The inner critic is that trash talking voice in our heads whose job it is to make us feel bad about ourselves. The inner critic likes to take the words of critical folks from our childhood (parents, teachers, peers), distort them and send them back to us in what sounds like our own voice. The inner critic has lots of tricks up its sleeve to keep us down such as convincing us that we have to be perfect and that nothing we do will ever be good enough.
Here are some tips for making peace with your inner critic:
Smoke it out. The inner critic is like a chameleon sneaking into our thoughts and putting us down without our even realizing that it is there. One of the best lines of defense is simply to call it out. You know your inner critic is at work whenever your thoughts take an unkind turn. Catching it in the act is often all that is needed to restore the peace.
Shift your focus. The inner critic will do anything to get your attention. However you can keep it from taking center stage. Whenever you notice its critical voice sneaking in, give it a quick wave hello and then shift your attention to something more interesting and important like the great work you did on your most recent project or how pretty your hair looks today.
Don’t fight back. Just like a child who misbehaves for attention, devoting your time and attention to arguing with your inner critic is apt to result in more of the same bad behavior. Instead, let the inner critic do its thing without engaging. Eventually it will lose interest and move on.
Identify your triggers. For many of us there are certain situations and circumstances where our inner critic tends to be the most vocal. These often relate to areas of our lives in which we’ve had difficulties in the past. For instance, if you’re first grade teacher was painfully critical of your work, your inner critic might show up before your next performance review or when you have to present a big project at work. Knowing your triggers can help to break the cycle before the inner critic takes a firm hold. It can also signal areas for self-development and healing.
Practice affirmations. Affirmations– positive statements that we make about ourselves like “I am strong” or “I am beautiful”–can be a great way to counter the repeated, damaging effects of our inner critics. The more we remind ourselves of how awesome we are, the more likely we are to start to believe it. Affirmations work best when we allow ourselves to fully connect with their meaning and agree to disagree with any subtle input from our inner critic.
Avoid judgment. How can you expect to be kind to yourself if you’re not in the habit of being kind to others? Ironically, we are often most apt to call others out on the very things that bother us most about ourselves. Do yourself (and your friends) a favor and try to take a break from the judgment. That includes judging yourself for being judgmental.
Seek Professional Support. If you find that your inner critic is ever-present and/or seriously interfering with your emotional wellbeing it may be helpful to enlist the support of a licensed therapist or certified life coach.