We all have a voice in our heads that criticizes us at times when we are feeling vulnerable. It is the voice that pipes up saying, “Good grief! Everyone is going to think you are incompetent!”
When you are in a business meeting and fail to make a brilliant point. It is the voice that says, “You have to lose weight – you look like a fat slob!” when you are feeling unhappy with the way your body looks. It is the voice that hisses, “You are a pathetic loser!” when you fail to get the job you applied for, or make the sale, or get the partner you wanted. The inner critic is the angry, accusing voice telling you that you are not good-looking enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, etc. It is the voice that says you will never be what others are and you will never measure up.
Everyone has an inner critic. The trick is to not give it too much “air time” in your head.
A solution for dealing with your inner critic is to acknowledge that the voice is actually well-intentioned. Your inner critic wants you to succeed but does not know how to motivate other than through fear. If you dissect the fear, you can decrease the inner critic’s power. When your inner critic is calling you incompetent at work, what is the fear driving that criticism? Maybe is the fear you will lose your job? Maybe it is the fear you will be rejected by your co-workers? Maybe it is the fear you will be passed over for a raise or promotion and have financial difficulty? Whatever the fear is, it can be helpful to name it.
Once the fear has been named, you can then evaluate the evidence supporting or opposing that fear. In the example above if your fear is that you will lose your job, you could counter it with evidence that you have been doing well, such as good performance reviews or conversations you have had with superiors pleased with your work. This process is best accomplished with a trusted friend, partner, or even a therapist who can help you to see the evidence you (and your inner critic) might have overlooked. Then when that same criticism comes up again, you can recognize it as fear, counter it with the evidence and move on. Any time your inner critic speaks up, you can go through this process- identify the fear, evaluate the evidence, and move on. As you gain skill in this process you might hear from your inner critic less often and gain confidence in yourself.
I have over 15 years of experience of working with individuals and families, first in child welfare, and then in mental health counseling. I have a Ph. D in Counseling, and am an Interfaith Minister. I work with clients desiring to include all of the aspects of the self in therapy-emotional and spiritual.