Do you consider yourself to be your own worst critic? Are negative thoughts paralyzing your ability to begin a task or complete a project?
Self-criticism is a common problem that can feel like a daily uphill battle. Still, it is possible to quiet your inner critic and find success.
Be Aware of Your Self-Criticism:
The first step to quieting your inner critic is awareness. For instance:
- Are you always telling yourself that you’re not good enough?
- Do you go over and over a project until you think it’s “just right?”
- Are you reluctant to try something because you are afraid to fail?
It’s important to realize what brings on your self-criticism and what it sounds like to you. Notice when your inner critic speaks up and what they are saying. Working with a Professional Counselor can help to provide insight as to what triggers your inner critic. It can help you identify patterns and create strategies for quieting your critic.
Practice Mindfulness Exercises for Self-Criticism
Participating in mindfulness exercises such as meditation can help with creating self-criticism awareness. Consider practicing simple breathing exercises that allow you to relax notice the thoughts your brain comes up with when your body is still. Noticing thoughts affords you some distance from them. It gives you the chance to examine and question those critical thoughts instead of just believing them automatically. For example, your brain may think, “You will never get that promotion. You are such a loser!” or “You will never find a partner. You have nothing to offer anyone!” Noticing these thoughts gives you the chance to question them or to counter them.
Develop Counter Phrases for Common Self-Criticisms
Once you are aware of your brain’s common criticisms, you can have ready-made counters to them. Some of the clients I work with call these “mantras” and they are short phrases that remind them of what is true about themselves. For example, if a common self-criticism is “I never get things right”, a mantra could be “Doing my best is enough”. It is important that the mantra/phrase be something you really believe is true. Using positive affirmations have been popular for some time in self-help seminars, but their effectiveness is limited if you do not believe what it is you are saying.
Connect with Your Heart
There are mental health professionals who believe it is enough to just change your thinking in order to quiet your inner critic. I believe it is important to address the hurt that is causing your critic to speak up in the first place. This involves thinking about the first time you ever “heard” the criticism from your inner critic and exploring where it came from. Who first told you that you were a loser or that you would never be able to find a partner? Figuring our whose “voice” that is in your own heart can help to quiet it. Oftentimes, you take on the beliefs of our families, former partners, or past authority figures. As you determine where that criticism came from, you can heal the feelings that come with it and decide whether or not you are going to believe the critical voice anymore.
Use the Buddy System
It can be helpful to have someone you can reach out to when you are being critical of yourself. Ask a trusted friend or family member to be a sounding board you when are feeling beat-up by your inner critic. It can be reassuring to hear from someone who really knows you that the things your inner critic is saying are untrue.
Keep Positive Reminders to Counter Self-Criticism
Have some physical reminders readily visible on a daily basis that can reassure you when you begin hearing self-criticism: For example:
- An award or trophy you have won.
- Degrees or certificates you have earned.
- Photos of your family and friends; people who love and care about you.
- Inspirational quotes that remind you of your inherent value.
Having to live with an inner critic isn’t easy. However, there are ways that you can push back from the self-criticism. By taking a good look at what your inner critic is saying to you and why you are so hard on yourself, you can begin to take positive steps to fight back. You may be your own worst critic, but you don’t have to let that define who you are or how you live your life. It may be helpful for you to explore ways to quiet your inner critic with a Professional Counselor.
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.