Embracing Your Inner Critic and Learning How to Work With It
Everyone has that inner voice that keeps telling them they are not good enough. So, whenever you speak to yourself in terms of “musts, shoulds, or oughts,” you engage with your inner critic. Embracing your inner critic and learning how to work with it is a necessary step toward happiness and well-being.
What is an Inner Critic?
An inner critic is your internal voice that evaluates, criticizes, and judges everything you are or do, regardless of whether this criticism is objectively valid. In the literature, an inner critic is known by other names, such as the superego, saboteur, or inner judge.
No matter what you call it, an inner critic involves negative beliefs about your skills, competencies, intelligence, appearance, and traits. A negative attitude like this could affect every part of your life. It could hurt your self-esteem and keep you from reaching your full potential.
Where Does Our Inner Critic Come From?
An inner critic is rooted in childhood experiences. Psychologists believe self-critical thoughts typically develop during early childhood in response to painful experiences. How our caregivers respond to our needs in early childhood creates the pattern of how we perceive ourselves. Suppose you grew up in a family with insecure attachment, for example.
In that case, you might have acquired subconscious self-limiting beliefs that you are unworthy if you do not satisfy the expectations of others. As an adult, you may struggle with feelings of guilt and shame every time you don’t meet someone else’s expectations, feeling unworthy, lacking, or false.
How Can Our Inner Critic Actually Serve Us
An inner critic results from our cognitive distortions – tricks our minds play on us to make us believe something that isn’t true. They significantly affect how we see events, people, and relationships in our lives, making us feel bad about ourselves and others.
Your inner critic can give you a false sense of control over your feelings and behavior. For example, if you want to pursue a new career but are terrified of change, your inner critic will convince you that you lack what it takes to succeed and progress.
You can also use judgmental thoughts to cope with shame, anxiety, fear, or stress. However, your inner critic might make you feel bad about yourself, potentially provoking or exacerbating anxiety and depression.
Ways to Challenge Your Inner Critic and Learn to Make It Work for You
Self-critical messages such as “I cannot do it” or “I am not good enough” are shaming and demoralizing. They can impact your life choices, diminish your self-esteem, and prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities.
So, here are five strategies to challenge your inner critic and learn to make it work for you.
Learn to Identify What Sets Your Inner Critic Off
Awareness is the first step to identifying and challenging your inner critic. Mindfulness meditation and journaling can be powerful techniques for determining the triggers that set off your inner critic.
Most of the time, we are unaware of our inner critic’s presence. Mindfulness can help you focus on your thoughts as they appear, without judgment or evaluation. It also allows you to slow down. Negative thoughts lead to corresponding negative feelings. Mindfulness assists you in quieting your mind and experiencing fewer unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
Also, writing your thoughts down daily can help identify the voice of your inner critic and the situations or people that set it off. Once you write your thoughts down, you may be able to examine their validity and become more aware of the thoughts and feelings they provoke.
The ACT Approach
Applying an ACT approach is the most effective strategy to embrace your inner critic and learn how to make it work for you.
An ACT approach involves recognizing and labeling your self-critical thoughts. Once you identify and label your inner critic, you mindfully observe it without judgment and then let it go.
Recognizing your inner critic without passing judgment might help diminish its power. Similarly, identifying and labeling your self-critical thoughts can help you create the distance between yourself and your inner critic, understanding that your thoughts are just thoughts, not facts.
For example, if you think, “My inner critic says that I am not worthy of love,” instead of “I am not worthy of love,” this helps create the distance and observe your inner critic more objectively.
Identify Your Goals and How Your Inner Critic Assists in Those Goals
Make sure you identify and define your goals and see how to team up with your inner critic. Ask yourself questions like, “What makes me feel this way? What do I want to accomplish? What is the most beneficial thing for me right now?” Tune into your thoughts – perhaps your Hyper-achiever might push you to perform at your best if you want to advance at work.
Don’t Fight It (Everyone Has One, and That’s Totally Normal)
Having your inner critic doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you – everyone has one. Our brains feel triggered by external or internal factors, dwelling on negative thoughts, imagining the worst possible outcomes, or wanting to control every situation.
Befriend Your Inner Critic
To befriend your inner critic, focus on a situation when you harshly judge or criticize yourself. Then, write a letter to your inner critic, thanking it for working to protect and keep you safe. However, let it know that it is up to you whether you take your inner critic’s guidance or not.
You Can Learn to Live with Your Inner Critic
Your critical inner voice may keep you from living the dream life you deserve. It can affect your self-esteem, mood, and mental health. Learning how to recognize your inner critic, detach from it, and permit yourself not to act on it, on the other hand, might help you make your inner critic work for you.
Coaching can be a great option if you are struggling with your inner critic. Coaching is all about having someone else witness alongside you and help challenge ways of thinking and seeing things in order to open up new possibilities. If you would like to explore how it may be of help to you book a time to speak at www.chatwithkamini.com