“You’re weak… you just made another stupid mistake… you’ll never be good at this… you’re ugly… there’s something wrong with you.” Does this sound familiar? The inner critic does not criticize based on reality. It is a viewpoint that you have adopted based on destructive, early life experiences and attitudes directed toward you that you have internalized as your own point of view.
We all have an inner critic that leads us to be insecure at times, but some have an inner critic that is loud, overwhelming, and that influences daily life and functioning. If this is you, following the steps below could provide you some relief.
For the purpose of this blog, I will be using the pronoun “they” for the inner critic.
Step 1: Awareness
The first step to weakening your inner critic is to hear and identify their voice. All-day you are involved in a constant dialogue with yourself. You are continuously processing events, problem-solving, speculating about the future, or revising past events. Hidden in the monologue are the inner critic’s indictments. Sometimes it comes in the form of images of past mistakes or failures. Sometimes it’s harsh, loud words of judgment. There are times when the inner critic doesn’t even use images or words. It can come in the form of awareness, or an impression, which leaves you feeling empty, heavy, or low. Becoming aware of your inner critic involves hearing what is said when it is being said, the circumstances, the tone, and the underlying fears. Catching the inner critic will take work and commitment.
Step 2: Reveal the Inner Critic’s Purpose
Your inner critic is actually trying to protect you from perceived danger. Similar to a harsh, overprotective parent, the inner critic has good intentions. They want to get your attention in order to support you and keep you safe.
By unmasking your inner critic, you expose their true purpose and functions. Having a clearer understanding of the reasons for which they attack you undermines their credibility. Once the inner critic’s secret agenda is exposed, you may feel less vulnerable to their attacks. What they say becomes less believable. For example, your inner critic may be telling you that you must do everything perfectly. If you are perfect, then you will finally feel okay with yourself. They might be telling you that people don’t like you so that, when the truth comes out, you won’t be so hurt if you are rejected. Knowing the motives behind the harsh criticism affords you the opportunity to challenge the reliability and validity of their message and truly get to the bottom of why they see the need to protect you.
Step 3: Talk Back to Your Inner Critic
Yes, actually talk to your inner critic, speaking orally or to yourself. If it sounds a little strange, you are not alone, and that’s okay. Just try it… Once you start refuting the negative programming and devaluing messages you have received over time, your inner dialogue gradually changes to a more positive, realistic way of seeing things.
Simply trying to push the thoughts out of your mind does not typically work. It just makes them come up more often. Try this… Don’t think of a banana. For the next 10 seconds, don’t think of a banana. How did it go? Probably thought of a banana, right? Rather than trying to push your inner critic’s harsh words out of your mind, ask your inner critic what message they are trying to send you, and why.
If your inner critic tells you that you never do anything right, tell them “yes I do… there are times that I do things well and this just might be one of them.” If you hear them say that you are not smart enough to accomplish a task, tell them “I am smart, and I have accomplished many things.” Once you begin to talk back to your inner critic, you can then start to replace those negative words with something more rational, realistic, and positive.
If you or someone you know has a really loud inner critic or is struggling with their self-esteem, seeking assistance from a counselor may be a good option. At Texas Harmony Counseling Center, we have experienced therapists who can help, so give us a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.