You suck. You will never be good at anything. Wow. You just equal ew.
A lot of us have a critical inner voice. We might call it our internal editor or our internal critic, but it’s a bit of a destructive bastard, honestly.
It thinks only of the worst case scenario.
As J’aime ona Pangaia writes:
“If you take some time out for yourself, an inner voice tells you that you are lazy and/or selfish and that you’ll never amount to anything. When you work hard, keeping your eyes on your goals, this inner critic will lambaste you for not having a life, or quality relationships, or for being a 2-dimensional workaholic. Your inner critic will get you coming and going.
“Most people are so used to hearing their inner critic monitor and judge their every thought, word, action and appearance, that they don’t even realize the steadily eroding effect it has on them until they are plunged into a flat-out depression. A common approach these days is the decision to “not indulge in negative thinking”, so ‘affirmations’ are chanted as if they were magical mantras that will somehow eradicate the messages of the inner critic.”
For a lot of writers, that internal critic or inner editor makes us completely blocked and unable to write on the page.
According to Lisa Firestone Ph.D. for Psychology Today,
“Getting to know and challenge this “voice” is one of the most essential psychological hurdles we can overcome in striving to live our version of our best life.”
So, how do we overcome that voice. Where does it come from? Why does it torment us like this?
“We can start by understanding one major concept: we are, in many ways, ruled by our past. From the moment we’re born, we absorb the world around us. The early attitudes, beliefs and behaviors we were exposed to can become an inner dialogue, affecting how we see ourselves and others. For example, the positive behavior and qualities our parents or early caretakers had helped us form a positive sense of self as well as many of our values. If we felt love, acceptance or compassion directed toward us, this nurtured our real self and the positive feelings we have about who we are in the world. However, the critical attitudes and negative experiences we withstood formed and fueled our anti-self. Early rejections and harmful ways of relating affect a child’s budding self-perception, not to mention their point of view toward other people and relationships in general. These impressions become the voices in our heads.”
Firestone details a few steps:
- Pay attention when the critic pops up. Realize it’s the critic being an insulting troll.
- Write down what that critic says, but use the YOU pronoun rather than the I pronoun. It gives it less power and sometimes writing things down makes us realize how silly they are.
- Give a hot second to figuring out what your inner critic sounds like. Your mom? Dad? Brother? A teacher? Who does it feel like is talking to you through this voice? Does it sound like your avo?
- Stand up to the critic. I do this by creating an internal cheerleader, but you don’t have to be that extreme. When something self-hating happens, says, “Shut up. Look at all this awesome I am. I do this and this and this and think this and this and this, you inner critic dork.”
- Try to look for patterns that happen. Does your internal critic’s voice only speak up when you’re writing? Trying to revise? When you’re studying? Want to try something new? Look for when it happens and if you are limiting your actions and behaviors because of that damn voice.
Tasha Harmon has a great PDF all about taming that inner critic and what she suggests is remembering this, the “inner critic’s job is to protect you from harm/ensure you are okay.”
It’s interesting to think of The Inner Critic as Trying to be Helpful–but failing.
That inner voice is trying to keep us safe, but it’s overactive and does too good a job. So it creates worst case scenarios and tells us what those scenarios are. Then we often believe them and that’s where the stagnation happens.
Tasha suggests “seeing the inner critic as the scared child; recognize the fears, acknowledge them with compassion.”
It’s a different approach than Firestone’s. One is about facing them down. One is understanding them and controlling them with empathy and love.
Harmon also suggests trying to visualize your inner critic.
I do that all the time. Mine is John Wayne. My inner cheerleader is Grover from Sesame Street. You can draw a picture to do that if you need to. Or you can write out dialogue where you and the critic chat. Ask them why they won’t stop talking about certain things and what they are trying to accomplish with their negativity.
According to Pangaia,
“Give an ear to your inner critic; it would love to lose the weight of all that under recognized vulnerability! The power of its insults have been in direct proportion this vulnerability. Your inner critic is just trying to help you become more aware of who else you are inside so you can take better care of all of your selves”
How you deal with those negative internal voices and scripts is up to you, but I hope that you’ll look them in the eye or hug them or whatever you need to do to give them less power over you. That power that they have? They don’t deserve it and you? You deserve to live as big and full and amazing a life as possible. You deserve that inner cheerleader. Grover says he’s totally good with me loaning him out, but I bet you can find your perfect one, too.