Self-criticism used constructively can be a helpful motivator to push ourselves further, to excel, and to go the extra mile. However, when self-criticism gets loud enough to induce fear, low self-esteem, and self-doubt, it is a blow to our confidence. Thus, a harsh inner critic can severely impact mental well being to the extent of rendering a person incapable of performing. It can lead to further issues such as brain freeze, procrastination, ADHD paralysis, and, of course, anxiety and depression. How to silence your inner critic is the focus of this article, helping you learn ways to eliminate the self-induced belief that you’re not good enough.

What is an Inner critic?

Your inner critic is that voice in the back of your head, the voice of self-judgement residing in your mind. In some people, it becomes a nagging presence, questioning every decision, action, and thought. It reinforces negative beliefs about oneself, undermines confidence, and magnifies flaws. It is basically a self-gaslighter with the sole aim of creating a constant self-chatter of negativity, battering one’s self-esteem.

There are many faces of an inner critic, depending on the triggers and conditions of its manifestation. It could be a motivating force or an abusive, aggressive self-assertion gone very wrong. Self-criticism can be extremely painful reinforcing the belief that one is inefficient and incompetent.

How an Inner Critic Impacts Mental Health and Well Being

An inner critic can be extremely damaging to self confidence and create a sense of mistrust in one’s abilities. Allowing a harsh inner critic to control you can not just fill you with self-doubt, but the repeated toxicity can eat into your mind, leading to anxiety, helplessness, fear, and depression. It can impact one’s quality of life and make it difficult to pursue goals in career and personal life. If not checked in time, self-criticism can become a demotivating obstacle to one’s personal growth.

According to the experts, a toxic and intense form of self-criticism can even lead to acts of self-harm, self-destruction, and self-accusations, especially in individuals with suicidal ideation. Some examples of inner critical thoughts usually expressed as a secondary person are:

  • You are obese and ugly
  • You are incompetent and don’t deserve a job
  • You are a stupid failure
  • You are disliked and will always be alone
  • Nobody gives a damn what you think

How to Silence an Inner Critic

Silencing an inner critic begins with understanding the psychology behind an inner critic and what it really means. You will be surprised at how the intentions behind an inner critic are not bad, although the process by which the criticism is expressed is. That is inevitably due to external influences, the social environment, and possibly childhood trauma. Here are ways to silence your inner critic

Understand Your Inner Critic

An inner critic is part of our subconscious, trying to attract our attention to our own well-being. It can be regarded as a survival mechanism in response to environmental threats or the fear of failure. An inner critic has good intentions, attempting to take care of us, albeit in an unhealthy way. What’s ironic is how your inner critic is you, and what creates an inner critic to be helpful or intimidating needs self-reflection and an understanding of the triggers that bring about such self-condemnation. When you begin self-exploration and uncover the bully behavior of your inner critic, you will find nothing but a mask hiding fear. Once you realize that your inner critic is your own fear trying to help you, the self-destructive power is gone.

Don’t Wish Your Inner Critic Away, Don’t Nurture It Either

It isn’t always advisable to nurture your inner critic, thinking it is a motivator for change. Self-criticism is ok in temporary circumstances, but in the long term, it can result in burnout, anxiety, a constant need to excel, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and anxiety. This can prevent you from enjoying life. Alternately, wishing your inner critic away or telling it to zip it because of the stress and anxiety it causes, makes it roar even stronger in your head.

Instead of such unhealthy approaches, explore your inner critic and hear it out

  • What is your Inner Critic trying to tell you?
  • What type of tone does it have?
  • What triggers your inner critic to wake up?

Identify the situations and triggers that wake up your inner critic and associate them with your feelings. Such things will help you make a deeper connection and understanding of yourself and the reason for your inner critic. More than you know, it is your own feelings and emotions that can give you valuable clues about the nature of your inner critic and when it makes itself present.

Practice Self-Compassion

The next time your inner critic expresses something harsh, acknowledge how such things hurt. Cultivating self-compassion even when it’s you causing your own suffering. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, especially in moments of difficulty or failure. Rather than berating ourselves for our mistakes, we can adopt a more compassionate stance, recognizing that imperfection is a natural part of being human.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Challenging the negativity of an inner critic requires some self-introspection. While you can provide evidence of your competence that contradicts the voice of self-doubt and criticism, how do you stop it? What you need to do is explore the real basis of such criticism, and ask yourself, Where is it coming from? Often, triggers of low self-esteem, poor confidence, and a fear of failure are all tools we provide to an inner critic to slam us with its negativity. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do you feel the way you do?
  • What makes you experience such thoughts and emotions?

These are questions that can be answered through counselling and various cognitive therapies that bring out the root cause of our problems. It could be early trauma, overwhelming workplace stress, or social stress. Discovering the root cause and applying cognitive techniques like cognitive restructuring can then induce healthier thoughts and a more productive form of inner critic.

Consider ACT

A good form of therapy to turn an inner critic into a positive experience is ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT encourages acceptance rather than denial to transform your inner critic into just mental chatter that needs to be accepted as part of your cognitive function and then let it go through distraction. Moreover, acceptance therapy will help you understand that your inner critic isn’t going to disappear, but what you can change is how you respond to it.

Set Realistic Expectations

The inner critic often thrives on unrealistic expectations and perfectionism. Setting achievable goals and recognizing that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process can help temper its harsh judgments.

Turn Your Inner Critic into an Asset

Rather than fight your inner critic, begin to treat it like a second opinion or feedback. You need to identify all the negative emotions and self-beliefs you experience. Write them down, if necessary, in the manner of someone speaking to you. Analyze the thoughts that you’ve written down, dismiss the negativity, and consider thoughts that could be helpful to you.

Practice Self-Care

Engaging in self-care activities that nourish our bodies and minds is crucial for combating the negative effects of the inner critic. Whether it’s exercising, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing hobbies, prioritize self-care practices that bring you joy and relaxation.

Challenge Perfectionism

Perfectionism Syndrome is often at the root of the inner critic’s relentless demands for flawlessness. Embrace the idea that striving for progress, not perfection, is the key to personal growth and fulfillment.

Seek Professional Help

If the inner critic persists despite your efforts to silence it, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor. They can provide valuable insights and techniques for managing self-critical thoughts and improving overall mental well-being. Understanding each of these points will help you realize, your inner critic is part of you, and isn’t going to vanish any time soon. It is a persistent presence in our lives, but it doesn’t have to dictate our sense of self-worth or limit our potential. Through mindful and pro-active living, self-compassion, and adopting healthy coping mechanisms, you could silence an inner critic or cultivate it for a more nurturing inner dialogue.

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Last Update: 30 April 2024

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