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How often do you listen to the voice of your inner critic? Does the sound of this voice propel you forward in your work and life? OR does it hold you back?
What if I told you we have two voices within our mind available to us for counsel at any time. Your inner critic doesn’t have to be at the forefront running the show 24/7. You can learn to dial down that self-criticism and tap into the much quieter, more gentle voice.
The voice that often goes unnoticed, the voice of self-compassion.
Your inner critic is that annoying voice of negative criticism, that’s often playing on repeat.
If you are new to exploring your mind an how it operates, your inner critic is that voice that tells you (on loud speakers) that everything you do is wrong. It’s typically fuelled by fear and self-doubt, speaking in a berating and belittling tone of resounding “you are not good enough” dialogue.
It may tell you that other people are doing better than you, and that you can’t cope in difficult situations. It may bring up flash backs of painful memories of the past, and send warning bells of anxiety or blame you for things going wrong.
It may even tell you that you will never succeed, or that you are not worthy of the job, role or relationship that you are in. The inner critic can be very convincing and sometimes even convinces the most successful person to doubt themselves.
When you listen to this tone of negative commentary, you’re likely to beat yourself up over little mistakes and imperfections.
I have a client who is very successful in her career, but also highly critical of herself. Achievement’s do not come without excess stress as a perfectionist who is anxious about making mistakes and failing. Her inner critic says things like: "You better not mess this up, then people will know you're not good enough” and “what if you fail? People will think you don’t have the experience”. In reality, and on paper NONE of this is true. But when the inner critic is on loudspeaker the worry and angst causes sleepless nights and health concerns.
It's fuelled by fear and speaks in a berating and belittling tone of self-doubt.
Your inner critic main purpose is to keep you safe and help you understand what can be improved in the future. It is part of your mind’s self-protection system, fuelled at its core by fear and unresolved limiting beliefs. It may even be holding onto memories of moments in your life or childhood where you’ve experienced criticism or taken risks that perhaps didn’t pay off. The mind never forgets and as it takes everything personally it continues pre-empt events that may happen in the future that could be similar.
The inner critic says: “Don’t put yourself out there, remember what happened last time? That’s right, you were X (rejected/teased/laughed at/didn’t belong there)”.
Sometimes this self-protection can be helpful - it might be useful to have an internal dialogue of caution or offer suggestions for ways we could improve our work, decisions and/or mistakes. But where the inner critic becomes a problem is when it takes up most of our conscious thoughts and drives us to self-sabotaging behaviours where we avoid taking action altogether.
Your inner critic may be motivated by a fear of failure, rejection, or being judged.
Perhaps you've had experiences in the past where other people have treated you poorly or someone really criticised you which made you feel judged, and your self-belief plummeted.
Or, maybe in your family of origin failure wasn’t an option, winning and achieving was believed to be all that mattered so you thrived on this external validation.
Whatever the reason may be for this fear of being judged or rejected by others, remember that it's only happening inside your mind. Your thoughts and beliefs can be changed.
It might be helpful to ask yourself where this fear is coming from?
Despite what your inner critic may say about other people's opinion about who you are as a person, everyone has their own unique talents and abilities—and you have so much to offer this world!
It’s time to shut out your inner critic and tap into your voice of self-compassion.
When you notice your inner critic begin to ramp up, a really simple technique to practice is to catch the first negative thought you hear without acting on it. Then take a deep breath and quiet that noise by tapping in for a moment to become curious and ask yourself:
“What am I afraid of here? Is this a real fear or a perceived fear? What do I know to be true?”
Then listen for the voice of self-compassion. It will be a quieter voice, speaking softly with words of kindness, and acceptance.
“Compassion brings mental peace and mental comfort”
– HH Dalai Lama
Your voice of self-compassion could sound like:
You’ll then begin to have a completely different experience and a less stress fuelled outcome as higher levels of self-compassion are linked to decreased feelings of anxiety and depression.
Here are some things you can do to silence your inner critic to hear the voice of self-compassion:
So, the next time you hear that voice telling you to give up, or not even try because you’re not good enough or you might fail – remember that you don't have to listen to that critical voice anymore!
Instead, take a moment to pause, breathe and ask yourself which voice is talking? Always choose the voice of self-compassion.