Taming Your Inner Critic
Life can get you down sometimes, but is your inner critic causing you to feel even more down? Consider some ways you can soften the blow of that booming voice inside.
It’s easy to feel defeated and down about things in life. We experience a number of things each day that either don’t go as planned or take us abruptly by surprise and ultimately derail recovery efforts. It’s important to sometimes check in with what you are telling yourself- especially your inner critic. Who is that inner critic anyway? It’s the negative voice that easily finds its way into our thoughts and damages our ability to move forward. Sometimes it’s the thing that also weighs down any positive thinking and attaches itself to unnecessary situations.
In example, a person may be looking forward to a positive interview with a new potential job. They spent a great deal of time preparing and doing all the right things in an interview. Let’s say that person got the crushing news that they were not chosen for the position. It’s awful to feel that kind of letdown. The inner critic may send a message that they “failed” and were “completely rejected” without considering alternative reasons for why the job went to someone else. From the employer standpoint there are numerous reasons why that person may have not gotten the position but it can be taken quite personally.
The inner critic can be fast at work sending negative messages that any future options to pursue a similar position (or any in general) will end up as a failed mission. It’s a real blow to the ego when one puts so much effort into being the perfect candidate. That inner critic now has an opportunity to spread the negativity to other areas of life. Dropped and broke a dish? “Well, since I didn’t get the job, it just makes perfect sense that I can’t even keep a dish from breaking.” The negativity can continue to snowball. Missed the bus? Forgot your keys? Got a stain on one of your nicer shirts? That inner critic can swoop right in and tell you how awful you are when these things happen when what is really happening is that you accidentally did something or maybe you have been feeling overwhelmed and distracted. It’s human to have these things happen!
It’s probably fair to say we can’t eliminate the inner critic completely and perhaps it can sometimes serve as something helpful (such as when you know you didn’t put your best foot forward on something and you feel motivated to change.) The idea is to keep it contained and allow for it to be used within reason. In other words, while you may have not landed the job- stamp out the inner critic with rationalizing your thoughts, (“I may have not gotten that job. I’m not giving up and maybe there was something to be learned from that experience. I’m not going to let this hold me back from moving forward.”) It’s an opportunity for you to practice some positive thinking. It’s not easy to look beyond something you were looking forward to- allow yourself the ability to grieve that loss and continue to move forward.
If you find that you are having a difficult time managing your inner critic, perhaps something deeper is going on and you may want to consider talking things over with a counselor or therapist. In the long term, it’s not healthy to be a Negative Nancy because it can hinder your ability to grow as a person.
Some creative ways you can keep the inner critic in check is to give it a personality! Maybe think of a nickname to give it so when you start realizing the inner critic is peering out when you need it least you can just say to yourself “Well, I guess old Gus is at it again!” The reason this may help is because it can provide a way to detach from making it feel like a person failure or personal flaw within you. If you think about it you wouldn’t welcome an intruder in your home, would you?
Make the effort to tame your inner critic and let it know you are not allowing it to rent space in your head. So, next time you can say, “Hey, nasty Dan, you’re not welcome!” and kick him to the curb. It may not be a perfect solution right away but the more you practice managing your inner critic, the better you will become at balancing your thoughts with more positive ones.
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Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.