Overcoming that Critical Inner Voice
We all have it…that critical inner voice that sounds a lot like ourselves but is meaner than a caged wet cat with a child pulling its tail. Yes, you’re not the only one with a voice in your head that tells you you’re ugly, that tells you not to even try, that tries to get you to believe that you’re different, in a bad way, from everyone around you. Some of the favorites are, “Why bother? You’ll never be able to do that.” Or, “Look at that flab (or big ears, or long nose, or wrinkled skin…insert your favorite insecurity) no one will find you attractive.” There are some nice anxiety inducing favorites like, “You have so much on your plate, you CANNOT handle this stress.” Or, “If you take that risk everyone will think you’re a fool. Better to keep things the way they are.” This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now, it’s important to realize that this voice is most often believed to be fact. When you start to consider your own internal stories you’re going to think, “Ya, but that’s just the truth.” It’s not. The fodder for the voice is usually things we picked up when we were young from caregivers or from life experiences that are internalized and turned into ways we think about ourselves. This doesn’t even begin to make them fact.
The thing is, this critical inner voice is an internal enemy. It’s not your conscience, it’s the negative commentator that seems to have no other purpose than to hold you back and make you small and afraid. I don’t know why we have one of these, but it is no small enemy. This bad guy has super powers and WILL affect every aspect of our lives if we let it. It will affect how we feel about ourselves, what we dare try, how big we will live, if we will follow our dreams, if we will even get in the arena of life to participate. It affects how we see others and what we think of them. It will affect our intimate relationships, our performance, and how we feel – happy, sad, envious, depressed, hopeless, joyful, hopeful, etc. Now, that’s a lot of power.
So, how does one start taking charge? How do you pull out this villain’s kryptonite, so to speak?
Here are 4 steps taken from PsychAlive to help us get a handle on this voice:
- Start listening: Identify what it says.
- Separate yourself from the comments the voice (you) makes by changing the “I’m backward and awkward” to “You’re backward and awkward,” and creating a separate identity – an alien identity for the voice.
- Respond back with a more realistic and compassionate evaluation of yourself. Such as, “I’m not a creep. There is nothing wrong with me. I’m not going to listen to you anymore. I may be shy but everyone is uncomfortable sometimes and that’s okay. I’m a nice person and people like me.”
- Stop acting on the inner critic’s advice. See it for what it is and start making changes.
This process is a life-long endeavor, but the changes it can make in your life when you start recognizing and changing these stories cannot be over estimated. It can save your life, literally. For more information on the idea of the stories we tell to ourselves about ourselves tune into the Love Your Story podcast. Check out episode 006 and episode 054, and look for the free audio book that will be available October of 2017.