5 Practical Tips For Silencing Your Inner Critic And Growing Stronger
If you’re reading this, there’s no doubt in my mind that an inner critic resides somewhere in your brain as well. Perhaps its ammunition or tone is different than my own, but I’m sure it’s there. In today’s post, I’ll share some practical tips and tricks for silencing your inner critic and thus growing stronger.
We all have two voices inside us.
There’s the one that is nurturing and uplifting — the voice that empowers us to lean into what we love, the voice that speaks the languages of confidence, encouragement, and possibility. Then there’s the one that is critical and discouraging — the voice that weighs us down like gravity, rendering us incapable of growing into who we are ought to become. That second voice is your inner critic. And it’s a form of self-sabotage — it’s holding you back from seeing the change you want to create in your life.
Your inner critic is a talkative, hateful monster.
It is camping out inside your brain and just waiting for the opportunity to make you feel like garbage. Every awkward phone call, every ill-fitting piece of clothing you try on, every fight you have with your best friend — your inner critic thrives in these situations and uses them as a way to break your soul into a million miserable pieces. Don’t let it win. Instead, embrace positive self-talk.
If you tend to be overly critical of yourself, you’re not alone.
Most people experience self-doubt and harsh self-reflections. Fortunately, however, you don’t have to be a victim of your own verbal abuse. Sometimes it happens so often that it becomes background noise, but this kind of criticism can be seriously damaging to your self-confidence. Instead, take steps to proactively address your negative thoughts and develop a more productive dialog with yourself.
So what can you do to silence your inner critic? Here are five insightful and practical tips to quiet your inner critic.
If your internal narrative is negative, it can demoralize and sabotage you. These negative messages are called your inner critic, and they greatly influence how you feel and behave, which can cause negative self-talk to be destructive. Fortunately, there are strategies to help silence and reshape these negative thoughts into sources of personal strength and motivation. Let’s find out!
Tip #1: Listen to Your Negative Thoughts
This may seem counter-intuitive, but you can only silence your inner critic when you’re actually aware of it. I don’t mean feeding into it, but trying to listen as objectively as possible to those negative voices. A lot of times those negative thoughts stem from insecurities that are unmerited. Take the time to actually listen to what you’re telling yourself and you’ll find that oftentimes, those criticisms are silly.
We can only change the things we are aware of. Be mindful of your thoughts.
Monitor your negative thinking. Each time you find yourself hearing these sabotaging voices in your mind, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: What am I thinking right now? How does this thought serve me? For instance, you may identify the negative thoughts and beliefs you experience. Try writing these thoughts down in the second person as if someone else is talking to you. You could try talking to a close friend who tends to have a more optimistic outlook.
An important step in dealing with your inner critic is simply to create more self-awareness when it’s happening.
This allows us to understand where our beliefs and thoughts about ourselves come from. If you’re able to recognize the moments when your inner critic is telling you something, you give yourself a chance to question it and therefore reduce the likelihood that you’ll believe it. Lastly, try to identify thoughts as nothing more than thoughts. Thoughts are not facts or realities. They do not define you.
Take the time now to make note of one or two of your most common inner critic statements.
That way, when they pop up at a more vulnerable time, you will know to recognize it and, after reading on, how to deal with it. Most of our internal dialogue is on autopilot. If you pay close and conscious attention to your thoughts you will notice how quickly your inner critic jumps in, even when something good happens. For example, let’s say you’ve been aiming to lose some weight. You work towards eating well and exercising and realize you have lost a few pounds. But, all of a sudden your inner critic is saying ‘It’s only water weight, you’ll regain that over the weekend!’. And that seed that the inner critic just planted then grows into more negative thoughts that then grow to ultimately prove yourself (the voice of your inner critic) right!
Once we learn to recognize and identify negative thought patterns as they occur, we can start to step back from them.
This process of stepping back from thoughts is called cognitive defusion. In cognitive defusion we learn to see the thoughts in our head as simply that — just thoughts. Not reality. You see when we are fused with our thoughts (cognitive fusion) we tend to take our thoughts very, very seriously. We believe them. We buy into them and we obey them. We play them out. The problem is NOT that we have negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true. When you are no longer entangled in thoughts they lose their grip on you and lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions.
Tip #2: Practice Self-compassion
Self-compassion entails being kind to yourself in instances of perceived failure or emotional distress. It’s a prominent form of self-acceptance and self-love. The more you fuel your own voice of kindness and empowerment, the less you give power to the other voice of harshness and shame.
Embrace your inner critic with compassion.
Sometimes it’s on bad behavior, telling you rough or mean things about life or yourself, but, remember, it has a good intention: to protect you from being hurt. You can try this fun, simple exercise: Imagine your inner critic as a persona and even give it a name. Say something like: “I appreciate that you came into my mind, trying to protect me. But I’m going to try this anyway, and I’ll see what happens.” Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
If you have an inner critic, it’s important to develop another voice that’s more compassionate and kind. Balance is key.
