We all have a voice inside that stops us from doing something good for ourselves and discounts our efforts to even think of ourselves in a positive light. It is not our intuition and certainly not our primal instinct. I am referring to the Inner Critic here, which (if you may) looks and feels like a judgmental and scathing family relative.
This fault-finding feature in our brain is the one that has an uproaring sound, so much so that it makes us stop doing what we’re doing and initiates a spiral of thoughts; more like a continuous internal dialogue which consists of a chain of demeaning comments about ourselves. You may have found yourself in a mental situation where a small part of you knew that you could do it, but a bigger part was waiting to voice its opinion which stood out much louder and may have sounded somewhat like this – “Don’t do it, you won’t be able to” or “You’re stupid/ weak, it’s not meant for you.”
Psychologist Dr. Lisa Firestone writes, “Every person is divided; part of us is goal-directed and self-possessed, while another part is self-critical, self-denying, and even self-destructive. This ‘anti-self” perpetuates a negative thought process, which refers to as the critical inner voice.”
The phrase, ‘You are your own enemy’ crops up here. As ironic as it sounds, let’s take a brief look at the Inner Critic’s origin. Our inner critic’s birth occurs because of a daunting childhood experience or a series of painful and critical experiences in nature. Certain correctional behaviors are enforced upon children by elders and other significant caregivers in an attempt to teach them (children) ways of working; not only this but some children are also assigned certain adjectives by their family members or teachers which are, more often than not, related to the child’s physique or intellect.
In some cases, these behaviors are burdened upon a child daily. In the course of growing up, the child internalizes those adjectives and starts associating him/herself with them. This results in a pattern of thinking which consists of self-destructive thoughts. This is why it is very important to be aware of your vocabulary around children (that’s something that will need a whole other article to be addressed).
For now, let’s look at the damage control with regards to the presence of the Inner Critic in our systems. Many professionals in the field of psychology have been intrigued by this phenomenon, after all, the Inner Critic has usually been one of the major hurdles in an individual’s journey of becoming a better version of him/herself. To not let it get the best of you, it is in your hands to train your brain to be your best asset instead of your worst enemy. Some of the ways of doing so are:
Listen, Introspect, Move on:
Listen to what your Inner Critic has to say; see if it is congruent with your current situation. If yes, then make the necessary changes; if not, then carry on with how things were. Don’t forget to distinguish yourself from your Inner Critic; you are not ‘it’. The more you give in to your Inner Critic’s remarks about your life, the more prone you’ll become to lagging on your personal growth chart.
Engage in self-talk:
Thinking out loud or penning down your concerns will help you avoid the degrading effects of your Inner Critic’s remarks. An important point to be noted here is that when we engage in self-talk, there are a lot of things that come out in the process of sharing with ourselves the things we didn’t know we knew. Complicated? In other words, self-talk can lead to a lot of “ah-ha” moments with regards to knowing things about yourself that you think did not exist until that moment.
It’s an unanticipated realization sometimes. Another aspect of self-talk includes affirmations which involves forming positive and empowering statements about yourself and repeating them on a daily basis. This form of deliberate practice ensures a habitual association with the statements which are exclusive to you, the creator.
Don’t act on it:
However loud your Inner Critic may get, remember that you will always be the bigger one. Separating yourself from the adjectives assigned to you by your Inner Critic is very important as discussed earlier; more importantly, not acting out impulsively on the things said about you is necessary. Stay true to your goals and values, and know your priorities. Having clarity about why you’re doing what you’re doing is of immense importance.
Seek help from a professional:
If nothing seems to work for you, don’t hesitate to look for a therapist or a professional. This is a serious battle for which you need to be strong and well-prepared, and there’s no one better than a therapist to help you win it.
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