Everyone has had the experience of being excited about a new project, new challenge, or a new promotion, only to have a little voice in their head start to create doubt. This often starts with thoughts about being in “over my head” or lacking the education, the experience, or perhaps the expertise to get the job done.
This negative voice or monologue in our heads is something that is often called an inner critic. For some, it is a relatively infrequent experience, while for others, it can become a pervasive way of thinking that limits your willingness to try new things and to challenge yourself to be the best you can be.
The inner critic in your head is a toxic voice. It is not the voice of caution or reason, and unless we can identify it and change the message, it will impact our self-esteem, self-assurance, and our ability to challenge ourselves or to take steps forward in our careers or our professional endeavors. Keep in mind, the more we hear something, regardless of its accuracy, the more likely we are to accept it as the truth.
Is Your Inner Critic Over-Active?
In some cases, the inner voice that is questioning or critical is actually helpful. For example, if you want to go to the gym every day and you try to justify to yourself why you are not going to go, the inner critic may call you out, helping you to stay on track and meet your goal. On the other hand, if the inner voice starts a monologue about how you have tried to go to the gym before and it didn’t work, this may limit you from making the effort, creating a self-defeating message.
Negative self-talk can create stress and anxiety. It can also create distortions in how you see yourself and your abilities on a personal or professional level. It can talk you out of trying for promotions, taking advanced classes or degrees, or sharing creative ideas with the team for fear of criticism or rejection.
Taming Your Inner Critic
The first big step is to become aware of the negative inner talk in your mind. Isolate the message and reality test what your inner critic is saying. For example, if the inner critic says you won’t go to the gym, take your time and argue your case. Tell yourself why you will go to the gym, how you will support your goals, and how you can tap into other resources, such as a workout buddy, to help you to stay on track.
This is effective in both challenging the negative message, as well as creating a positive, planned, alternative message. This message can be repeated on a daily basis, helping to build a more realistic and beneficial inner perspective about yourself. This is a skill that anyone can use, and it is very effective at stopping that inner critic and building up your self-awareness and confidence in your abilities.