How To Deal With Your Inner Critic So it Stops Sucking Out Your Soul

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 criticizes.

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?

Again, Firestone:

“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:

  1. Pay attention when the critic pops up. Realize it’s the critic being an insulting troll.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.

Stopping Doomsday Thinking

A lot of great clients and students that I’ve worked with have what I like to call Doomsday Thinking. I’m pretty sure I didn’t coin that phrase.

What is doomsday thinking?

It’s basically catastrophic thinking.

In Psychology Today, Toni Bernhard J.D. writes, “The term refers to our irrational and exaggerated thoughts: thoughts that have no basis in fact, but which we believe anyway.”

Those thoughts become so big and so distorted that we get anxious.

I am a pro at doomsday thinking

I basically had these kinds of thoughts until last year.

Those negative, spiraling thoughts can become so big, so huge, that it’s almost impossible to be happy about who we are, what we’ve done, what we will do, or our life.

We forget there can be good outcomes too.

Instead, we think about all the bad potentials and build them up like super stores, giving them so much space in our thoughts that they take over.

The why is it always me syndrome.

One of my most brilliant and adorable relatives does this all the time. She gets stuck on a highway coming home from work because of a traffic jam and thinks, “Why does this always happen to me? The universe hates me.”

When in reality, she’s not alone in that traffic jam, right? It’s almost self-absorbed to think that the frustrating things are out to get you and only you.

Or, we get rejected when we send our book to an agent and think, “This is impossible. I will never get published. I am doomed to suck forever. I give up.”

When in reality, you don’t suck at all. Writing is subjective and that particular agent just wasn’t for you.

Change happens.

In doomsday thinking whenever something bad happens, we assume that this is the way it will always be. It isn’t.

The world is chaos and full of change.

I just was texting with one of my friends the other night and I wrote, “I bet Five-years-ago Steve would never have imagined this.”

The this was good stuff happening in his life. And he hadn’t. He hadn’t predicted any of it.

We’re all like that. I didn’t imagine I’d be where I am five years ago. That’s because change happens. Even the bad doesn’t stay always bad. We can’t predict the outcomes and all the variables even when we think we can.

Here’s the good thing about change

Since things change, it means that you don’t need to stay stuck forever. And you don’t need to stay in those negative thought patterns forever either.

Why not? It’s pretty easy to lean into your internal critic, right? But you don’t have to. You can stay calm. You can take chances and make choices and shut them up.

We all have inner critics, but we also need inner cheerleaders

I used to imagine my inner critic as John Wayne (the dead movie star/cowboy). He was so harsh on me. Always telling me to work. So, I created an inner cheerleader who turned out to be the Muppet, Grover. Yes, from Sesame Street. My brain is a weird place.

John Wayne and Grover would duel it out for supremacy in my head.

Weird! Weird! I know. But by giving an identity to that negative voice/inner critic, it helped me to recognize that doomsday thinking and shut it down so that I could take chances and risks and do things.

Allow yourself to treat challenges and projects like you’re playing

Another thing that helps is giving myself a chance to play and fail. You can do this, too.

Find something you’ve wanted to do. Start a blog? Make a video? Learn to paint? Ride your bike every morning? Make it something that excites you.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Give yourself a time frame. I have 30 days to do this! That sort of short timeframe.
  2. Schedule time into your day/week to do it.
  3. It helps if you have an end project. So, tell yourself what your end product will be.
  4. Do it.

By giving ourselves a product and a timeframe, we give ourselves a chance to try things. It doesn’t seem like a forever-worry that way and it usually shuts up our doomsday thinking and John Waynes a tiny bit.

You’ve got this. I believe in you. You need to believe in you, too.




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