How To Outwit Your Inner Critic
We all have that little voice inside our heads that tells us we’re not good enough, smart enough, or confident enough. Our inner critical voice can be relentless and debilitating. Even though we cannot get rid of this voice entirely, we can implement some clever tricks to help us not take it so seriously.
What Does the Inner Critical Voice Say?
You aren’t smart enough to pull that off.
This outfit makes you look fat.
You are ruining your kids.
You aren’t cool enough to hang out with her, you’re too much of a dork.
What were you thinking? You can’t do anything right.
Don’t speak up, you will only make a fool out of yourself.
Sure, you did it this time, but it was a fluke. You’ll screw up the next time around. You always do.
Listening to your inner critical voice can impact your confidence and your mood. It can be cynical, demeaning, and demanding and that will affect the way you show up for the day ahead. When you listen to it, you are less likely to take action possibly out of fear of failure or rejection. So instead of moving forward with your goals and dreams, you stay put avoiding the very opportunities that would lead to growth and success.
Where Does The Inner Critic Come From?
Your inner critical voice is usually shaped by how you were spoken to as a child. Interestingly enough, if you tune in to your inner critical voice, you might even be able to identify whose voice it is. Typically, your inner critical voice sounds like someone from your past. It might be a family member, teacher, or bully you used to run into when you attended school.
As mothers, it is even more important for us to be aware of how we talk to our children as well as how we talk about ourselves out loud in front of them. What we say now influences the inner conversations they will have with themselves in the future.
In Psychology Today, Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D. writes “The more negative the adults are when they talk and interact with the child, the bigger the inner critic voice becomes. Whereas, the more positively the adults talk to the child, the bigger, more positive, and loving the inner voice is. This process lasts throughout our whole lives.”
Taking action by not giving in to our inner critic can have a positive impact on our life and how we talk with others. By using positive language with our children we can build them up in confidence and raise their securities.
How to Outwit Your Inner Critical Voice
It would be nice to banish our inner critic forever, but it is with us for good. You don’t have to play victim to your inner critic. You can take charge and show it who’s boss by practicing new strategies to address your inner critic. Here are 14 ways you can outwit your inner critical voice:
1. Observe Your Inner Critical Voice
Just noticing your inner critical voice and separating it from your own can weaken its power over you. Your thoughts control your emotions and can impact the action you take. By recognizing the thoughts that you carry throughout your day, you can build some self-awareness around your inner critic. Observe your inner critical voice without judgement and take note of what its trying to say in its own harsh way. Take note of what’s important and learn to let go of what isn’t by showing yourself some self-compassion.
2. Give your Inner Critical Voice a Name
Another clever trick to soften your inner critical voice is to name your inner critic as you see fit. In Disney Pixar’s film Luca, when Luca’s inner critic (he names Bruno), begins to fill Luca’s head with doubt and fear. Luca shouts out ‘Silenzio Bruno!’
By giving your inner critic a name, you can separate your thoughts from your inner critic and be able to question it when it rears its ugly head. Take back your power by separating yourself from your inner critic.
3. Visualize Your Inner Critic
Now that your inner critic has a name, visualize your inner critic. What does he or she look like? Do you have a picture of it in your head? Maybe it is a grumpy old lady or an angry green gremlin. If it looks scary to you try visualizing it a quarter its size or make it gigantic. Have it try on a purple wig. Play around with the idea of what your inner critic looks like to create more distance between you and it.
4. Change The Sound of Your Inner Critical Voice
Change the sound of your inner critical voice to sound goofy to help you not take your inner critic so seriously. You can use the voice of cartoon characters like Donald Duck, Zazu from the Lion King, or Bugs Bunny. Or imagine your negative inner critic with the voice of a famous actor. Try saying the phrase out loud in robot voice or sing it to the tune of Yankee Doodle or another familiar tune. These are all great tricks to break us away from identifying with our inner critic’s voice and help ease up the tension.
5. Determine Your Inner Critic Type
Discover the ways your inner critic is more likely to manifest by taking the Exercise The Inner Critic Questionnaire. By answering a series of 28 questions and calculating your score, you can get a clearer idea of what type or types of inner critic you deal with most often. The seven categories included in this questionnaire are the perfectionist, the inner controller, the taskmaster, the underminer, the destroyer, the guilt tripper, and the molder. It even shares some ideas for how you could visualize your inner critic by category. This is just another way to step back and analyze your inner critic, grow in self-awareness and separate yourself from the noise.
6. Replace Should with Could
If you hear your inner voice using the word ‘should’ in its phrase, try replacing the word ‘should’ with ‘could’ to make the phrase less rigid.
