The Inner Critic
The Inner Critic
Our inner critic and inner dialogue can be incredibly harsh, cruel and judgmental, and so familiar that we don’t even realize its there half the time. It wants to point out all our flaws and expects perfection at all times. We almost take it as normal as it is such a familiar background noise in our lives.
Our inner critic often surfaces when we are vulnerable, fearful or sad. It is the scolding, critical, manipulative and intimidating inner voice, and what it is trying to do is help us feel safe.
It may act like a judge evaluating your performance before you even start something For example you are about to give a presentation to your colleagues at work. Your self talk might sound like this: “ they will find me boring” “I will look ugly” “I’m so crap at these presentations”
It may act as a controller eg “you are so lazy”, “you never get things done on time” ”you are a slob ” “you are always late so why should today be any different?”
It may be a fearful voice that fills us with shame and fear, eg you may be going on a date and the voice says things like “They won’t like me”, “I’m so boring”,” I’m so ugly”, “ I have nothing of interest to say, they wont want to see me again”.
It is almost trying to protect us from feeling pain by getting in first so we can say to ourselves “see I told you this would happen”. It is associated with the fear of failure and is often linked to perfectionism.
The inner critic is shaped from our interactions with our early environment and may have been influenced by verbal or non-verbal communications. Maybe when you were little there was a look of disapproval that you received from someone when you said something or asked for something. Maybe you were dismissed when you asked for help or wanted to be heard.
These experiences are not shaped just from our primary caregivers but from the greater external structures around us such as schools, society, media influences and peers.
The first step in silencing our inner critic is to learn how to identify when it is talking and recognizing some of its triggers. From there we can start to find strategies to decrease the power it has over us.
Some tips for handling the inner critic are
1. Firstly notice when you are hearing that inner voice, start to pay attention to when it occurs, what it is saying. Sometimes it is helpful to write down your thoughts and challenge the evidence that is supporting your thought. For example" People will laugh at me when I give my presentation because I always give bad presentations." Write this thought on a piece of paper. Create two columns. On one side write all the evidence that supports this thought and on the other side write the evidence to the contrary. Sometimes looking at the evidence on both sides of the article can give you some objectivity and help reframe your thinking.
2. Ask your self what you would say to a friend who expresses a harsh and negative critique of themselves. Would you be so blunt, harsh and critical of them? We are often much crueler to ourselves that we would ever be to a friend so it is important to develop self compassion and kindness towards ourselves.
3. Widen your lens by looking a the bigger picture to gain a different perspective. For example, when we catch ourselves thinking a negative thought about ourselves, make a conscious decision to also think about some positive things about yourself. Maybe you felt like you gave a bad presentation but you may have also had an otherwise very productive day at work, had cooked a delicious dinner that everyone loved, and were kind and caring with a friend who was having a bad time. This helps with minimising the impact of our voice that is so focused on the negative and helps to train it to not always be on the lookout for only bad things about ourselves.
To speak to a professional about how to handle your inner voice contact Ginette Lenham at HealthSpace Kings Cross, Ginette has worked for over ten years as a counsellor, Psychotherapist