you to straighten your clothes, fix your hair, speak properly, and behave.

But “mom” or “dad” or “teacher” wasn’t always there to help you in every awkward situation. So your mind developed an inner “grown-up.” Through the power of imagination and repetition, this instructive, “helpful” voice was magnified. And over time, it became instilled deep into the subconscious, automatic part of your mind as a habit.

Today that voice lives on inside you and is still trying to help. It reminds you:  If you reach for the stars, you might get burned. If you climb that ladder of success, you may slip and fall hard. As soon as you leave your comfort zone, you will be in danger. Your inner critic is (still) trying to keep you from getting hurt.

The trouble is, the advice of that imagined voice no longer fits your circumstances. You’re the grown-up now. And you have your own life experience, knowledge, and understanding to guide you. It’s up to you to choose how you want to live your life and what you want to do with it. 

But that old voice persists. And yes, the limiting, continuous commentary is annoying and distracting. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated with it. But in the long run, aren’t those responses just more distraction?

There’s another choice.

The goal here is not to eliminate the inner critic. The trick is to break the cycle of negative thought it pushes on you. And that process begins when you stop believing what the inner critic tells you.

Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.

Remember, the inner critic began when you didn’t have much life experience. Now, as the grownup, when you hear that familiar voice warning you to “be careful,” just stop. Acknowledge it. Then challenge it. Ask yourself:  Is this true?

Letting those negative thoughts continue is like allowing weeds to take over your flower garden. Confronting them instead puts a cog in the automatic pattern and gives the adult-you the upper hand. 

Pitting your negative thoughts against what is actually true can be a simple yet powerful exercise and a step towards shattering your negative misbelief.

Will you take the high road?

Next time you hear that sabotaging inner critic, love and accept that voice for what it is. Then make your own choices. 

Because the truth is…

You can do it. You are good enough. You’re fully worthy. A lot of people love you. You don’t have to be perfect. If you keep trying, you’ll get it right. It’s totally okay to make mistakes.

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