Many of us find that we’re constantly being harassed by a judging, demeaning, critical inner voice. When we try to do something new, the voice tells us that we’re going to fail. When we suffer a setback, the voice tells us that we’ll never amount to anything. And when we do our best, the voice tells us that our best will never be good enough.
That inner voice goes by many names: inner critic, inner gremlin, inner demon, and so on. Uncontested, it can cause a myriad of problems, including performance fear, procrastination, self-doubt, guilt, shame, and more. Whatever you decide to call it–if you want to be happy and if you want to achieve your goals–, this voice needs to be dealt with. Below you’ll discover three ways to silence your inner critic.
The three ways are the following:
- Seligman’s Three Step-Technique
- Using IFS to Silence Your Inner Critic
- Develop Your Inner Champion and Your Inner Mentor
Seligman’s Three-Step Technique
Martin Seligman, PhD, is the founder of positive psychology and author of the book “Learned Optimism”. He refers to the voice of your inner critic as “catastrophic thoughts”. Seligman has a technique to combat these thoughts, which consists of the following three steps:
First. You recognize that you’re having a catastrophic thought.
Second. You learn to treat that thought as if it were being said by some third person who’s trying to make your life miserable. For example, if the catastrophic thought is about your work, pretend that it’s being said by someone who wants the same promotion that you’re gunning for. As another example, if the catastrophic thought involves someone you’re interested in, pretend that it’s being said by someone who’s a rival for that person’s affection.
Third. You dispute the thought—just as you would dispute a co-worker saying negative things about you to your boss—and you marshal evidence against it.
Seligman indicates that if you follow these three steps consistently, gradually you’ll get better and better at neutralizing catastrophic thoughts. That is, you’ll gradually diminish the hold that the inner critic has on you. (Source).
Using IFS to Silence Your Inner Critic
Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is a new form of psychotherapy developed by psychologist Richard Schwartz. IFS recognizes that our psyches are made up of many different parts, sometimes called subpersonalities. It’s like having lots of little people inside your head, each with its own perspectives, feelings, memories, goals, and motivations.
All of these little people make up your internal community or family. Here are some examples of the different subpersonalities you may have inside your head:
- The Criticized Child
- The Loving Caretaker
- The Angry Voice
- The Manager
- A part of you that wants to get things done.
- A part of you that wants to procrastinate.
And, of course, there’s the Inner Critic. IFS holds that none of these voices wants to hurt you; they’re just acting from their own viewpoints and trying to further their own agendas. What you need to do is to treat them as a family by doing the following:
- Speak to each part separately and try to figure out what it wants.
- Try to work out a compromise between the different parts. You want to look for a way in which your different parts can work with each other more constructively.
In the book “Self-Therapy for Your Inner Critic: Transforming Self Criticism into Self-Confidence”, Jay Earley, PhD, and Bonnie Weiss, LCSW, explain that the inner critic is a protector. Among other things, it wants to keep you safe from failure and humiliation, and it figures that the best way to do this is by preventing you from trying anything new. One way it seeks to accomplish this is by judging and discouraging you.
Earley and Weiss indicate that once you realize that your inner critic is just trying to look out for you—albeit in a very misguided way—you can befriend your inner critic. Try negotiating with your inner critic on the best way to protect you. Once it feels that its concerns are being acknowledged, the inner critic is more likely to be reasonable.
In addition, there may be a part of you—most likely the Criticized Child—that feels hurt by the things that the inner critic says. Try befriending that part of you with love and compassion. See who else is hanging around and listen to what they have to say.
In a way you can become a therapist to your own inner family so that each voice—including your inner critic—begins to talk in a way that is more conducive to your happiness and to the achievement of your goals.
Develop Your Inner Champion and Your Inner Mentor
Developing your Inner Champion and your Inner Mentor is another technique offered by Earley and Weiss. In their book, “Activating Your Inner Champion Instead of Your Inner Critic”, they argue that you can develop an inner aspect of yourself that they call the Inner Champion.
Your Inner Champion supports and encourages you. It’s that voice in your head that helps you to do the following:
- Recognize your intrinsic self-worth.
- Realize that you’re OK as you are.
- Encourage you to be who you are.
Earley and Weiss explain that one way to think of your Inner Champion is as “the ideal supportive parent you always wished you had”.
Think of someone who has really high self-esteem. Others may criticize that person, but their self-confidence acts as a buffer against these criticisms. In the same way, your Inner Champion can help you to develop the self-esteem that you need to protect you from the inner critic’s negative comments.
The Inner Mentor is a transformation of the Inner Critic. Let’s face it: sometimes your Inner Critic is right (or at least partially right). We all need to take a good look at ourselves and ask whether there are some changes that we need to make, or if there’s room for improvement. Here are some examples:
- You may have hurt someone unnecessarily.
- You may be overdoing it with the doughnuts and you really should cut back.
- You may have set a goal that’s such a stretch from your comfort zone that it’s unlikely that you’ll take the steps necessary in order to achieve it.
The Inner Critic tries to tell you these things. However, it tells you in a way that chips away at your self-confidence and your self-esteem. That is, the problem isn’t with the message, but with the way in which the message is being delivered.
Therefore, you need to work on ways to transform the voice of your Inner Critic into a wiser, gentler voice that helps you to grow and better yourself without being harsh or nasty. Your Inner Mentor is a healthy version of your Inner Critic.
While some people have stronger inner critics than others, we all have an inner critic. And we’ve all given in to our inner critic at one time or another and failed to go after what we really wanted. Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with your inner critic. Try the three methods explained above for silencing your inner critic, and begin living your best life.
1. Three Superb Exercises For Boosting Your Self-Esteem
2. Stop Making Excuses – Start Living Your Dreams
3. As a Man Thinketh – The Power of Right Thought
4. Strengthening Your Willpower: Four Ways to Listen to The Angel On Your Shoulder
5. How to Make Yourself Lucky
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Comments on this entry are closed.
This is a very helpful article.
It takes courage to know that nothing is as bad as we imagine it will be when we can express our fears with others and put the critic aside.
Hi James: I had a very loud and harsh inner critic when I was younger. I’ve managed to quiet it down, and now I’m working toward making it my Inner Mentor. 🙂
A technique that I have used effectively is to name my inner critic (and not something very flattering). It’s all about putting it in perspective. I like to think of it more as a rambunctious pet than a master and commander. Oh, the name I gave it? I call it L’il Ego. It’s hard to take something named L’il Ego too seriously.
Hi Kenneth: You made me laugh with L’il Ego. 🙂 Now you just need to add, “OK, L’il Ego, thanks for sharing”.