Here’s how to stop your inner critic so you can become the best version of yourself.
I grew up with a Yiddish grandmother, so I know that everything is on the table for commentary. Imagine that person that is always around the next corner ready to comment on what you say. It definitely felt like a cat and mouse game, so I’ve learned to scurry around grabbing tiny morsels of sustenance, ever watchful as to not fall into her trap.
The language of the critic is sharp, piercing, and debilitating. It’s fluency to disapprove and analyse everything from appearance, emotions, intelligence is utterly remarkable. What perhaps started as an exterior voice from a concrete “other” then becomes an interior voice that sounds like your own. These spaces are the soil for depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, addictions, and self-destructive behaviours. They kill productivity, intimacy, and confidence.
Imagine the scenario that you are about to make a presentation at work. You are prepared and couldn’t be more ready. Then the cold sweats come, the pit in your stomach, and the raging doubt in your head. All of a sudden you feel like you could get sick, pass out, or both. What happened?
Perhaps there was a presenter before you, and now you are stuck in comparison. Maybe you saw that coworker that intimidates or caught a glance at the boss to see a perceived or real expression across their face and presumed it was disapproval of you.
On a more personal side, imagine the scenario where you are having an enjoyable encounter with a partner. There’s connection and joy. Then the pessimistic thoughts start creeping in and you become worried about your appearance when just a moment prior there was joy.
Whether it is for personal or professional reasons, we’ve got to conquer that beast!
1. Take a deeper breath
When you notice the thoughts spiralling in your head, feel that gripping and tightening in your gut and chest, lengthen your breath. Bring your attention to your breath. Inhale in through your nose and exhale through your mouth while making your exhale longer. Perhaps you use a counting system. Breathe in with the count of 2,4, or 6. Breathe out with corresponding 4,6, or 8. Lengthen the exhale.
“Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” – Frank Sinatra
Befriend the beast, get to know it. Once you are more aware of the running commentary in your head you’ll be able to catch yourself when you are facing that overly critical space.
Recognize its go to shaming statements, “You are so stupid,” “Oh, you really messed that up,” “How could you ever think that they would like your work,” or any and every variation of these statements. Where does shame attack? Identify how it feels in your body, emotions, and mind.
I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and there is not one person that is shielded from the powers and workings of the inner critic. We all have an Achilles heel. The inner critic knows them well, launches out for those vulnerable spaces, and goes on the defensive.
Believe it or not, the inner critic’s primary job is to keep you safe. It does its job well. If you curtail your hopes, aspirations, and goals so as to not risk, the inner critic thinks it’s saving you from a lifetime of embarrassment.
It is also hindering you from soaring into life with purpose and achievement. Accept that the inner critic’s voice is going to be a part of your life. Learn some skills to acknowledge it and move forward.