In this mini series the previous 2 posts have focused on recognising the triggers for your inner critic and developing a visualisation to help you connect with it quickly by asking, who is talking right now? This post will bring the series to a close by introducing you to some techniques to quieten self-critical talk and reduce its impact on the way you think about yourself.
1. Realistic v Inner Critic Thinking
I mentioned previously about learning to inserting a pause before you act and questioning what your inner critic is saying. The first technique is designed to help you do that by bringing some realistic thinking into the conversation by asking yourself, ‘is this true?
As you can see from the table below the voice of our inner critic is black and white whereas realistic thinking is inquisitive, curious and open to alternative possibilities and options. It moves you forward and is less black and white in what it says.
|Inner critic talk||Realistic thinking|
|You aren’t good enough to do this.||Is this true? What evidence is there for this?|
|You never stick to anything||Is this true? What things have I stuck at before?|
|No one will think it’s a good idea||Is this true? How do I know this if I don’t share it?|
|You’ll never fit it in with work and family life||How can I make it work for all of us?|
When you are aware of listening to self-critical talk write each statement down and then challenge it with some realistic thinking. “What evidence is there that this is true?” “Have I never really stuck at anything in the whole of my life?’ Put each statement on trial. “It won’t work” – ‘what evidence do I have that it won’t work?’
Being able to distinguish between self-critical thinking and realistic thinking is a really important skill to develop. It opens up possibilities rather than closing them down and it move you away from just accepting self-critical thoughts as being true.
2. Get it out of the room
When you are aware that your inner critic is present one way of quietening it is to get it out of the room. Start by acknowledging its presence and visualising it. Then visualise taking it by the hand, thank it for caring about you, then walk it out of the room and close the door.
3. Make it small
Another visualisation technique is to imagine it drinking from the ‘shrink me’ bottle from Alice in Wonderland. Watch as it gets smaller and smaller. As it shrinks imagine its shout becoming a whisper then a barely audible squeak.
4. Assign it to the bin.
If you notice that you are having lots of inner critic thoughts another way of quietening them down is to literally get them out of your head. Write each one down on a scrap of paper – then one by one screw them up and put them in a bin.
5. Check in with what it is trying to protect you from
As we discovered earlier your inner critic is, in its own misguided way, trying to keep you safe from harm. Maybe it doesn’t want you to fail, or to put yourself under too much pressure. It can be helpful to become curious about what it is trying to protect you from. Strip away the nastiness and see what lies beneath by asking yourself, ‘what am I concerned about in this situation?’ You can then respond to what you discover in a more self-compassionate way and focus your energy in a more constructive way of addressing those concerns.
For example if you’re inner critic is telling you to avoid giving a presentation because you will be too nervous respond with a statement like, “I may get nervous but that’s OK. Everyone feels nervous sometimes”.
Thank it for its concern and reassure it: ‘I’ve got this covered’. You can then focus on ways in which you can reduce your nervousness which is a much more constructive activity than not giving the presentation at all.
A final recap on techniques to quieten self-critical talk
In this series of posts we have covered three approaches to quietening your inner critic:
- Starting to recognise its voice
- Developing a visualisation as a shortcut for recognising it
- Developing some strategies for turning down its volume when it shows up.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that easy? But as you no doubt know it’s not.
This is on going work. The more you use these tools the better you will become at recognising and turning down the volume of your inner critic.
Given it’s focus on keeping us safe from harm our inner critic will always have a voice in our life but hopefully, as you start to do this work, it will become a more balanced voice that doesn’t go unchallenged.
These posts have been reproduced from an ebook I have written. It contains all of the exercises and spaces to complete them. If you would like a copy it can be downloaded here for free – Ebook Quietening Your Inner Critic
Photo courtesy of Michael Nunes via Unsplash.