Criticism is an interesting tool in that it can build or destroy.
The right kind of criticism can help you detect flaws, find solutions, and create something beautiful.
The wrong kind of criticism is harmful without reason, undermines confidence, and threatens to destroy what it touches.
Unfortunately, your inner critic seems to dish out more of the wrong kind rather than the right kind. That inner critic doesn’t reflect reality when it tells you that you’re not enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not skilled enough, you’re a fraud, or whatever else it tries to tear you down.
The truth is that our inner voice is shaped long before we ever have a say in the matter. The inner voice starts to form in childhood and reflects how the child is spoken to by adults. So, suppose the adults in your childhood were unkind or abusive toward you. In that case, your inner voice will be far more critical, negative, and abusive. But if the adults in your childhood were loving and kind, your inner voice will also be loving and kind.
Terribly unfair, right? It’s not your fault you found yourself in that position. But there is good news! You can actually shift your inner voice to one of greater kindness. You can counter the negative thoughts and criticism your brain is churning out at you.
The question is, how do you do that?
1. Develop your mindfulness.
Mindfulness isn’t just a trendy word in the self-help space. The art of mindfulness is to focus your thoughts and attention on the present moment so that you are not acting on autopilot.
That’s a helpful tool to have because many of the negative thoughts and behaviors we have are reactionary. Something happens, and your brain responds to it before thinking about it.
The goal of mindfulness is to bring your mind to the present moment so you can exert greater control over what is happening.
For example, let’s say you write a paper. You finish up, go back and read it, and the first thing that pops in your head when you’re done is, “This is garbage. Why did I even bother?” It’s not even a conscious thought or choice to think that. It pops out of your subconscious because that’s the kind of self-talk that other people have implanted in you.
Mindfulness helps because you can introduce gaps to realign your thoughts. So, to continue the example, you know you have a negative inner critic that will find anything and everything wrong. You know that when you finish that paper and read it, your brain will tell you, “This is garbage.” So, instead of letting that happen, you can prepare to interrupt those thoughts when they come.
And when you finish reading the paper, you can interrupt that voice and replace it with conscious thoughts of, “I am good enough. This is good enough. It may need a little more work, but everything can use some editing.”
But you can only do that if you’re paying attention to the present moment.
2. Criticize yourself as you would a friend.
Everyone needs a little critical feedback from time to time. It’s good to have people around you who will give you the honest truth, even if you aren’t keen on hearing it.
However, the way you deliver that kind of critical truth matters a lot. You can’t just yell and scream it at a person. The other person isn’t going to listen if you just try to bash them over the head with it and insult them.
Why would you expect it to work any differently for you? Many people are perfectly okay with trashing themselves internally. Still, they wouldn’t dream of speaking an unkind word to people they care about.
A good way to approach the problem is to speak to yourself similarly as you’d speak to a friend or loved one. But, again, this comes back to mindfulness and the reactionary nature of our inner critic. Yes, you will probably hear that negative voice spew its bile instinctively. However, you don’t have to sit and dwell in the negativity. Instead, you can correct it with kind words that still reflect reality.
Inner critic: “You’re not good enough. Your work is not good enough.”
Your response: “I am good enough. And though this isn’t quite done yet, I need to work on it a bit more until it’s done.”
3. Don’t compare yourself to others.
A lot of self-criticism comes from the desire to be good or better. The question is: better than whom?
Competition can be healthy. It’s okay to compete against yourself and other people. Who doesn’t want to do well at the things they do? That is a totally fair and reasonable thing.
However, your inner critic will feed and thrive off your comparisons. If you look at someone else’s work and think, “I’ll never be that good,” then your inner critic will receive that ammunition to wound you with. The more you compare yourself to others and find yourself lacking, the stronger your inner critic becomes, and the more harm it causes you. This makes it even harder to break out of those cycles.
Don’t worry about what other people are doing or how good they are at it. There’s always someone better out there. It doesn’t matter how good you are. And, in the remote event that you happen to be the absolute best at this one thing in this whole world of seven billion people, it won’t last. Sooner or later, someone will be better. That’s just the way it is. No sense in fighting it.
What matters is that you don’t have to compete directly with other people to get things done. A healthier approach is to either compete with yourself or don’t compete at all. Just do the thing you want to do.
Competing with yourself, while a good option, may not be the right option until you start reining in that inner critic. That can easily turn into “I should have done better. This isn’t good enough.” The best approach may be to avoid that altogether until you can create a kinder mental space for yourself.
