Many people have an inner critic. The loud and relentless narrator in the back of our heads that is constantly providing evidence for our shortcomings. Maybe it’s what a “crappy job” you did in that interview or why you still haven’t lost the “pandemic pounds.”
How can we tame this judgmental voice in the back of our heads and have a healthier relationship with our inner narrator? Make sure to read on until the end to get some tips and journaling prompts to silence your negative thoughts.
Signs You Have a Critical Inner Voice
Many people can often be generously forgiving to the outside world and have no trouble providing empathy to those around them. However, when it comes to their internal world, there might be a whole different story. Do you tend to be cold and callous to yourself and use a critical inner voice to keep yourself motivated?
Do you shame yourself through negative self talk when you make mistakes? If so, you can probably improve your critical thoughts to become more helpful ones. Here are some of the other signs of having a critical inner voice:
- Black and white thinking, i.e. focusing only on the outcome and not the process – “I either failed or succeeded”
- Focusing mostly on where you missed the mark and being quick to dismiss all the things you have done right
- Inability to quiet your critical thoughts
- Difficulty celebrating small achievements or acknowledging the progress you have made
- Permanent sense of not-enoughness.
- Being a perfectionist
- Guilt tripping yourself when you make mistakes
- Undermining your confidence and your capabilities
- Constant comparison of yourself with friends, co-workers, family members, etc.
Where Does a Harsh Inner Voice Come From?
Many people have been conditioned and socialized to look outside of themselves to seek validation and approval. A lot of times having a harsh critical inner voice can originate from early experiences as children with primary caregivers/siblings/peers/teachers.
If your parents or the people around you used critical and harsh language to talk to you, or if that’s how they related to themselves, one can learn to internalize those voices and make them their own. You might start to adopt a negative evaluation of yourself and attach your sense of worth to external factors such as how you look, how much money you have, what education you have, etc. This negative evaluation can impact your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and overall mental health.
5 Ways You Can Work to Silence Your Inner Critic
Externalize Your Inner Critic & Explore Your Relationship with it Mindfully
Think of your inner critic as an outside entity instead of your identity. Creating some space between you and that part allows you to see it in a different light, and explore your inner critic’s role with compassion and curiosity. Personify the inner critic, give it a name, and think about how old it is. You can even sketch a picture of it if that helps your visualize.
Try to pay attention to what body sensations arise when your inner critic is really loud. Is it a heaviness in your chest, a weight on your shoulders, or a pit in your stomach?
From an Inner Critic to an Inner Advocate
An inner advocate can be your biggest cheerleader. It celebrates small victories, it recognizes the complexity of things, and holds space for the grey area instead of all-or-nothing thinking. What would it take for you to make that shift?
Examine the Inner Critic’s Purpose
It might help to think of your inner critic as an overworked manager part of yourself. This part might have good intentions, but is exhausted and resentful from the burden of managing all of your experiences. It’s been working around the clock for many years to keep your internal system intact.
If you can view your inner critic in that way, you may be able to hold more self-compassion for yourself and that part. This exercise can help quiet that harsh voice with compassion and allow the inner advocate to have a more prominent role.
- What is your role? How do you perform this role? How do you feel about this role?
- What do you hope to accomplish by taking on this role?
- What are afraid would happen if you stopped criticizing me?
- How long have you been performing this role?
- What caused you to take on this role?
- If you didn’t feel obligated to take on this role, is there anything else you’d rather do?
Establish Boundaries With Your Inner Critic
The goal is not to completely get rid of the backseat narrator but rather use some of its wisdom in making decisions, holding yourself accountable, and achieving goals. The hope is to develop a healthier relationship with your inner critic, and every healthy relationship comes with boundaries!
First and foremost, your sense of worth is inherent and is NOT up for debate! When your inner critic starts going on a tangent if you miss a deadline or do not respond to a text or email promptly, your inner advocate can remind you that this is a boundary violation and your inherent worthiness is a non-negotiable. This means you don’t have to work to feel like enough, it’s your birthright.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, the compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I’m also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” – Brene Brown