“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
Most of us have a hate-hate relationship with our inner critic. In fact, it’s a bully, not a critic. My mom used to say “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. And yet my inner critic must have missed that because he sure has a lot to say. None of it nice…
For years I listened to him telling me I wasn’t good enough to be a writer. That only a select few could make their living that way and I didn’t have the talent. In fact, he didn’t think I was much good at anything. Every time I found a new job, he found a new way to sting. He was ready to fail at everything and was not shy about expressing his opinions whenever he wanted.
He would comment on everything! From my income, education and romantic life to body type, hobbies and interests and past decisions made. He blamed me for those poor decisions and made it clear that I ended up where I was because of them. I not only deserved that unhappy, unfulfilled fate, he said, I deserved even worse!
He always won. Kicked me when I was down. How could I battle such a determined, forceful foe? He ruled with an iron fist. I tried to push him to the back of my mind but that was nothing but a temporary solution to quiet the noise. Another self-defeating behavior.
Pushing thoughts to the back of the mind never address or resolves our issues. Nothing gets accomplished. You only empower neural pathways in which the negative thought traveled, thus strengthening the resulting limiting behavior.
That is why a dysfunctional behavior is so powerful. It’s rooted in the brain and to break from it, I needed to create a new neural pathway. To replace the dark and dreary one that existed with one that was bright and positive and productive.
That meant trying something different. Something new. Something that was not scientific but rather spiritual. Visceral. After one particularly brutal put-down, I chose to react in a way that I had not done before. Maybe it was because I reached my limit. Maybe it was because I finally realized that the old way of doing things wasn’t working, I am not sure? Something made me change my reaction that day. And the change in my reaction changed my life. Here are the three things I did:
3 Quick Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic
1. Ask One Question
I let him say whatever he wanted to, uninterrupted, unfiltered. I didn’t try to push it to the back of my brain and I didn’t try to quiet the noise. Instead, I let him finish his tirade and I asked him to provide one single ounce of proof that what he was saying was true. He was so adamant that I wasn’t good enough yet he could not produce a single fact to prove it. And he knew it. That took away the fire behind his words and put me in the driver’s seat! Asking that question was critical and made me see that his words were just that. Words.
2. Put a Face on It
I used an effective visualization technique to put a face to this force. Doing that provided me with a connection with something human. He was no longer an unseen, mystical presence. I took the unknown out of the equation by giving him the face of my 3-year old self. I know I wasn’t cruel and didn’t speak to anyone that way. And I knew that by putting such a face to him that I would always respect his voice and hear him out. After all, if I wanted that courtesy in return, I needed to give it first. Most importantly, he didn’t seem angry and hateful anymore.
3. Befriend it
True friends don’t talk down to or disrespect their friends. True friends may say things that are out of line but they have the character to apologize for it and make it right. By befriending my inner critic, I instilled a level of trust and respect between us. I knew he wouldn’t put me down the way he did in the past. Because friends don’t do that.
Understanding is ingrained within the boundaries of friendship. I know that when my inner critic speaks up, his intentions are good. He is trying to protect me and keep me safe, just like humankind has been conditioned to do. When my critic screams the loudest, it means I am taking chances pursuing my dreams and ambitions. That is scary and takes courage. It requires failure on some level, the thing we’ve been taught to avoid! That’s why he gets loud. But now I just smile and say “Thanks. I know you have my back. I don’t need it now. I’ll let you know when I do”.
Some may say this is a strange way to get results. Others may roll their eyes and refuse to try.
If you’re exhausted from the endless fighting with your inner critic I urge you to give this technique a try. You have nothing to lose.
Quieting my inner critic has helped in achieving many goals. It has annihilated much of the anger I stored inside. It gave me the confidence to pursue my life’s purpose. It also helped me see life through a lens of hope and possibility.
You can do the same. Today. Choose not to fight with your inner critic. Treat him with love. Be kind and gentle. And ask him to provide one fact to prove what he is saying is true. Chances are, he won’t be able to. That’s when change happens. That’s when you get to sit in the driver’s seat. That’s when you take back power in your life. Just imagine what your life will look like when you do!