When there’s no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm. – African proverb
Have you ever heard an inner voice telling you disempowering things, like “I don’t think I can make it,” “What if I fail?”, “I’m not that smart,” ”I’ll never have that,” “This is too hard,” “This is too big for me,” “It’s impossible,” or “It’s too good to be true” ?
If this rings a bell for you, know that this was the voice of your Inner Critic.
What is Your Inner Critic?
It is that voice in your mind that often speaks to you when you want to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. It is a voice of fear.
Its purpose is to keep you in the safe zone and protect you from any possible emotional injuries like judgment, rejection, blame or shame. It is an internal resistance to change and the unknown, and the main reason for you playing small and not daring to go for your dreams.
Your inner critic does an excellent job at keeping you safe; however, it might have an adverse impact on your life by possibly making you:
- Doubt yourself and your abilities even though you know you are capable of achieving great things in life.
- Admire others for their achievements without being able to acknowledge your own. You might take your own accomplishments for granted, thinking that “Anyone could have done it,” or attributing them to luck or other people who gave you chances to succeed.
- Procrastinate. You might put important things on hold instead of just doing them.
- Feel stressed and anxious when trying to achieve something important to you.
- Worry excessively about what other people think of you. You might fear they will think less of you if you fail.
- Take things personally or let others put you down.
- Stay in an unhealthy relationship with someone, or stop you from starting a new relationship because of the risk of getting hurt.
- Stay stuck in a job you don’t like or even hate, afraid that changing it might not bring enough money or success.
How Does Your Inner Critic Sound?
Here’s one example:
A friend of mine once wanted to quit her job and redesign her professional life from scratch. Her plan was to take a few months off from work to study.
The moment I asked her how she felt about this idea, she couldn’t stop talking: “That would be great, but, you know, what if I end up having no money? What if my husband doesn’t agree? What would people say if I stopped working? What if I don’t have sufficient time for my kids?” – An endless chatter of worries, concerns, assumptions and ‘what ifs’ that haven’t happened yet.
What Can You Do?
Hearing this voice doesn’t mean you are broken and need to be fixed. We all have it in our heads; it is part of our shadow and what makes us human.
The goal is not to kill it (since it’s your safety check), but to learn how to differentiate the Inner Critic’s realistic concern from the false panic.
Here are six practical things that can help you to silence this negative voice from your mind:
Recognize your self-sabotaging behavior
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?
Don’t mix it up with being realistic
In life, there are situations when you don’t have what it takes to get where you want. I would have loved to become a ballerina, but my body didn’t allow me. Sometimes, the reality is that you need to acquire new skills and experience.
When you build an action plan by setting new goals and working on your development, it shows you are being realistic. But if you start telling yourself that it’s going to be hard or even impossible before you’ve even tried, please know that’s not your true self talking. That is your Inner Critic.
Make peace with your Inner Critic
Embrace it 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.
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.”
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?
Practice positive affirmations
Affirmations are credible, present-tense statements that are the opposite of your self-sabotaging, negative thoughts.
Here are just a few examples for you to repeat on a regular basis and see what happens:
I am happy.
I am lovable.
I am open to financial abundance.
I believe in myself and my abilities.
I deserve the best things life has to offer.
I am grateful.
Life loves me.
Look out for solutions
Your inner critic won’t offer you any solutions to your problems—that’s your job! Read some good books to help you boost your confidence and your self-esteem. Work with a coach to help you connect to your inner power and inner wisdom. Your mind is often trying to play with you. Your authentic self (call it your Inner Leader) knows the truth and is already available for you, ready and eager to support you. Always.
Silencing your inner critic can be an ongoing practice, but once you’ve recognised that inner voice holding you back from what could be your biggest potential in life, it loses its power to control you. Mastering the skill of dealing with self-criticism is one of the first steps on the path to success and contentment.