Do you have an “inner critic”? It’s possible that you do and don’t realize it. I say that because I believe it’s something that everyone struggles with at various points in life. An inner critic is that inner dialogue that seems to drive your thoughts, behaviors, feelings, actions- primarily about yourself. Interestingly enough, your inner critic often sounds like yourself. That is why it’s so tempting and hard to dismiss. It makes you hesitant to question the inner critic or even talk back to correct it. In reality, your inner critic comes from a lot of different places. It may come from negative or hurtful things your parents have said in the past. It may come from society. It may come from past hurts and past traumas. For instance, your inner critic might tell you things like:
“Of course they don’t like you.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Why would you even try that?”
“You’re not worthy of this.”
So you’re probably noticing that your inner critic is problematic for a lot of reasons, mostly because your inner critic is usually wrong. A negative inner critic has the power to keep you from growing, keep you from trying new things, and generally keep you from joyful and positive experiences.
However, if you don’t tame your inner critic and get it under control, it will control you. So, how do you control your inner critic?
Notice and identify your inner critic. You need to be able to notice when your inner critic is activated. If we are not mindful, we will not notice the inner critic but it’s essential that you learn to realize when it’s happening. Meditation and mindfulness practices are a great way to gradually help you to begin to notice your inner critic a lot faster.
Learn about your inner critic. Sometimes, you might feel hesitant to learn more about your inner critic because we’ve been told that if there is something bad or negative inside of you, it should be ignored or not talked about. However the opposite is true. You need to lean into your inner critic and get to know it so that you’ll know exactly how to combat it. Journaling is one way to gradually get to know your inner critic. Whenever you notice your inner critic is being activated, write it down. After a few journal entries, see if you can identify patterns in the inner critic’s dialogue.
Start fighting back against your inner critic. Once you feel confident in your ability to identify and know your inner critic more, you can start to fight back. This can be done with affirmations. An affirmation is simply a positive (or even neutral, if positive feels too strong) statement about yourself or your current reality. For example, if my inner critic has told me that I’m not good at something, my affirmation might be “I have many strengths,” or “I can practice to become better.” Either way, the affirmation is used to combat the negative idea that your inner critic has given.
Flood your inner critic with positive vibes. In addition to fighting back against your inner critic, you need to totally drown your inner critic out by surrounding yourself with positive people, positive images, positive environments, positive feelings, etc. When you flood your inner critic with positivity, it loses its power and gradually will have no option but to become more positive and useful.
Want to learn more about controlling your inner critic? Check out episode #28 of 'A Different Perspective' Podcast.
Dr. Amber Thornton
Clinical psychologist with a passion for family, community, culture, and diversity.