Everyone has been subject to their inner critic at one point or another. She has the bad habit of popping up every time we are doubting ourselves, making mistakes, feeling a bit low or outside of our comfort zone. She is the faithful companion that we wish we did not have because let’s face it, she does a stellar job at making us feel miserable. Believe it or not, our inner critic is only trying to protect us from getting hurt. Unfortunately, if we do listen to it, our inner critic will keep us small by ensuring that we are always playing safe and preventing us from challenging ourselves and embracing new experiences. Angy Tsafos, women empowerment guide and founder of The NET Life, shares 5 proven tips aimed at tackling your inner critic quickly when she shows up.
Awareness and Separation
The first step is to recognise that your inner critic is here and that she is the one talking to you – this is not the real you. Giving your inner critic a name is a great way to distance yourself from her and see her as the eternal pessimist who brings you down with their negativity. As an example, a popular name that a few other women have used (including myself) is “Mildred”.
So when Mildred starts listing all the things that you did wrong or would not be able to do, greet her and thank her for caring but then promptly ask her to shut up and go sit in the corner.
Reframe into a positive message
Change Mildred’s negative comments into something positive. If your inner critic has said “You don’t know what you are doing. You are such an idiot – just give up already”, change it to “I have never done this before, so it’s ok that it’s taking me longer to complete. I am learning and I am doing the best I can. It will get better. I can do this!”. You can change it to a shorter affirmation that you can repeat to yourself until you feel better. Affirmations are perfect if you need a boost and are a great way to create new positive neural pathways.
Self-compassion all the way
Proceed to treat yourself with kindness. If this does not come easily to you or you are struggling to quieten that voice, then imagine that your best friend or your child came to you and shared these terrible comments. What would you say to them to lift them up and support them? What words of encouragement are needed right now? Do not hesitate to tell yourself these words. Have trust – it gets easier the more you practise this.
Ignore and distract yourself
Do not act on what your inner critic tells you to do. Their advice is very rarely the right one to take. So ignore it and distract yourself by doing something else (preferably something you enjoy doing) or focus on the task at hand by being mindful. For example, notice the colours around you, pay attention to how your legs feel against your seat, really listen to the voice of the person talking to you, notice the colour of their eyes etc. This is all about breaking the flow of negative comments that Mildred has to share.
Your inner critic is misguided but well-meaning. She is trying to prevent you from doing something that she fears will make you look bad or to simply provoke a reaction despite your better judgement. Unfortunately, at some point in your life, your inner critic has learned from past experience (maybe as a result of an exchange with a parent, a teacher or a meanie at school) that by nagging or being harsh, she will obtain the right reaction that will keep you safe. So if you are feeling game and strong, go ahead and ask your inner critic why she is saying these things to you. What is she hoping to achieve? What is she afraid of if she stops talking to you like that? Once you have the answer, you can take the appropriate steps to calm her or even give yourself the moral support you need to move forward.
Remember that your inner critic will always be present in some way or another because we are all human. When you hear her whispering or shouting in your ears, don’t lose heart but apply the techniques you have learnt. Practise makes perfect – so keep going even when it feels tough!