Self-compassion is all about being kind and understanding towards yourself in moments of hardship or difficulty. If you’re not sure what this sounds or looks like, imagine how you respond to a dear friend when they’re struggling. The qualities that you bring to these moments — like being non-judgmental, empathetic, and caring — are same qualities to practice giving yourself, too. An effective, simple way to start developing this voice is to ask yourself, “Would I say this to a friend?” If the answer is no, you have no business saying it to yourself!
Thankfully, the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity works in your favor.
When you think different thoughts, you create new pathways. You begin to train your brain to alter its bioelectric habit-trail, essentially changing its response to situations by generating different thoughts. This, in effect, consciously changes the way you think and literally creates a whole new mind frame. You will find that simply having a willingness to dabble in thought that is neither negative nor overly self-critical remolds your brain into thinking differently about what you’ve done, who you are now, and what you are capable of doing.
The key to happiness might be having a bit more compassion and kindness toward yourself.
Yes, you read that right. Instead of criticizing every little mistake, changing your thoughts and how you feel about yourself can positively impact your life. Making mistakes is part of being human — it connects us all together. When you realize you are not alone in your feelings, you begin to feel the common humanity in our experiences. If you look objectively at the doomsday prophecies that your inner critic is incessantly blathering about concerning the consequences of less-than-perfect performance, you’ll usually find that they are patently untrue. The earth will not stop spinning on its axis, nor will any puppies die if you don’t do something perfectly. Take a deep breath, exhale, and get it done.
Tip #3: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
In today’s extremely competitive culture, it’s so easy for us to plunge into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. And when our mind plays tricks on us, making us feel like we don’t measure up, our harsh self-critic descends us deeper into the pit of inferiority and negative self-image.
Stop looking outward and start turning inward instead.
Every time you cast a gaze and point a finger toward someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you. That’s your body literally reminding you to redirect your sight back inward. You are whole. You are full. You are worthy. And you are capable. If only you learned that the only person you should compare yourself to is the previous you, then you’d recognize the power that is already vested within you.
With the highlight reel of people’s lives splashed across social media, it is hard for even the tamest inner critic to avoid evaluating your own life against this.
But comparing yourself against others puts the focus on the wrong person. Make your own highlight reel. Think about your strengths and achievements and practice gratitude with yourself and those around you in place of comparing. Use this when you feel that inner critic starting to steer you towards comparison. Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. As cliché as it sounds it’s true: there is no one on Earth better at being you than you. We all have different strengths. Studies suggest that people who focus on cultivating their strengths are happier and more successful than people who focus on compensating for their weaknesses.
When you compare yourself to others, you focus on the other person — what they have done, what they have achieved, and what they do.
But you have no control over this other person. All you can control is you. And the only person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were previously. If you are improving, that is all that matters. It is human nature to look at the lush greens of your neighbor’s beautifully manicured lawn and feel a twinge of jealousy when comparing it to your own weedy and dying lawn. We may know intellectually that the “grass is always greener” next door, but that knowledge doesn’t always stop us from making these negative comparisons.
The old adage, “it’s like apples and oranges” is used whenever comparisons are drawn between two things that are, in fact, incommensurable.
They simply cannot be judged in relation to one another because they are different in fundamental ways. And, like apples and oranges, people are so special and unique that there’s really no point in even trying to compare them. We have our own distinctive traits and personalities. We have our own strengths and foibles. And yes, we have our own successes and frustrations. We shouldn’t compare these things, however. Comparisons are inherently unfair. The cards are stacked against us when we contrast what we see as the best of someone else with the worst of ourselves. We are setting ourselves up to feel bad.
Tip #4: Stop Ruminating
When you make a mistake or you’ve had a bad day, you may be tempted to re-play the events over and over in your head. But, repeatedly reminding yourself of that embarrassing thing you did, or that questionable thing you said, will only make you feel worse and it won’t solve the problem.
When you find yourself ruminating, don’t waste time telling yourself, “Don’t think about that.”
The more you try to avoid thinking about something, the more you’re likely to focus on it. Instead, distract yourself with an activity — like going for a walk, organizing your desk, or talking about a completely different subject — and stop the critical thoughts before they spiral out of control. The goal is to eliminate the habit of letting that voice wear you down and to replace it with a new way of thinking that will build you back up.
The thing about negative self-talk is that you need to make sure you’re balancing it out (and going above and beyond) with positive self-talk.
If we take the example of giving someone else constructive criticism, you’d probably want to first tell them what they’re doing a good job at before you tell them what they need to improve on. The same goes for yourself. Remind yourself often of your accomplishments. Keep an accomplishment log or journal, take pictures to remind yourself, or tell someone else what you did. For goodness sake, tell yourself you’re proud! Self-love is a vital factor in increasing your self-worth.
Throughout our day, we will usually encounter a handful of good moments, a few neutral moments and maybe one bad moment.
