Everyone has an inner critic. The inner critic is typically formed when we are very young. It is comprised of all the negative messages we heard as a child, all the failures, and how the people around us responded to those failures, errors, or mistakes. In many cases, the inner critic is also developed from what we witnessed in the family and how people were judged, demeaned, or criticized.
Over time, this inner critic reinforces all the negative thoughts we have about ourselves by constantly repeating those old stories and beliefs. This is the voice in your head that provides all the reasons you will not succeed, aren’t good enough, or will never measure up.
Inner Critic Vs. Inner Guide
The inner critic is not the same as a warning message about potential risk or decision. The inner guidance voice does not say things like:
- You can’t
- You should not try
- Your wrong
- You will fail
- You are not good enough
- No one cares about you
Instead, the inner guidance voice may say positive things like:
- Is this the best way to do this?
- What are the risks and the rewards?
- You have been successful at something like this in the past
- You have the abilities you need to do this
The good news is that you can learn to manage your inner critic while still listening to your inner guidance. The first steps is to realize that it is your inner critic talking and become aware of the distortion of reality in the message.
Recognize the Inner Critic
When you hear those negative or unproductive messages, recognize they are from the inner critic. This is not the truth. It is only the inner critic’s perspective based on experiences and events that happened when you were young and only had a child’s perspective.
Reality-Test the Information
Once you recognize the inner critic is guiding these thoughts, it is helpful to take the time to identify the message and write it down. Write down the thoughts as they are presented by the inner critic. For example, “My inner critic thinks I will fail.”
Prepare a Response
Responding to your inner critic by providing a reality-based statement that includes accurate information and current examples is important. Using the idea from above, a response may look like:
“While there is always a risk of failure, I have the skills, knowledge, abilities, and experience to understand the problem, create a solution, and achieve my goals. I have resources, support, and I can consult with others if I need help or run into a problem”.
Practicing this strategy will be instrumental in not only managing your inner critic, but also in building up your sense of self-awareness of the talents, skills, and abilities you possess.