Taming Your Inner Critic
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
It is a common observation that people who suffer from depression and anxiety suffer from low self-esteem. A huge contributor to low self-worth is the negative inner voice that constantly judges, criticizes, negates, and attacks us. This voice is often called the "INNER CRITIC." Some of the inner critic's favorite tactics are:
- comparing your to others' achievements and abilities and finding you wanting;
- keeping track of your failures, but never once reminding you of your strengths and abilities;
- calling you names--stupid, incompetent, weak, selfish, defective, ugly--and making you believe they are all true.;
- blaming you for things that go wrong; and
- setting impossible standards of perfection and hounding you for the smallest mistake.
The inner critic is usually some internalized critical parent or other authority who judged, criticized or put us down when we were children. Now is the time to take our power back. Here is a simple three-step process to get started.
First, become aware of the existence of the inner critic. Start to notice when you begin to put yourself down. It helps to give the inner critic a name--i.e. the bully, the critic, the judge, Mr./Ms. perfect, a parent's name, Mr./Ms. kick-ass, hard-ass etc. This helps to give you some distance from this critic.
Second, pay attention to your self-talk and notice if you hear any stirrings of the inner critic. If you notice that you are putting yourself down (you may hear the phrase "You're not good enough"), comparing yourself to others, or setting impossible standards of perfection, you can be sure the inner critic is at work.
After becoming aware of the critic's voice, you can short-circuit the negative self-talk and stop it in its tracks. Words and phrases that are designed to do that include: "Stop that!”, "Shut up!," "CANCEL, CANCEL!", "Lies, lies, and more lies," "I beg to disagree, mother," "I beg to disagree, father," "I beg to disagree (fill in the name)."
Finally, replace what that inner critic is saying with a realistic and positive thought, belief, or self-statement. If the inner critic is engaging in outright put-downs, you can take the negative statement and turn it into its opposite. For example, the phrase, "What a jerk!" can be changed to, "I'm okay." The phrase "You're stupid" can be replaced with "I'm intelligent."
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from the inner critic is to practice self-acceptance. Once you begin to have compassion for yourself and practice self-forgiveness, the inner critic's power over you will diminish. Since the inner critic's patterns are often deep-seated, changing the patterns may require outside help such as counseling or medication.
I wish you the best in taming your inner critic.