‘I should do the dishes.’ vs. ‘I could do the dishes.’
‘I should lose weight.’ vs. ‘I could lose weight.’
‘I should call my family more.’ vs. ‘I could call my family.’
7. Argue with Your Inner Critical Voice
Inner Critic: ‘You aren’t doing it right.‘
Me: ‘Well, I don’t know if this will work until I try, Karen.’
Inner Critic: ‘Yeah, but what if it doesn’t work and then you just wasted all this time?’
Me: ‘Then I will learn what doesn’t work and I will try something different.’
Inner Critic: *silence*
Serenity now! Usually, we avoid the inner critic by either distracting ourselves or giving in to it by giving up. Sometimes it works to get into a bit of a debate with your inner critic and challenge it to a duel. But if it is persistent and you feel like you can’t win, don’t sweat. Move on to a different tactic.
8. Re-phrase your Inner Critical Voice
If you listen in to your inner critical voice you might notice that it uses ‘I’ statements. Restate your ‘I’ statements to ‘you’ statements. For example, change:
‘I am a failure’ to ‘you are a failure.’
‘I am stupid’ to ‘you are stupid.’
This is yet another trick to help you to disconnect from the inner critical voice as identifying it with your own.
9. Leave Yourself a Voice Message
Lighthearts UK shares an interesting method of addressing your inner bully by confronting it by voicemail.
- Pick up the phone and leave yourself a mean voice message. Get into character sharing all the mean and nasty things your inner critic tells you.
- Give yourself a 15-minute tea break to decompress and gather yourself up and then listen to that voice message.
- Analyze your inner critic’s voice. Does it remind you of anything?
- Next, call your inner critic and fight back in defending yourself, refusing to believe its lies.
- After deleting the message from your inner critic, leave yourself a wonderful voicemail filled with affirmations and all the reasons you appreciate you.
If someone called you and treated you like your inner critic would treat you, you probably wouldn’t speak to that person ever again. You would put whatever boundaries in place to keep them as far away from you as possible. This reality check, can be helpful in doing just that. These exercises being shared in this post are similar to placing boundaries on your inner critic.
10. Use Affirmations
It’s funny how we can believe something about ourselves when we are feeling confident, yet when we are in a low mood we have trouble finding good things to say about ourselves. It is a struggle to recall your strengths when you are in the thick of a confrontation with your inner critic.
One trick to manage this is when you are feeling good about yourself, write down a list in your journal of all your achievements. You can also write down everything that you love about yourself and why you are simply amazing. The next time your inner critical voice comes out and you are at a loss of compassionate words for yourself, you can refer to what you said when you were feeling your best.
11. Comfort Your Inner Child
If your inner bully is coming out, take a moment to reconnect with your inner child. Allow yourself to feel the pain of those words. Then allow your adult self to ask your inner child what they need at that moment. As you would comfort your child, comfort yourself and give yourself what it is you need whether that be a hug, just to be heard, or just to be still with yourself as you process through your emotions.
12. Practice Self-Compassion
Dr. Kristen Neff, the pioneering self-compassion teacher shares that most of us choose one of four strategies when we hear our inner critical voices rise:
Fight — we beat ourselves up emotionally, using cruel language to cut ourselves down.
Flight — we become anxious and restless, fleeing from ourselves by numbing out or using distractions like food or alcohol.
Freeze — we get stuck in rumination, thinking about our perceived inadequacies over and over again.
Submit — we admit that yes, we’re terrible, and accept all the harsh judgments we throw at ourselves.
Instead of falling into these automatic responses, she encourages us to show compassion to our inner critic. She encourages us to look at our inner critic as just trying to do its job which is to be helpful and motivating. (Though it sure does have a way of putting things doesn’t it 😉)
13. Practice an Inner-Critical Voice Meditation
14. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Be aware of what influences you are taking in on your day to day. That includes what you are watching on Netflix, what music you listen to, and the people you choose to surround yourself with. These all have an influence on your inner critic and let’s just say she is highly impressionable.
Build supportive friendships that are positive and uplifting. They will help you stay motivated and keep you moving forward even when your inner critic wants to bring you down.
Wrapping Up: 14 Ways to Soften Your Inner Critic
Our inner critical voice can be incredibly harsh. Become aware of how your inner critical voice affects your mood and actions by practicing non-judgmental observation. Take steps to soften that voice by giving your inner critic a name and image.
Use clever tricks to outwit your inner critical voice like rephrasing how and what it is saying. Practice self-compassion through by practicing meditation, using affirmations, and connecting with your inner child self to bring in loving kindness and connect with your inner nurturer. The more you practice addressing your inner critic, the quieter it will become.