Silencing Your Inner Critic to Decrease Anxiety: Step One
Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Step one to silencing your inner critic: BECOME AWARE. So much of the running thoughts in our minds are unconscious, or outside of our immediate awareness. Thoughts just roll through without us noticing. The inner critic is unhelpful at best and cruel at worst. They tend to feed off our worst fears. “You are going to fail”, “so-and-so hates you”, “you will never get that promotion”, “you aren’t exercising enough”, “you should eat less/more”, “you should be more social”, “you should have a cleaner house”, and on and on. They are relentless, and its often playing in the background. You may not even notice these automatic messages. You may notice though an increase in anxiety and/or self-doubt, and a decrease in motivation and energy. Who wouldn’t?? What if you had an actual person following you around saying those things to you? They would get the boot quickly! There isn’t room in your life for that kind of negativity.
Now, back to becoming aware. I am going to share one of my favorite activities to help you begin to become aware of your inner critic.
1. Find a place that has some calm and quiet. Sit and give yourself a moment to think of the harsh things you tell yourself.
2. Write them down and look at what you have.
3. Imagine this part of yourself, the one that says these things to you, as separate from yourself. As if it is someone or something sitting next to you.
4. Draw what this separate being looks like. (If you don’t like to draw, you can write out a description.)
5. Name this separate part.
Now you have an image and a name separate from yourself to attach to these hurtful thoughts when they come to mind. Recognize that this part of you is not welcome to steal your joy/energy/confidence. You have completed the first step!
Something important to understand is that this critical inner voice is truly NOT helpful. That can be hard to believe if you have been thinking you need it to be a source of motivation. Self-compassion is so much more helpful. Follow this link to watch one of my favorite Ted Talks on self-compassion. Kristin Neff is the speaker, and she gets into some important information and research about self-compassion. This is about a 20-minute video.
Maybe, just maybe- even if we have failed (many times), even if we have behaved in ways we wish we could take back, even if we aren’t perfect, the jeans don’t fit, you didn’t get the promotion, the dishes aren’t done, whatever- we are all deserving of love. Be kind to yourself.