You know that little voice inside your head that says you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough, and everything you do sucks? That voice is an asshole.
If our friends talked to us like that, we’d kick them to the curb. If a stranger said those things to us, we’d literally kick them.
Yet for some reason we let our own inner critics get away with it. Even worse, we believe what that jerk says and let her stop us from doing awesome stuff. No more!
It’s time to tell your inner critic to shut the eff up so you can dream bigger and do more. So you can become the person and business owner you’re truly meant to be.
By now you’re probably thinking something like, “that sounds lovely, Becky, but it’s not realistic.” I hear ya.
For most of us, our inner naysayers took up residence in our brains sometime in childhood. After experiencing embarrassment, disappointment, or some other icky feeling, we internalized it as a reflection on our skills, talents, or (worst of all) our worth.
That experience gave birth to our inner critic, and ever since it’s been trying to protect us from having those bad feelings again. (Unfortunately, in our efforts to protect ourselves we’ve actually caused even more damage to our self-worth.)
Trying to get rid of a deep-rooted defense mechanism isn’t easy, but it is possible with commitment, hard work, and a readiness to change.
Here’s a process I recommend to my clients to help them finally get their inner critics to shut up.
- Take Notes
Very often, our nasty internal dialogue happens so quickly that the thoughts come and go before we’re even fully aware of them…and we let them influence our decisions without realizing it. To shut up our inner critic, we must identify its voice. Only then can you consciously act against its destructive advice.
Start by paying attention and making notes. Write down the negative thoughts you hear on a regular basis. When do these thoughts tend to come up? How do they make you feel?
Keep this log for at least a week. Don’t stress about making any changes just yet. Right now your only goal is to become more aware of when your inner critic is in the driver’s seat.
- Examine It
After you’ve done some housekeeping, it’s time to review your list. Start by switching all of the negative thoughts you’ve written down from “I” statements to “you” statements. For example, if your inner voice said, “I can’t do this,” change it to “you can’t do this.”
As you look over the revised list, ask yourself whether caring friend or even a complete stranger would say such things to you? Would you let them? Would you say those words to your buddy or even someone you didn’t know?
Reading the words back (aloud works best) and seeing them from other points of view may make them seem more inaccurate and outlandish. It may also help them lose their power.
- Reframe It
For every negative thought on your list, come up with an alternative statement. Think about how your friend or peer would describe you and put that in the place of the inner critic’s words.
This doesn’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns. I’m not asking you to come up with a list of happy-go-lucky affirmations. Instead, restate the negative thoughts through a more impartial and positive lens. Use first-person statements here.
So, if your list says, “you always give up on your dreams,” perhaps you could instead write down, “I sometimes deliver great results.” If it says, “you aren’t good enough,” you could write, “I’m can always learn new things.”
Refer to your revised list regularly. With enough time, these reframed messages will work their way into your consciousness and begin to replace the negative ones.
- Name It
It can also help to give your inner critic a name. Literally. It doesn’t matter so much what name you choose, but that you begin to see the voice as someone separate from yourself.
The next time she pipes up, you can call her out by name. This process may sound a little silly and woo-woo, but the point of the exercise is to help you further differentiate your inner voice from your own.
While your knee-jerk reaction may be to chastise your inner critic, that can actually exacerbate the problem. If you haven’t fully separated that voice from your own, beating her up will likely feel like beating yourself up, too.
Instead, I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s suggestion in Big Magic. She treats her inner critic like a friend who’s only trying to protect her. When it shouts out a negative message, she says something like, “thanks, babe, for trying to help me avoid disappointment/embarrassment/etc., but I don’t need protection today. I got this.
- Praise Yourself
Finally, the inner critic is there to tear you down—so it’s your job to work even faster at building yourself up. Keep a log of your successes in a journal…and who doesn’t love an excuse to buy another journal?!
Make a note each time you finish a project, earn a compliment, push yourself beyond your comfort zone, take a shower (that’s an accomplishment for a new mom like myself)…anything noteworthy.
Review this list often, but especially on the days when it feels impossible to silence your inner critic. Even the most enlightened among us sometimes needs a little reminder of how awesome we are.
And you, my friend, ARE awesome.
Ready to tell your inner critic to shut up? Download my free workbook with even more helpful prompts for working through these steps.
BY: Becky Mollenkamp