Challenging Your Inner Critic
We all have an inner critic. It’s that naysaying voice that runs through your mind, telling you that you aren’t good enough or capable enough. It’s the doubt that floods your brain when you’re asked to do something challenging or confronted with a task that forces you to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
This inner critic has the power to make you freeze up, disparage yourself, or feel like a complete failure. In my own life, I’ve had to grapple with this negative inner voice on many occasions. Though I’ve become better at either ignoring it or combating it with positive thoughts, I know it will remain a constant presence. I know I will always have to work on quieting it.
When it’s such a powerful and ever-present force, how can you possibly gain control of your inner narration? How do you swap the critic that lives in your brain for a cheerleader?
Start with these four actions:
- Pay Attention
You can’t combat your inner critic if you’re not paying attention to what it’s saying. What messages are you telling yourself throughout the day? What runs through your head when you’re about to do something that frightens or challenges you?
Start catching your thoughts in action. Once you start paying attention, you may be surprised by all the negative messaging that commandeers your thoughts on a given day.
- Confront Your Inner Critic
Face any negative thoughts head-on. If you catch yourself doubting or criticizing yourself, pause and tell yourself to cut it out! Author and professional speaker Mastin Kipp suggests speaking directly to your inner critic. He emphasizes that everyone makes mistakes and experiences failure, and it’s crucial to be forgiving and gentle with yourself. You’re not perfect, and criticizing yourself won’t help things.
- Turn Around the Narrative
While it’s helpful to recognize and confront the negative narration in your head, it’s not quite enough. Your brain is going to keep humming along, and it has to think about something. Otherwise, it will likely keep returning to those nagging criticisms that come so naturally to many people (myself included!).
Practice filling your mind with either affirmations or gratitude. Affirmations will help bolster your confidence if, for instance, you’re preparing to speak in front of a group, present an idea to your boss, or sit down for an interview. Thoughts of gratitude will help you when you’re stuck in a trough of negativity, and you’re only seeing the downside of a situation.
Practicing gratitude is powerful (for further reading, check out Kevin Clayson’s book, FLIP the Gratitude Switch). If you’re busy focusing on the positive aspects of your life, there will be little room for negativity and self-doubt.
- Surround Yourself With Positive People
I have found time and again, if you keep company with people who are constantly negative and critical, you will begin to take on their world view. Pay attention to those around you. How do they treat others? How do they talk about their day, their workplace, the people they know, and themselves?
If you find that they are overwhelmingly negative, it may be a good idea to seek other company. Make an effort to surround yourself with those who have an optimistic outlook and are looking to grow and improve. Seek those who will support and uplift you through tough times—those who will help bolster your confidence as you work to overcome your negative inner narration.
Attempting to reject your inner critic and take hold of your personal narrative is no easy task. I know how difficult it can be to tamp down feelings of doubt and disparagement. I know it’s not always easy to turn around negative thoughts and embrace a positive mentality. But, it’s not impossible, and you can do it. Be patient with yourself, keep trying, and recognize that taking control of your inner narrative doesn’t mean you’ll never have moments of self-doubt and criticism—it simply means you’ll start to recognize that naysaying voice when it crops up and you’ll know how to deal with it. Instead of letting your inner voice run rampant, seize the narrative and start telling your own story—a story filled with confidence and triumphs, instead of criticisms and defeats.