When was the last time you heard from your inner critic? You know, that voice in your head that constantly judges you, puts you down and compares you to others. The one that tells you you’re not good enough or smart enough and says things you would probably never say to another person.
If your inner critic is anything like mine, you probably hear this nonsense more often than not.
Now you may think your inner critic, while annoying, is relatively harmless. But this is not the case. It will limit you and stop you from living the life you truly desire. It can hinder your emotional well-being, and if left unchecked, it can lead to depression or anxiety.
Here’s 4 ways to stop paying so much attention to your inner critic.
Notice When It Happens
The first step is to notice when your mind is being unhelpful.
In order to gain control over your inner critic you have to first acknowledge its existence. You have to notice when it pops up, hands waving and says, “Pay attention now, I’ve got some unhelpful things to say about you.”
Most of our thinking is automatic. In other words, we don’t give our thoughts much thought. We barely notice a critical thought has passed. Give attention to your thoughts, all of them. This will help you recognize the critical voice.
Here are some emotional clues your critic has made an appearance: whenever you feel doubt, guilt, shame, and worthlessness. These are almost always signs of the critic at work. It’s time to pause and notice what your mind is telling you.
Sounds simple right? That’s because it is. Easy? Nope.
Separate Yourself From Your Inner Critic
Creating distance from thoughts is a critical step to quieting your inner critic.
Your inner critic is like a parasite, feeding off you. You were not born with it, but acquired it somewhere along the way. Probably in childhood or early adulthood. Your inner critic hopes it can hide, and that you’ll think its thoughts are your own. But they are not. You are not your thoughts.
So you have to create separation from it. One way to do that is to give it a name. Have fun with this name. You can call it something like “Todd” or “Mrs. I’m Not Good Enough” or “Judgy Julie.” It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you learn to separate it from your authentic self.
Simply thank your mind and fully engage in the moment.
As soon as you notice the “I’m not good enough” story has shown up and is telling you useless and unhelpful nonsense, simply notice it and thank it. Thanks Mind!
Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine your thoughts like words on a TV screen or words floating by in the sky behind an airplane. When you begin to recognize and realize that your thoughts are simply just words, they begin to lose their power.
Change The Channel
Start paying attention to the helpful channel in your mind.
Once you thank your mind, it’s time to change the channel and shift your focus to something meaningful. Engage in activities that move you toward the life you want and the kind of person you want to be in the world. Remember, what matters in life is not what you think or feel, but what you DO and how you behave toward others.
It’s important to start taking notice of what you have in your life to be grateful for in order to create new neural pathways in your mind (i.e., a new, more helpful voice in your head). Taking a moment at the end of each day to reflect on what went well, what you did well during the day goes a long way toward quieting your inner critic.
Start the day by writing down three things you’re grateful for. It’ll be easy the first week. A little more difficult the second week. And if you like most, the third week it will get difficult and you may give up. And then nothing will change. Why not actually stick with it and notice what happens? It’s hard to be negative when you have a gratitude mindset.
Life is too short to spend it beating yourself up most of the time. Take these four simple steps to quiet the unhelpful mind chatter that’s keeping you from living the life you deserve.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.