We all have that sneaky little voice at the back of our heads…
The one that judges.
The one that’s never satisfied.
The one that blames, likes to play the victim and keeps us stuck.
That voice is your inner critic. It’s the way we keep ourselves safe. It also keeps us stuck. The critic is fluent in criticizing appearance, intelligence, emotions, and just about anything about us. Its presence can be painful and is often directly involved in low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and a variety of self-destructive behaviors.
When you stop identifying with your negative thoughts, everything can change. Taking risks doesn’t seem so bad, making better decisions comes naturally, and showing up as the best version of yourself is a regular occurrence every single day.
What is the Inner Critic?
The critical inner voice is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others. The nagging “voices,” or thoughts, that make up this internalized dialogue are at the root of much of our self-destructive and maladaptive behavior.
The critical inner voice is not an auditory hallucination; it is experienced as thoughts within your head. This stream of destructive thought forms an anti-self that discourages us from acting in our own best interest.
How Does the Inner Critic Affect Us?
The critical inner voice is an internal enemy that can affect every aspect of our lives, including our self-esteem and confidence, our personal and intimate relationships, and our performance and accomplishments at school and work. These negative thoughts affect us by undermining our positive feelings about ourselves and others, and fostering self-criticism, distrust, self-denial, addictions and a retreat from goal-directed activities.
Where Does My Inner Critic Come From?
Most people have an inner critic. To varying degrees these ‘voices’ or negative dialogue patterns are developed over time starting early in childhood. As children, we may be less able to deal or cope with life experiences and information we receive. We make decisions and form beliefs about ourselves while processing this information. These inner voices usually come from early life experiences that are internalized and taken in as ways we think about ourselves. Often, many of these negative voices come from our parents or primary caretakers, as children we pick up on the negative attitudes that parents not only have towards their children but also toward themselves. Our voices can also come from interactions with peers and siblings, or influential adults.
We also fall victim to comparison. We compare ourselves to others and what they have…or what we think they have that we don’t. Especially in this age of constant social media filled with images of perfection, we can be bombarded by what we don’t have. Over the years you have been comparing yourself and your accomplishments — or lack of accomplishments — with other people. This today has now created doubt in your mind, and wherever there is doubt, that is when your Inner Critic steps in and puts you in your place.
All those emotional wounds and unresolved insecurities, of course, manifest from the unhelpful thoughts you have allowed yourself to dwell upon. These thoughts have sprouted limiting belief systems, and these limiting beliefs have subsequently shaped the attitude you bring to every situation. You have essentially made yourself most vulnerable, and your Inner Critic is now in a prime position to take advantage.
Your Inner Critic will tell you all sorts of crazy and very believable stories about what you are and what you are not capable of doing or becoming. But it’s of course up to you to decide whether or not to believe them. However, making this decision isn’t always easy because we’re talking about things that you value most in life. In fact, we’re talking about things that you are afraid of losing or doing. There is, therefore, a lot of emotional energy invested here.
“Don’t believe everything you think.”
Every time you don’t meet your personal expectations and accomplish something you set out to do, you may have a tendency to blame yourself for the result. Well, “playing the blame game” has now woken up your Inner Critic. He too now wants to “play along” because he sees how much you are hurting as a result of not getting what you want. As such your Inner Critic is now committed to making sure that you don’t experience this pain ever again; and so he will tell you absolutely anything to ensure that you stay safe and away from pain.
These are painful moments where your Inner Critic simply won’t stand-by and watch you get hurt. No way will they allow any person or situation put you in that same position ever again. And for this very reason, your Inner Critic decides that if you’re not going to make more sensible decisions (on your own) to avoid pain, then they will do it for you. Now, of course, they don’t physically do it for you, but your Inner Critic does play a significant role in influencing the decisions you make; potentially to your own personal detriment.
While silencing the inner critic is possible, I want you to understand that it won’t happen by just watching a few videos or doing an exercise. It’s a process that takes patience, time, and willingness to let go of your old negative thought patterns.
What is the difference between the Inner Critic and a Conscience?
Many people think if they stop listening to their critical inner voice, they will lose touch with their conscience. However, the critical inner voice is not a trustworthy moral guide like a conscience. On the contrary, the l inner critic is degrading, punishing and often leads us to make unhealthy decisions. Not to mention that the inner critic is not based in fact. These negative voices tend to increase our feelings of self-hatred without motivating us to change undesirable qualities or act in a constructive manner.
How Can I Silence The Inner Critic?
In order to take power over this destructive thought process, you must first become conscious of what your inner critic is telling you so you can stop it from ruining your life. To identify this, it is helpful to pay attention to when you suddenly slip into a bad mood or become upset, often these negative shifts in emotion are a result of a critical inner voice. Once you identify the thought process and pinpoint the negative actions it is advocating, you can take control over your inner negative dialogue by consciously deciding not to listen. Let’s now take a look at a four-step process to help you tame your Inner Critic to get your life back on track.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.