“You can’t do anything right!”
“You’ll never be able to do that.”
“What makes YOU so special?”
To some extent, we’re all familiar with this voice inside our head, the one that tells us we’re not good enough, undeserving, etc.
If you’re sick of listening to the abuse, silence your inner critic. Use these six ways to stop beating yourself up:
1. Identify the thoughts
The first step in combatting anything is to become aware of it. Some of us are so used to hearing our inner critic that we have trouble distinguishing between that voice and what’s actually true. Notice the thoughts that cross your mind and document the negative, self-patronizing ones; write them down if you need to! Once you realize which voice is your inner critic, you can then work on challenging what it has to say. It’s important to remember that your inner critic is a manifestation of your negative belief systems; it’s not an accurate representation of who you are.
2. Use balanced statements
Our inner critic LOVES to generalize, which is dangerous because it usually leads to catastrophic thinking. If we make one mistake, our inner critic can find a way to turn that into a character flaw. For instance, if you mess up on a work assignment, pay attention to your response. Is it something along the lines of “I mess everything up; I can’t ever get anything right?" If so, try challenging that thought and making the statement more balanced. Change your thought to “I have some great strengths as well as some weaknesses. It’s okay to mess up sometimes. After all, I’m only human.” You don’t have to go to the far end of the spectrum and praise yourself after you’ve messed up to silence your inner critic. Still, you need to be self-compassionate and understanding.
3. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend
While it might sound cliché, talking to yourself the way you would talk to a friend actually works. Once you’ve identified the voice of your inner critic, imagine saying those things to a friend. Would you ever call your loved ones lazy, unmotivated, not good enough, stupid, or anything else that deprecating? No, because not only is it unkind and rude, it’s untrue. So, when you begin to beat yourself up, picture yourself speaking to a friend instead.
4. Practice self-care
The best way to treat yourself like a friend is to act like one. Prove to yourself that you’re worthy of love and attention by practicing self-care. Make time every day to do at least one thing you love. Buy yourself that book you’ve been wanting, take time for exercise, watch an episode of your favorite television show, pick up dessert from your local bakery, just because. When you take care of your soul, mind, and body, they take care of you in return.
5. Don’t ruminate
Everyone makes mistakes, but instead of dwelling on them, it’s crucial that you focus on the next best thing. There’s nothing good that will come from sitting around and reimagining a situation or conversation repeatedly. Fix what you can and move on from what you can’t. Silence your inner critic by practicing self-care and distracting yourself from the negative thoughts.
6. Go to therapy
While each of us has an inner critic, some are louder than others. This can be for a variety of reasons – a history of depression and anxiety, a difficult childhood, emotionally abusive family members, or simply from repetitively listening to your inner critic. Sometimes people’s inner critics are so intertwined with themselves that they can’t differentiate the harmful voice. There’s no shame in seeking professional help from a therapist in order help combat this.
You don’t have to live life according to your inner critic. It takes time, but by practicing the six steps above, you can learn to silence your inner critic.
Ellen Rohr, M.Ed., is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with individuals and couples to help them live happy and fulfilling lives. Contact her for scheduling at 512-270-4883, ext. 103, or complete the form on the RCC Austin Scheduling page and request an appointment with her.