But which one were you replaying in your head as you got ready for bed last night? Although it’s important to use bad moments for learning, dwelling on them for too long will make that internal critic stronger. It will feed it all the negative energy it needs to keep trolling you with “why aren’t you good enough?” Convert an overly pessimistic thought to a more rational and realistic statement. When you find yourself thinking, “I never do anything right,” replace it with a balanced statement like, “Sometimes I do things really well and sometimes I don’t.” Each time you find yourself thinking an exaggeratedly negative thought, respond with the more accurate statement.
If you’re carrying even an ounce of regret, your inner monster will glob onto it like an energy source and will infect any good moment with doubt.
Whatever it is, let it go. Because the past is the past and you need to look ahead. If you need to make amends in order to move on, then do so. But just know that you absolutely deserve all the great things in life. Regardless of the situation, you have the creative tools and the ability to push forward and come up with good ideas, and then to see if it they are workable or not. For some, especially the creative amongst us, it can be relentless hard work overcoming the negative and sometimes convincing voice of our inner critic. We need to be vigilant and not let it take over our lives if we want to grow and have the confidence to pursue our creative ideas, to reach for our goals and to uncover our potential.
Tip #5: Balance Acceptance with Self-improvement
Although some of our negative thoughts are unwarranted and overly judgmental, some of that criticism is toward real issues that need to be addressed. If there are certain parts of your life that you know need improving, do something about it. Don’t give yourself ammo for negative self-talk. There’s nothing worse than that nagging voice in your head that yet again you’re late on your deadline. And because you know it’s true, it can lead to a downward spiral of continually criticizing yourself.
Being nasty to yourself is never okay and it’s certainly not productive.
Instead, take tangible steps to improve. Set goals and track your progress. Even if it’s baby steps, gradually improving yourself will replace negative thoughts with positive ones and ultimately silence your inner critic. It’s not about bragging or trying to inflate your ego, it’s about being honest with yourself about what you do well. Sometimes we all need a little reminder that we’re capable people who can take on whatever life throws at us!
There’s a difference between always telling yourself that you’re not good enough and reminding yourself that you can work to become better.
Accept your flaws for what they are today but resign to work on the issues you want to address. Although it sounds counterintuitive, you can do both at the same time. You can accept that you experience anxiety in social situations, while also making a decision to become more comfortable with public speaking. Accepting your weaknesses for what they are today doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. Acknowledge that you have flaws but determine to remain a work in progress as you strive to become better.
Remember not to act on the directives of your inner critic.
Take actions that represent your own point of view, who you want to be and what you aim to achieve. Your critical inner voice may get louder, telling you to stay in line or not to take chances. However, by identifying, separating from, and acting against this destructive thought process, you will grow stronger, while your inner critic grows weaker. Challenge your negative thinking. Put things into perspective. Looking back at your past achievements, what do you know to be true about yourself? What are the things you are most proud of?
Accepting who you are is the first step on the road to self-improvement.
We need to find a balance between accepting ourselves for who we are and striving for self-improvement. Acceptance does not mean that we do not want to change or grow, it is simply acknowledging our flaws, recognizing that change is possible and it is ok to feel the way we do. The key is to allow yourself to grow from a point of self-acceptance. Recognize that you can feel good about yourself while still being motivated to achieve your dreams and goals. Using self-criticism as a way to motivate yourself not only ignores all your strengths and good qualities, it also increases the chances that you will give up at the first hurdle.
Spending your time thinking about how much you hate (or love) your inner critic or how much you wish it weren’t around is a poor use of your time and energy. Acknowledge that it’s there, get curious about it so you can get to know what its tricks are, and spend your efforts developing your critic’s counterpart, whether this is a voice that’s more compassionate, kind, or simply more realistic and accurate.
Being hard on yourself and beating yourself up isn’t helpful. In fact, it might be one of the reasons why you’re stuck where you are today.
You can silence your inner critic and dim its power over you by becoming more mindful, imagining a silly character voicing it, comparing yourself to no one but you, practicing self-compassion, or starting a self-gratitude journal. When you learn how to limit self-criticism, you automatically offset its negative effects on you. This then allows you to break-free from your limiting beliefs, achieve your highest potential, and find more contentment in your life.
Bullies respond to strength, and your inner critic is the biggest bully of all because you can never get away from it.
So remind your monster that you are the one in charge here and it needs to stop talking, because you are no longer listening. Your inner critic won’t offer you any solutions to your problems — that’s your job! Your mind is often trying to play with you. Your authentic self knows the truth and is already available for you, ready and eager to support you. Always.
Your inner critic is holding you back from leaping forward, and it’s time we loosen its grip on you. It’s time you silence it.
So next time your inner critic highjacks your mind with unproductive, unloving, unkind or uncreative thoughts, use these tips and strategies to silence your inner critic once and for all. What does your inner critic tell you most often? How do you deal with negative self-talk? Share your thoughts below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.