The Inner Critic: What it is and How to Silence It

The Inner Critic: What it is and How to Silence It Image Almost everyone has a narrative voice running through their mind. The voice that belittles and demeans is often called the inner critic, while the voice that empowers and encourages is known as the inner coach.

Think of classic cartoons - the devil and angel perched on opposite shoulders. The devil is bigger, louder, and meaner. The angel tries to add a positive word here and there, but the devil often bullies his way into making sure you only hear him.

You wouldn't hang out with people who speak to you that way; why do we let our inner critic belittle and criticize? Luckily, there are several ways you can take away your inner critic’s power and start believing your inner coach.

What is the Inner Critic?

Psychologists have long studied the inner critic, and most agree that the roots develop during childhood. It's a combination of how others spoke and related to you, your natural temperament, and your reactions to those experiences.

Part of developing your sense of self includes an understanding of how you fit into the world. Unfortunately, our world is full of messages that you are not 'enough' of anything

  • Smart enough
  • Pretty enough
  • Strong enough
  • Brave enough
  • Thin enough

The more you hear something, the more you internalize it. As you internalize those messages, they turn into your inner voice.

The thing is, though, you are enough. Just as you are today. Your combination of life experiences has gotten you to today. You can't change anything that happened before today, but you can change how you move forward. Even if you cannot change your circumstances today, you can change how you view them. Changing your mindset can change everything.

Living with your Inner critic

The inner critic and inner coach are a part of life. Learning to manage them can greatly influence self-esteem and overall happiness. A few techniques include:

  • Acknowledge it - The inner critic is a part of you, but that doesn't mean it has to hold power. Often when we face fear, we realize the situation wasn't as dire as we had imagined. Facing your inner critic and acknowledging it is there is enough to diminish its power over you.
  • Name it - Much like acknowledgment, naming your inner critic diminishes its power. The name can be anything you want - gremlin, ogre, Karen, or Bob. Whatever you choose, you now have a way to address your inner critic when it is trying to get the best of you.
  • Ask yourself, "what else is true?" - Humans love to tell stories. We do it all the time. Any time you think you know what will happen in a situation or think you know what someone else is thinking, you're telling yourself a story. There are very few circumstances that only have one truth.
  • Add 'Yet" - Have you heard of the power of 'yet?' It's a key component for cultivating a growth mindset. Your inner voice loves to tell you that you can't do things. Adding 'yet' to your gremlin's sentence completely changes the dynamic.

Sarah decides she wants to start a new workout routine. She was never much of an athlete and has had trouble sticking with workouts long-term in the past. She knows physical activity is important, but life has gotten in the way.

She found a new online workout program she can do at home and is prepared to start. But wait, here comes her inner critic, the gremlin, saying, "You might as well give up now; you know you won't stick with it."

Sarah asks what else could be true. She acknowledges that she has not prioritized working out in the past. She thinks about why she is excited to start this new program, including how she has chosen to prioritize her time.

Then the gremlin says, "You won't get through that workout; you're so out of shape."

Adding “yet” completely changes the first sentence. "You won't make it through that workout yet." Sarah acknowledges that the new workout is going to be a challenge. However, adding “yet” to the sentence gives hope. She knows it will get easier after a few sessions, and she doesn't let her inner critic win.

Final Thoughts

The inner critic and inner coach are a part of human nature. They aren't going anywhere, so it's essential to find tactics that will magnify your inner coach while sending your inner critic to the background.

Small changes over time lead to lasting changes. Adding the power of 'yet' is a great place to start when you want to crush your inner critic.

Carol Dweck. The Power of Yet

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