How to Silence your Inner Critic
How to Silence your Inner Critic
Everyone has an ‘Inner Critic’, or ‘Negative Voice’, sometimes referred to as ‘Automatic Negative Thoughts’ or ‘ANTs’, which seem to race around some peoples’ brains and multiply at speed. Having an Inner Critic is normal and isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are an impulsive individual, who may make rash decisions and take too many risks.
Our ancestors relied on their ‘Inner Judge’ to identify whether they were strong enough to ‘fight’ the woolly mammoth, or whether they needed to take ‘flight’ and get to safety. Unfortunately, nowadays with a more complex life, the Inner Critic has so much more to comment on and so many more comparisons to make with other people’s lives, jobs, even holidays, as many recent studies have shown regarding the negative reactions some friends have to other’s happy postings on social media and the associated FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!)
These ‘ANTs’ or false beliefs are a pattern of destructive thoughts towards ourselves and others, which are often the cause of certain types of behaviours that inhibit a person’s ability to adjust to particular situations and relationships; they may breed more inward thinking, distrust, self-denial, addictions, more self-criticism and often prevent us from achieving our goals.
In order to silence the critical inner voice, it is necessary to improve one’s self-awareness, self-belief and self-esteem. This isn’t easy, as negative messages travel from a certain part of the brain and reach our conscious mind very quickly. The left side of the brain is associated with positive emotions like happiness, joy, pleasure and the control of emotions. The right side of the brain is associated with negative emotions, such as anger, sorrow, being moody and bad-tempered, and the expression of emotion.
Unfortunately, some of these negative messages originated in childhood when sometimes inadvertently a parent, guardian, school teacher or peer may have made a hasty comment such as ‘You’re so bad at Maths’, which made you doubt your ability, made you nervous before the Maths lesson or exam, and as a result you acted out the belief and got a low mark, reinforcing the negative beliefs and sometimes even creating phobias and superstitions. If negative thoughts become all-consuming and someone is suffering from clinical depression, it is advisable to seek professional help and engage in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in order to cope with a highly critical inner voice.
Our attitudes determine our thoughts and behaviour and influence perceptions and feelings, which in turn affect our behaviour. Often our perceptions of ourselves are based on what we tell ourselves and we tend to act out our attitudes, such as thinking we can’t cook then burning a meal. Listening to the inner critic leads to self-limiting behaviour and reinforcing negative consequences, as people often make their actions correspond to their mental attacks on themselves. In addition, we tend to focus on situations that have gone badly wrong, often over-dramatise these, and become very worried about them recurring. Self-deprecation is part of the British sense of humour and culture and only serves to reinforce negative thoughts, whereas in the US people tend to be quicker to praise.
Ahead of an important meeting, presentation or interview, negative head chatter can lead to a downward spiral or a ‘disabling attitude’ with confidence levels decreasing, which in turn negatively affects our body language and leads to ‘body language leakage’ such as blushing, palms becoming sweaty, hands shaking and even losing one’s voice completely. The ‘Inner Voice’ saying ‘You always make a mess of things’ positively reinforces the message and derails attempts to do a better job. Even if you try to give yourself positive messages you don’t believe it and lose perspective on the facts and reality of the situation.
To silence your Inner Critic, use this practical 12 Point Plan:
1. Identify situations and people, who may contribute to your negative thoughts, and develop a SMART action plan to deal with each of them.
2. Make a list of all your qualities, interests and activities you enjoy, which make you unique; refer back to the list in difficult times.
3. Write down your negative thoughts and counter them with a more realistic or factual view of yourself. ‘Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.’
4. Ask yourself often: ‘What is really important and what really matters?’ Chances are it’s not what your jealous neighbour, colleague or sibling thinks!
5. Remember that you wouldn’t criticise a friend as much as you criticise yourself!
6. Ask yourself: ‘What would your best friend or Coach say or do?’
7. Embrace your imperfections and stop trying to be a Perfectionist.
8. Replace inner negative messages with positive statements such as: ‘I used to be rubbish at doing presentations, but after the course I’ve become good at them.’
9. Build up a list of positive statements and experiences to repeat often:‘I have a right to be here and present to these people because I have excellent knowledge to share.’
10. Make a list of all the positive feedback and references you have received from friends, clients, your boss.
11. Banish from your Vocabulary: CAN’T, DON’T, WON’T, SHOULDN’T, COULDN’T, WOULDN’T and remember the words of Henry Ford: ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right’
12. Write down your all your Achievements and Accomplishments, either in or outside work and refer to them often.
We have 100% responsibility for our own attitude, behaviour, reactions and choices, so if we breathe more slowly, take our time, and give ourselves positive messages, we can improve the way we present, lead, manage, negotiate and deal with key decisions, difficult people, and situations, at the same time improving stress levels.
Banishing Negative Head Chatter is an important part of many of Natural Talents Coaching Sessions and Behavioural Change Programmes dealing with the improvement of a wide range of skills from Assertiveness, Conflict Resolution, Decision Making, Negotiating and Influencing, and Stress and Lifestyle Management.
'I had no idea that it was my inner negative voice that was so critical and therefore holding me back from going for a promotion. Since our Coaching sessions I'm happy to report that I have been made a Director! Thank you so much; I am very happy and so grateful.' Marketing Director