Silencing the Inner Critic that Destroys your Dreams

We all have them, those little voices inside us that tell us that we’re being ridiculous when we say the wrong things or dream too big. Inner critics annoyingly whisper criticisms and judgments to all of us. There’s no sense in denying that you engage in negative self-talk, instead, you better just learn to befriend those destructive commentators.
Negative Self-talk

 

My encounter with my inner critic

If you get my newsletter, you might remember that I was at a life-changing retreat* a few months ago. It was a 2-week course given in a tiny isolated community, tucked away in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Mountain retreat

The course was all about things I love: personal discovery and development, spiritual growth and connection, community building, collaboration, all with the purpose of making the world a better place. The beautiful, vast mountain landscape was like the cherry on top of this getaway treat.

On day 2 of this course, I was presented to the creator of hurdles and destroyer of optimism and confidence inside me, my inner critic. I knew about the effects of negative self-talk but never came face to face with this beast of mine.

We did an activity where we had to make a list the different things our inner critic says to us, and do a roleplaying activity to practice confronting it. When I finally came face to face with the voice of my inner commentator, I was completely stunned. I couldn’t believe the way this monster talked to me. Although I knew about my critics, until I came face to face with that overly aggressive, shouting voice, I never realized how damaging it could be.

The course was filled almost daily ah-ha moments, but the damage that my inner critic was doing to me, stayed as one of the top 3 biggest takeaways.

 

 

What is an inner critic?

An inner critic is the negative self-talk you internally engage in. It’s the voice inside your head that puts you down. It’s like a horribly mean, toxic friend, who just tells you how much you suck, how much of a jerk you are, and how incapable you are of doing anything.

Our inner critics all tell us different types of put-downs, based on what we’re most insecure about, or things you hold special judgments towards. It clings to weaknesses and destroys moral whenever it can.

The inner critic can put us down with the words it says, the tone it uses or even its constant presence throughout our days. Its persistence and obnoxiousness can be exhausting.

For me, the biggest shocker was how much the tone of my inner critic affected me. I knew the shitty words my internal voice said to me and had become pretty good at ignoring them. But what I didn’t realize was that this toxic inner commentator was yelling at me. It was aggressive and completely condescending with its tone. It was like a drill sergeant was living in my head.

via GIPHY

 

Inner critic examples

To help you better understand what your inner critic might be telling you, I’d like to present to you a few characters that seem to come up quite a bit.

The Perfectionist

This inner voice sets unrealistic expectations that you will never meet. It sets you up for failure by demanding nothing short of perfection. If it isn’t perfect than this voice says it completely sucks and isn’t worth doing. There’s no space for error or learning from mistakes.

Things it might say

  • How could you screw that up? You’re such an idiot.
  • You never do it right!
  • If you’re not gonna do it right, don’t bother doing it at all.

 

Past Addict

via GIPHY

 This inner commentator isn’t able to let go of mistakes you’ve made in the past. It takes away your freedom by gripping onto “wrongs” you might have done towards people or in certain circumstances. It’s constantly reminding you of how you need to act and behave to make sure you don’t screw it up again. It holds you completely accountable for all things it decides you did wrong.

Things it might say

  • You already screwed up a friendship once doing that, don’t do it again.
  • Laura got mad at you when you told her that, so don’t even think about telling anyone else.
  • Last time I changed jobs, it was a huge mistake. I was miserable. So, forget about ever-changing jobs again.

 

Center-Stage Phobic

This inner critic voice likes to make sure you stay as small and invisible as possible. It throws jabs at your self-esteem and confidence to make sure you don’t ever shine too bright or draw too much attention to yourself.

Things it might say

  • Ok, maybe you did (accomplished some great achievement), but don’t go around telling anyone about it! No one likes people who toot their own horn.
  • Stop being a show-off!
  • Just because you (accomplished some great achievement), doesn’t mean you aren’t still a complete fool.

 

The Beast

the beast like inne critic

This negative self-talk is a real beast; it’s bold, aggressive and shameful. It puts you down and makes sure you have a hard time getting back up and back on track. This voice’s domineering ways has the ability to make you feel as though you aren’t entitled to anything. It’ll make you feel worthless.

Things it might say

  • Why are you always so stupid!
  • No one likes you, stop even imagining they would.
  • You are unlovable, so just stop thinking anyone will ever want to date you!

 

The Status Quo Seeker

via GIPHY

This internal character will always be seeking other’s approval and fitting in. It doesn’t want you to be too weird, too funny, too fashionable, too eccentric or any way that makes you different from the norm. It likes for you to as regular as possible.

Things it might say

  • You can’t wear that, what would they think.
  • I don’t care if you’re not happy, working for a big corporation is just what you have to do!
  • Stop talking about being a vegetarian so much, people won’t want to talk to you anymore.

 

The Champion

This commentator needs to always be the best. It doesn’t accept mediocracy or just getting by, it needs you to excel and be better than others in whatever area of life it’s decided is most important.

Things it might say

  • You can’t relax! How are you ever going to beat Fred for that promotion if you relax?
  • There’s no time for your girlfriend this week, you need to work out every single night if you are going to be the strongest!
  • Study, study, study! Until that exam, there’s no time for even eating. You need to be at the top of your class!

 

Silencing the inner critic

So now that you probably have a better idea of how unbeneficial all this negative self-talk is, I’m sure you’re wondering how to get those voices to shut the hell up.

Follow these stops to get acquainted with these inner critics of yours and get them to quiet down.

1 Make a list of the inner critics that most impact you. You don’t need to stick to the examples I gave above. Just take some time to become aware of the voices and what they say. Meditation or journaling might be good tools to help you here.

Write these things down, give each voice a name and explain the things it says.

Inner critic

 

2 Answer the following questions about each of the voices on your list.

  • Is what it says true?
  • How do you know that it’s true? Do you have any evidence?
  • Do you benefit from what the voice tells you? How is it trying to help you?
  • How would you feel without its presence?
  • If you didn’t have this voice, would the story of who you are change?

 

3 Role play through conversations with your inner demons. If you have someone who might be interested in working through this with you, take turns speaking for each other’s negative self-talk voices.

If you have to do this solo, then write down how the conversations would go and either practice them out loud or if you prefer, you can do it in your head.

Use these conversations to learn how to quiet those voices. Maybe confronting them with humor, with patience and kindness or maybe being more straightforward and direct is might be what works best. Or maybe thank them for their concern and help, but let them know that you don’t need their support.

Practice what you will tell them when they come up in your head.

 

4 Accept them as part of who you are. Don’t try to push them away, or deny their existence. If you do they’ll just speak up louder and try to get more attention.

If you allow them to just exist, then it becomes easier to get them to quiet down and stop calling the shots.

 

5 Regularly have the rehearsed conversations with them. Create a habit of stopping them in their critiquing tracks, and reminding them that you don’t require their assistance. These internal voices aren’t in charge, you are.

 

If you are looking to create a life that is designed specifically for you, quieting down the negative self-talk is key to moving forward constructively. I should warn you, this is a super hard thing to confront. It may cause tears, a bit of panic and massive scary realizations of the shenanigans going on in your head. But once you confront those beasts, they are much easier to tame. Then, once tamed, they no longer get to take the reins of your life, you do!

my kingdom

* If ever you’re interested in learning more about the retreat I mentioned in the first part of the article, click here or here.

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