4. Stop ruminating.
There is a fine line between thinking about a thing and ruminating on the thing. Rumination is a word that describes dwelling on a particular thing, usually negative. So, for example, let’s say you make a mistake at work. It was silly, costly, and one you should not have made. And you think about that mistake every day for weeks. Finally, it’s no longer relevant. The problem got sorted out, everyone’s moved on, and you’re on to the next project.
But you don’t stop thinking about it. Instead, you just keep thinking about how stupid you must have been to make such a silly mistake. Even when you aren’t thinking about it, you may dredge it back out of your memory. Or maybe you make another mistake at work and can’t help but think about that past mistake too.
Rumination is a really easy way to ruin your own peace and happiness. Unfortunately, it is also an ideal fuel for your inner critic. After all, most people ruminate on the negative things they’ve done, mistakes they’ve made, or their regrets.
Force yourself to stop thinking about these things. If you return to these negative things, distract yourself with an activity or other thoughts. Instead, do something that makes you happy, remind yourself of positive things, or try replacing the language in your brain with something kinder and more understanding.
You may wish to read our article for more information: How To Stop Ruminating: 12 Tips That Actually Work!
5. Don’t ignore the thoughts. Challenge them instead.
Many people try to ignore their inner critic. They want to drown it out in silence or just try to speak over it with positivity. This doesn’t typically work because it’s not addressing the beliefs behind it. A better way to go about it is to examine what your inner critic is trying to say and shift it into kinder words.
For example, your inner critic may tell you, “You look terrible. Look at everything wrong with you…” And that is quite unkind. But is that what your inner critic is trying to communicate to you? In thinking about it more, you may find that your inner critic is attempting to keep you from taking a chance that may result in rejection or pain.
Your brain is telling you that you don’t look good enough, so hopefully, you’ll listen to that negativity and not expose yourself to the risk. And remember, that voice is negative likely because of how you were spoken to and treated as a child. Your subconscious may not know how to express those doubts and fears in a kind or understanding way.
Don’t ignore those negative thoughts when they come. Instead, examine them, challenge them, and shift them into a more loving language. You may even find that your inner critic shifts its voice to be kinder and more compassionate as you work to unwind those negative thoughts.
6. Avoid criticizing others with unkind language.
As we’ve previously established, sometimes people need to hear things they don’t want to hear. Sometimes they do mean, unkind, or insensitive things that need to be called out.
However, before criticizing someone, understand that the language you use to address them will stick with you.
You will find that you use the same language you choose if you use hostility, unkind words, and name-calling. Practicing kindness to others is practicing kindness to yourself. So stop, think, and really consider the language you use when you talk to other people. Is it necessary? Is it kind? And remember, kind doesn’t necessarily mean nice, but that also doesn’t mean belittling.
7. Would you use this language with a child?
Consider if you were talking to yourself as a small child. What kind of language would you use to talk to them? Would you tell them they aren’t good enough? Are they not smart enough? Aren’t they good-looking enough? That they’re lazy? Unlovable? Whatever it is that your inner critic is telling you?
Of course, you wouldn’t! So, why do you deserve to be spoken to that way by anyone? And that anyone does include yourself.
8. Start a gratitude journal with positive affirmations.
A gratitude journal can be a powerful tool to help shift your mind into something positive. By journaling out the things you have gratitude for in your life, you can then go back to that and remind yourself when your brain is down.
Take some time to find the things you appreciate about yourself. List out your accomplishments, skills, things you’ve learned, and experiences you’ve had.
And if you haven’t had much of that in your life, consider what makes you unique. Do you have any special interests? Special talents that need developing? Are you surrounded by loving friends and family? Are you a loving friend or family member to others?
Supplement those bits of information with positive affirmations and quotes that help boost you up. It doesn’t have to be super-complicated or anything. Just small things like “You are good enough,” “You deserve to be happy,” and “Be kind to yourself today” can all make a major difference when you go back to them regularly.
Inner criticism isn’t always bad or a terribly negative voice. Sometimes we need critical feedback on who we are and what’s going on in our lives. And sometimes you’ll be the best person to sort that out. So, although you are here to learn how to quiet your inner critic, you may find that you just need to be more selective about what you do and don’t listen to when it speaks.
And by implementing the advice above, you may find that your inner critic becomes a bit kinder and more loving, and little less cruel.
You may also like:
- How To Stop Being Self-Critical: 7 Highly Effective Tips!
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- 9 Ways To Be Kind To Yourself – What It Really Means
- 8 Effective Ways To Stop Negative Thoughts From Taking Root In Your Head
- How To Be Your Own Best Friend: 10 No Nonsense Tips
- How To Stop Beating Yourself Up: 7 Highly Effective Tips
- If You Feel Like A Disappointment To Yourself Or Others, Read This