The inner critic is that annoying voice inside our heads that says things like:
‘You’re not good enough.
‘You’re a failure’.
‘Don’t be ridiculous, that’s a silly idea’.
Everyone has an inner critic. And even though their purpose is to protect ourselves (from being hurt, from suffering, from failing), it can be very limiting if it takes control over us.
But the inner critic is not you, it’s just a part of you. You can learn how to be in control of it and use it for your advantage.
In this article I want to share with you all you need to know about your inner critic so it stops ruining your life.
1. Our inner critic can be our worst enemy.
You might think that is other people’s opinions that upset you. But most of the time, it’s our own opinion of ourselves that causes us so much struggle!
When you are confident about what you are doing and your internal messages are of empowerment and validation, it’s less likely that you will feel judged or criticised by others.
Sometimes we even assume and try to guess what others will think about ourselves, without even knowing it.
That’s because we are projecting our own inner judge and critic onto others.
So paying attention to this inner voice is essential to build confidence and ultimately feel fulfilled and live the life you want without worrying about being criticised, rejected or judged.
2. It is a defense mechanism based on past experiences
So why do we have such judgemental internal messages?!
As annoying as it might sound, the inner critic is actually trying to protect ourselves. From failure, from being hurt or from a negative experience.
The problem is when it’s so protective or so critical that it starts to become limiting.
Let me explain it with an example:
Imagine as a kid, in a school performance, you tripped on something when you were walking on stage and fell down. Everyone in the audience laughed at you and you felt terrified, embarrassed and paralysed.
It can happen to anyone, it’s not a big deal! But because that was a very painful experience, you learnt that you were bad at public speaking and you would never get on stage again. You made the decision to never perform again to save you from reliving the same painful experience.
Your survival instinct assumed that going on stage means suffering. So you never performed again.
Until you are 30, and your manager asks you to give a presentation in front of the team. Maybe you completely forgot about your experience as a kid, but your unconscious mind didn’t.
So your inner critic comes in: ‘You are not good at public speaking’, ‘you will make a mistake’ ‘they will laugh at you’.
You decide that it’s better to let someone else do the presentation, meaning you won’t get credit or recognition for your hard work.
Here is when the inner critic becomes limiting.
So what can we do about it?
3. You no longer need it
Now that you know that the messages from your inner critic are normally based on some type of painful past experiences, the first step is to realise that you no longer need it.
In the example, it tried to protect you from going through another painful situation.
But as an adult, you know that you are skilled and knowledgeable enough to deliver that presentation. You know it’s OK if you make a mistake, no one is perfect!
So you prepare for the presentation to make sure everything goes smoothly but you don’t let the inner critic take control.
You acknowledge that it is just part of you that maybe was useful in the past, but you no longer need it.
When you are able to see your inner critic as a tiny part of yourself you can control, it will give you a sense of empowerment that will take a lot of pressure off you!
4. You can change your inner messages
Same as after a bad experience you ‘learnt’ that you weren’t good at public speaking, you can learn new empowering beliefs that will be more beneficial for you.
In the example, you could write down a list of new beliefs you want to acquire and read them every day until they become part of your beliefs system.
‘I am knowledgeable’
‘I am good at delivering presentations’
‘I will do my best and enjoy the meeting’
‘It’s OK if I make a mistake’
5. You can use it for your advantage
An inner critic can be very useful, because it’s the part of us that pushes us to face new challenges, set goals out of our comfort zones and develop our potential.
But there is a difference between telling yourself:
‘Your presentation was great, but next time you can improve this part’ and
‘Your presentation wasn’t perfect so you’re useless’
So pay attention to your inner voice and before you decide if what it says it’s true think: is it helping me grow? Is it constructive criticism? Or is it just judgement and punishment?
Now that you know what the inner critic is and how to tame it, I would like you to reflect about your own inner critic and its messages:
Where do they come from?
Are they still valid?
Are they limiting me?
What statements do I want to believe instead?
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