Shutting Down Your Inner Critic
As humans, most of us have an internal dialogue running through our brains all day-and sometimes all night. These thoughts can be positive, such as, “What beautiful weather! I’m so glad I’m off today!” Sometimes they’re neutral: “I’m going to make some coffee.” These thoughts are often comforting, uplifting, or just thoughts that get us from point A to point B.
The thoughts that can be counterproductive, however, are the negative and critical ones- often known as our “Inner Critic.” These are thoughts that chronically point out our own flaws- real or imagined, remind us of our failures - real or exaggerated- and stealthily rob us of hope like a thief in the night. These thoughts often stem from earlier life experiences or attitudes which we’ve “taken on” or internalized.
Steps for Shutting Down The Inner Critic
1. Be aware. Listen for the inner critic’s comments to you. They might sound something like:
Nobody will ever love me
I’m so fat, I’m disgusting
I’m such an idiot
I’ll be alone forever
I don’t fit in
I hate my body
I screwed up- I deserve this
2. Turn it around. Change the “I” statements to “you” statements and feel the difference.
“I’m such an idiot” becomes “You’re such an idiot.”
“I hate my body” becomes “I hate your body.”
“I’m so fat, I’m disgusting” becomes “You’re so fat, you’re disgusting.”
Listen to how mean that really sounds! By doing this, you can see how hurtful those inner critic thoughts are. Would you EVER say these things to someone else? Most of us would never be that mean to anyone, so why be that mean to ourselves?
3. Counter the Critic
While many of us might FEEL like we’re disgusting because we’ve gained weight, it doesn’t help us to keep TELLING ourselves that, does it?
Test it Out: While we might FEEL like we don’t deserve good things because of past mistakes, is that really true? If your best friend said something like, “I screwed up, so I don’t deserve good things to happen in my life,” would you agree with them?
Disarm the Critic: We can take away the critic’s power by admitting to our flaws, but re-framing it positively.
Another method for dealing with those negative thoughts is that of simply shutting them down. When you recognize the Inner Critic “talking” to you, simply have a “shut-down phrase” ready to go and use it often. Examples could be:
I even have one client who uses the phrase “Shut the _ up!” Use whatever works for you to stop the negative thoughts!
Remember that this is a practice of retraining your brain to stop thinking negatively and to begin to think positively. Like any new habit, it takes time for it to become natural. With practice, the new and positive thoughts will be the “automatic” thoughts that pop into your head rather than the critical ones.
You deserve to feel better!