How to Stop Being Your Worst Critic

A woman standing outside her car with her shoulders slumped over looking sad

We all know it is there. No one is surprised, but we still usually underestimate the volume and tenacity of our inner critic.

You know the one. When you leave a dinner party and get into your car alone to drive home, it asks, “Why did I say that?” When you scroll through other people’s edited and curated online lives, it says, “I can’t keep up.” When you consider taking a risk to pursue a new idea, it bemoans, “I’ll probably fail.”

Just like the hum of the loud engine of an airplane, when you hear it often enough, you become desensitized to the sound. It becomes this constant vibration—the background noise of your life.

But at what cost? What might we become with a little more internal calm and silence? Here’s a few suggestions for quieting your inner critic:

1. Becoming mindful. 

Mindfulness is all the rage these days, but what is it exactly? It is simply choosing to actively pay attention. Start paying attention. Notice the noise. Notice it.

2. Name it to tame it. 

A phrase popularized by Dan Siegel is, “We cannot tame what we have not yet named.” It is like punching in the dark. You might hit something, but chances are you will miss or just hurt yourself.

Name your inner critic. Call it to account. I see you, inner critic, and I am going to name you for what you are: a tired, critical voice that keeps me from believing in myself.

Name your inner critic. Call it to account.

3. Break up. 

It is time for a DTR (aka Define the Relationship moment). We need to define and then redefine the relationship with your inner critic. It may have existed in a misguided attempt to protect you from vulnerability and hurt, but you have outgrown it. You don’t need it anymore.

Your critic is not your conscience. It is not your motivator, and it is not your friend. It’s time for a breakup. It’s time to say, “Thank you inner critic, but you don’t serve me well anymore.”

4. Build up the good. 

Speak to yourself like you would to someone you dearly love and respect. Gently and kindly point out what you love about yourself and what you are grateful for in your life. This isn’t futile silver lining thinking. We can change the way our brain is wired when we focus on what is true.

We can change the way our brain is wired when we focus on what is true.

5. Feed what you want to grow. 

Have you ever heard that saying about how what you feed will grow and what you starve will die? Well, it is the same way with our internal world. Every time your inner critic pops up, tap your watch and say, “Oh hello, you’re right on time; I was just about to try something new; I expected you.”

Greet your critic. Then, gently turn your attention to a truth to replace the thought such as: “I am brave, and I can try new things. If I fail, it does not diminish my value.” Every time you choose this, you are feeding good thoughts.

6. Give yourself permission to grow. 

Sounds funny, right? However, we are often oddly loyal to our old ways of thinking and to our old habits no matter how unhelpful they are. We put pretty curtains on our prison cells and make the best of it because trying something new is scary. Give yourself permission to enjoy who you are and become a freer version of yourself.

Have you learned to separate truth from the voice of your inner critic? How have you learned to turn down your inner critic and replace her with a voice of compassion?

Image via Sarah Kehoe, Darling Issue No. 16

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