How to turn down the volume on your Inner Critic.
The Inner Critic is a metaphor used to describe the critical or bullying voice which puts all those criticisms and nasty phrases, that we beat ourselves up with, into our heads all day long, and possibly at night too.
I wonder if you have noticed it? It is very much like a parrot, repeating itself over and over again. It bullies you and criticises you so often that you actually believe it. You may be so used to it that it feels like its always been there, or worse, that there's no way out. It has no mercy, in fact, even when you do something well it will ‘nit pick’ and try to deflate your mood. It is not your friend.
Have you ever noticed that it NEVER offers praise?
The Inner Critic does not accept you are human. Humans make mistakes. We even learn from our mistakes; mistakes are important to make! But the critical voice won’t tell you that, it expects absolute perfection.
Another feature of this part of ourselves is how it believes no one else makes mistakes or experiences failure; no one else ever looks or performs less than 110%. For example, we are never faced with people's mistakes on social media, only perfect lives abide there, but that doesn’t mean those people are faultless or never have days when they feel low and that everything feels like its about to fall apart.
The Inner Critic nags, this is it’s strength, and it can grind you down to the point where you believe it;
“Just look at you, you’re such a mess”
“Why did you say that? That’s really inappropriate”
“I knew you’d mess up, you always do”
“You always give in, you’re useless”
If you recognise these words, or phrases like them, you’re not alone. The Inner Critic is very common but most people keep theirs hidden - no one admits to having a bully in their head.
How do we approach The Critic?
To start with it can be helpful to notice what The Inner Critic says to you during the day. Try to make a note of the words it uses when it shouts at you, maybe keep a diary or a week's worth of phrases. This is the first step.
For example, you might want to imagine this voice as 'The Office Manager' in your head. It constantly picks holes in the way the team works; do you know the sort I mean? No one likes working for managers like these, they are watching your every move and telling everyone in the team that they are not good enough or that someone else can do it better than you or that you must work harder. The end result is that the team spend most of their time feeling demotivated and stressed. Does that sound familiar? The trouble is, most people can leave an office job eventually and choose somewhere different, but when that manager is in your
own head, there really is no where to go.
As harmful as it is to your wellbeing, The Critics voice is there for a reason - you just haven’t worked out what that reason is yet (therapy can help with that). It might help to think of your critic as having the wrong end of the stick, he wants you to achieve great things but doesn’t realise the best way of doing it. He really needs a management training course! He’s trying so hard to get you to your optimal performance but no one has taught him the best way of doing it, he has it all wrong.
Have you ever had a manager that is full of praise and builds you up? That’s the manager you want in your head, not The Inner Critic.
So The Inner Critic, despite everything, is trying to do good things for you and definitely wants to be noticed - see how hard and loud he shouts! So writing down what he says can really help. The job is two fold; The Critic gets what it wants - to be noticed - and in turn you can see how much it shouts at you and all the cruel things he says. Once you see it on paper it might be a surprise how much it has to say.
Once you have it written down it might be easier to assess the reality of it. Are the statements or criticisms correct - you may need the help of a trusted friend, partner or therapist to reality check this bit with you if your critic has been bullying you for a very long time. Chances are that none of it is true or factually correct. Either way, it's definitely poisonous to hear over and over in your head.
The next step is asking it to take a step back and have a little snooze. No really, you can actually ask it to do that! The Critic works so hard day and night it must be tired! Metaphorically you can put the blanket over its head and say a gentle goodnight to it. Remind it that you are ok and can manage without it right now and then get on with your day. When it wakes up and tries to help, remind it that you can hear it but you’d rather it went back to bed.
At some point in the future, when you feel ready, you might want to reeducate it. You may want to write down some gentler messages that you would prefer to hear, to replace the ones it uses now. You might also chose a kinder voice for it. Can you offer it a new job and gently nudge it into being a more positive manager, even one that offers praise as a way of motivation?
I know it sounds simple and maybe a little strange and I also know it really isn’t quick or easy to change your mindset. But with time and practice you can help The Critic to relax a little and take a back seat instead of driving you into despair. Your critic really is tired and would like to do less work.
If you need help to manage your Inner Critic contact me here for a free initial session.