Everyone has one.
Most people want to shut up, destroy, annihilate, or otherwise quiet that voice in their head that says things like, that was a stupid thing to say, or you look so fat today, you’re dumb, you’ll never get anywhere in life. I’m sure you can add your own.
Your inner critic is the voice that monitors your every act, word, and thought.
When it’s out of control, your inner critic can rule your life and ruin your self esteem. It can fill your mind with fears and worse case scenarios.
But what would happen if instead of trying to shut your inner critic up, you would listen to it? I don’t mean listen as in taking its words as true. I mean listen as hear what it’s saying, think about it, and then make your own decision whether or not to believe it.
What would it be like if you viewed your inner critic not in the sense of negative critical messages that should be dismissed, but as a cautious voice that can be helpful if its understood?
How it works is this; your inner critic makes a remark like, “You’re going to mess up this presentation.” So instead of just dwelling on the negative thinking and giving it power, you spend a couple of minutes critically thinking about it. How would I mess up the performance? Is that something that could realistically happen? If so, what can I do to fix it?
You can view your inner critic as a negative force weighing down on you, or it can be a tool that you use to discern your strengths and weaknesses.
There are two crucial points here.
The first is that your inner critic is neither good nor bad. It points out your insecurities, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s kind of like a coach. Sometimes it can have valid points, and sometimes it makes mountains out of mole hills.
The second is that the more thought and attention you give to a particular idea or internal message, the more power you imbue it with. Dwelling or ruminating on fears is draining and can make you paralyzed with fear.
People often want to categorize their inner voice as a bad thing or a good thing. It’s like the image of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Fortunately, this is not the case.
The voice in our head that monitors what we’re doing is not good or bad. It’s just a very observant piece of ourselves whose power is determined on what we listen to and dwell on.
As you listen to your inner critic today, try and hear what it’s really saying. Where is the truth? What is coming out of a place of fear or insecurity? How can you use it to grow?
One thing I’ve learned over the years as a therapist is that the world is anything but black and white. Often the things we run away from are the very things that can teach us the most.
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