We all have a sense of doubt that looms from time to time. While misgivings are certainly normal, it’s important to not allow that negative voice (otherwise known as your inner-critic) take control. Your inner critic can prevent you from trying new ventures, following your passions or living a healthy lifestyle. Learning what your inner critic is and where it comes from will help you from letting latent negativity keep you from living your best life.
Your inner critic highlights unfavorable beliefs you have about yourself. At some point in your life, you built up thoughts and feelings about yourself that have turned into these beliefs (“I’m not good enough,” “I could never do that,” “I don’t deserve good things.”). This negative messaging doesn’t serve you, and it’s important to squash it before it does further damage.
All too often, when we hear other’s negative or biased opinions about ourselves, we take it to heart. Although you may know that a particular hurtful statement is not true, if you hear it enough, it will imprint on your mind.
Think about your inner critic: Who does it sound like? Is it your mother? Your boss? A particularly controlling friend or partner? Pinpointing where the negativity comes from is the first step in stopping it from sabotaging your positive mindset.
Realize that your inner critic is not expressing your thoughts at all, and recognize it as the mindset of the person whose voice you are hearing. Separating yourself from your inner critic in this way will help you minimize its impact on you.
Additionally, replacing a negative thought with a positive one is a powerful tool for diminishing your inner critic that in turn nurtures your self-esteem; this has proven to be more effective than simply negating a bad thought. When you examine the negative messages you have been receiving, switch them out completely to only be positive. “I am GOOD,” will be a more effective thought to process than, “I am NOT bad.”
Take this further and give yourself time each morning to remind yourself of something you love about yourself. “I am great at my job,” “I am a wonderful friend,” “I love my laugh.”
As you work towards erasing your inner critic completely, you will want to take some steps to shut it down in the moments of negativity. The therapeutic technique called “thought stopping” is a great tool for this purpose. It’s precisely what it sounds like: Stop the thoughts that do not serve a positive purpose in your life. When you start to feel your internal negative voice rising, say, “STOP,” out loud. The change in the pattern should halt your inner critic, and you can then take yourself on the path toward a more positive place. As you become more comfortable with this technique, you can say, “STOP,” in your head, and eventually, you will not have to say it at all, as you will have successfully kicked your inner critic to the curb.
Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. kerryhartcounseling.com