Will you please just shut up? I’m tired of listening to you. Who are you anyway? Are you me? Am I you?
There are times when that inner voice is nothing short of ruthless. We’ve listened to her for so long that, despite our self-care, our achievements and the fact that we know better, “she” can get to us.
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, explains this persistent phenomenon: “Your critical inner voice is not a reflection of reality. It is a viewpoint you adopted based on destructive early life experiences and attitudes directed toward you that you’ve internalized as your own point of view.”
In other words, she is not you!
Being human – and hard on ourselves – we tend to forget this. But, we don’t have to get stuck there. Instead, we can adopt a few key strategies to put a lid on our inner critic when she starts with her negative commentary.
Rethink your “categories” when you make a mistake:
We tend to think in terms of absolutes: good/bad; right/wrong; thin/fat. With no wiggle room, it’s little wonder that our inner critic starts yapping. Work on replacing those stringent absolutes with more nuanced assessments. Adopting the phrase “it’s good enough” has made an immeasurable difference in my self-talk as well as in the quality of my days. Releasing the unattainable standard of perfection is nothing short of liberating! Examples: “I’m a good enough gardener” or “That meal? It was good enough.”
Focus on lessons learned when you screw up:
There. I’ve said it. There are times when we do “screw up,” when even “it was good enough” feels like a stretch. When that happens, step back and take a lesson from the situation by considering what you learned. I once put something in a professional email that I clearly should have deleted before pressing “Send.” Ah, but too late. With my tail between my legs, I made an apology and asked for forgiveness. That single incident has stayed with me for decades, and its lesson has stood the test of time.
Here’s a top strategy recommended by many psychologists:
Depersonalize your inner critic by substituting “she” for “I.”
The further you can distance yourself from “her,” the better. So, instead of “I can be such a jerk,” try “She can be such a jerk.” Give it a shot. It feels really good to put her in her place! Here’s another way to do so:
Learn to talk back!
When “she” gets on a roll, learn to stand up for yourself. Remember that she thinks in terms of absolutes:
“You’re so dumb.”
“You never get it, do you?”
She is so wrong about you! You can talk back by being kinder and gentler with yourself while also being more accurate:
“I’m still learning this, remember?”
“I may not always ‘get it,’ but I often do.”
“There’s no such thing as hopeless. Besides, I have plenty of strengths!”
Act in accordance with your true self:
By following these strategies, you are far less likely to act on the negative perceptions and assessments of your inner critic. But, if you do find yourself following her unwise counsel, check yourself.
- Remember that she’s coming from a distorted perception of you.
- Focus on all of the great things about you.
- Reflect on your values and priorities because she tends to get caught up in the stupid stuff!