You can be your own worst enemy.
You know the little voice in your head saying negative things about you?
Everyone has looked in the mirror before and thought ‘you look ugly today’, or had a nagging ‘this isn’t good enough’ monologue running through their minds when working on something.
This voice is called your ‘inner critic’. It’s a concept used in psychology to describe a sort of subpersonality inside each of us that judges and demeans us and others around us.
Life Coach, Dr Dain Heer says our inner critics affect every area of our lives.
“Not only can it create feelings of negativity and self-doubt; self-judgment can affect every facet of your life, from romantic relationships and friendships to career moves and important life choices,” he says.
“This judgment can impact your physical wellbeing in incredibly real ways, from depression and anxiety to diseases. It is truly impacting us in more ways than we may care to see.”
Women are particularly plagued by self-condemning thoughts, and Heer believes it’s because we’re more aware of how we’re perceived by other people. A recent study found most women say negative things to themselves up to eight times a day, with weight and appearance being the thoughts troubling us most. But Heer believes that because self-judgement is learned, it can also be unlearned. The best way to do this is to determine the ways in which we’re unintentionally giving our inner critic too much power. Here are some of the most common…
By not acknowledging it
Your inner critic will have a really easy time sabotaging aspects of your life if you’re not even aware it exists.
“We come into this world, wide-eyed with wonder and accepting of everything,” Heer explains.
“But we’re soon taught to judge the situations and people in our lives as either right or wrong, including ourselves.”
Because many of us have developed our inner critics over many years, putting ourselves down can become an automatic reaction. Stopping this impulse is the first step, and you can do this by being aware of when your inner critic is butting in where it isn’t welcome.
By surrounding yourself with the wrong people
If you don’t have the right friends or support group, your inner critic will have a much easier time pulling you down.
“Ninety-eight per cent of your thoughts, feelings and emotions don’t belong to you; we pick them up from others around us. We’re like psychic radios. Consider this: when you’re around a sad person, you tend to get sadder,” explains Heer.
So if your friends are negative, the chances of your inner critic’s negative words affecting you will be higher, because you don’t have anyone positive around to challenge those thoughts. There are many signs you might not be hanging around with the right people, and ditching those toxic friendships is a great place to start.
“Being around people who don’t judge and are happy will result in you starting to feel lighter and more joyful,” reinforces Heer.
You expect perfection in yourself
Many of the thoughts your inner critic will throw at you will be about things completely out of your control. Being critical of yourself because it unexpectedly rained on the day of the conference you planned isn’t helpful, fair, or worthwhile. Heer suggests giving up being perfect to quiet your inner critic when it judges you for things you can’t control.
“We hold expectations and other points of view about how life – and we – should be. When those expectations aren’t met, we believe it’s because we’ve failed – we make ourselves, ‘failures’ or ‘wrong’. In doing so, we’re unable to see the greatness that we naturally posess.”
So take a step back and ask yourself if you have control over what happened; if you don’t, you have to let it go. Your inner critic can’t judge you for something you don’t have control over if you don’t let it. This can be hard to do, especially if you have anxiety or depression, so sometimes getting therapy to assist with your thoughts can be helpful.
By ignoring the positive things
It’s really easy for your inner critic to push aside the positive and replace it with negativity. You can see this in the way your inner critic affects romantic relationships. In the beginning of a relationship, everything is amazing. But as time goes by, and you stop appreciating all of the good things about your partner, your inner critic starts to push negative thoughts into your head.
“When you are in a constant state of negative judgment, you approach your relationship assuming that your partner is also going to think you are bad or wrong. Subconsciously you teach your partner to have this point of view about you.” Heer explains.
However, Heer says if you’re aware of this thought pattern, you can stop it in its tracks by showing appreciation for all of the positive things your inner critic is pushing aside. You can help make this process be a bit easier by keeping a gratitude journal.
By giving your inner critic too much attention
Your inner critic is really good at repeating a thought over and over again – turning small problems into massive hurdles, and changing insignificant thoughts into damaging fears. Thinking your colleague is better than you at your job is something everyone has experienced and is a really easy thought to give a lot of unnecessary attention to, but unless you ignore it, your work is likely to suffer, along with your self-esteem.
“The next time you hear a voice telling you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or that someone else is more talented than you, say, “I have a different point of view”,” Heer suggests.
“Keep saying it until you feel lighter. You will disrupt the voice of the inner critic and the pattern that you are used to functioning in, so you can receive a different possibility or outcome.”
And by giving your inner critic less attention, you give it less power to affect you.
Images via giphy.com and tumblr.com.
Comment: Do you have an inner critic? What are your tips on quieting self-judgement?