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Day 28. Managing Your Inner Critic With Self-Esteem Driven Responses

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Finding ways to manage and calm down your inner critic helps you to regain control of your thoughts but to also find more loving and productive solutions for the things that you encounter in day-to-day life, helping you put more distance between past experiences and the present. By employing various means of being more boundaried with your inner critic, you can almost make a friend out of it, not a best pal maybe but someone who (when it’s from a boundaried place), keeps you on the straight and narrow, interrogates (and gets you to interrogate) your decisions and ironically, prods you in to listening to your inner voice.

Distinguish inner critic behaviour and thinking from yours.

Announce its arrival and be mindful. “Oh hello old friend…” or “Oh hello {insert character name}”. I sometimes add, “I was wondering when you were going to rock/show up”.

It is vital to recognise inner critic commentary so that it’s immediately distinguishable from your own. It’s a cue to be more mindful and to listen for what you really want and need and who you really are.

Don’t forget about what it thinks that it’s trying to do.

Always remember that your inner critic is a mix of your old fears and judgments as well as that of the inspiration. Acknowledge that it thinks that it’s trying to protect you from a bigger future pain and that part of the way in which it goes about has been about you not trusting your inner voice. If you acknowledge what it thinks that it’s doing, you can then acknowledge who you are right now and tune in to what you think and feel.

Compassionately challenge it and you.

When an outer critic makes a generalisation or doesn’t give constructive criticism, neither provide any real information. Whether it’s an inner or outer critic, you must hold them to account for what has been said.

Rather than saying, “What did you mean by that?” or “What did you mean when you said ___________?”, try your own variation of any of the following:

“So what do I need to do to make it better?” - the focus is on action and shifting away from general statements. At the same time as halting the negative train, you are also getting grounded and making you responsible and accountable for your own feelings too. In turn, you open up your thinking and become solutions orientated.

“What do I need to do in order to make this happen?”

“You say I’m __________________ or that I’m going to ________________ again - what is your basis for that? Give me examples based on the present, not based on the past.”

“Hold that thought. I know you want to feedback now but you will need to wait until I’m done and then I will review and you will have the opportunity to give your input”, which by saying this, you’ve gotten more mindful anyway.

Set some house rules and remind it any time it steps over the line.

Your house rules are your boundaries. If you’re boundaried with you, you will be boundaried with others, inwardly and outwardly. Good boundaries starts at home and don’t let anyone, including your inner critic or even conscious thoughts and actions from you, think that they come in and wreck up your emotional house. Each time you halt bad behaviour from your inner critic in its tracks, you take care of you and you get grounded in the present and mindful.

“I’ve told you before. I won’t stand for you calling me _____________ or saying _____________. Either speak to me respectfully or not at all.”

“I will not listen to you if you’re going to continue taking that tone with me or saying _______________”.

“Halt. Halt. Halt. Thanks for sharing.” (see more thanks below)

Thank it, firmly.

“Hold that thought. Hold that thought. Thanks for sharing.”

“I’ve got this but thank you for your concern”. Learn to say it sincerely and without irritation.

I sometimes say, “I know you’re worried that I’m going to ____________, {insert character name}, but it’s OK. I’ve got this.”

“I really appreciate your concern and that you’re trying to protect me but you’re going to have to trust me. Everything is OK. I’ve got this.”

Throw some humour in.

It really depends on your own sense of humour or who inspires your inner critic but if you can diffuse inner tension with humour, you’ll go a long way in life in learning to laugh about things that used to pain you.

Some of my favourites with mine are, “Having a batsh-t moment are you?” or Vanilla Ice-ing it when my inner critic is trying to get me to imagine all sorts of problems - “Alright stop, collaborate and listen”, which not only makes me laugh but is a stark reminder to focus on solutions.

Don’t let your inner critic overstay its welcome.

Inner critics get a lot of airtime because there is this assumption that they’re entitled to it. They’re treated as if they don’t have to respect the house rules – your boundaries. You don’t let people treat you without love, care, trust, and respect. It’s not that you cannot experience criticism ever but someone hanging around to rag on you and sink your self-esteem has got to learn when to zip it. This means you can have a thought including doubt, but you don’t have to chase it and add on lots of stuff.

Example: “What if I eff it up?………This is going to go wrong…..I can see where this is headed… I should stick to what I know…What was I thinking?….I’m going to be a laughing stock…. Ugh, remember how stupid I felt over that science project?….And the prom? And John? And that fudged promotion?…. Ugh, mum will so be all over me if I get this wrong…”

All of this came from the thought “What if I eff it up?” It’s just a question though not a prophecy of the outcome – you can answer it, you can set it straight. The thought is transformed into so much more because ‘Doubting Thomas’, ‘Sarcastic Sally’ and ‘Debbie Downer’, have popped in and you’ve responded to the presence of your inner critic by offering it up more reasons and evidence. Offer it some counter evidence!

When doubt shows up, ask, What am I not considering? What do I need to be prepared for? What have I already done but am not yet acknowledging?

Fear lets you know when you’re stretching outside of your comfort zone.

Remember that fear is about a perceived threat, not necessarily actual. Access the threat level and get grounded. Remember to compassionately challenge whatever your inner critic is throwing at you, especially around its irrational fears.

Ask yourself, “Whose interests is it in for me to stay in my comfort zone?” and this way, you don’t end up ignoring you but you also don't end up serving old interests from the past.

Don’t project negative perceptions of you onto people and take it as fact.

When you’re convinced that the other person thinks that you’re “stupid”, “ugly”, “talking rubbish”, “making a mess of things” – that’s what’s coming from you and you can change that with interjecting and countering the inner critic’s perception of things with reality.
When I think of some of the reasons why certain critics haven’t wanted me to succeed at something, it’s because they want the same thing and if I go and do it, then it changes their own position or ‘makes’ them look a certain way. Or they might want to keep you in a certain position that’s beneficial to them – you being passive for instance may suit their own agenda. When you recognise this, you see it for what it is, you remind yourself of the truth, and refocus on the task at hand and trying to support you.

Find the ‘key’ or ‘code’ that works.

You have to learn how to talk and keep talking to you until you find the way that works. I think of my daughter Nia and if she’s having a meltdown, me talking calmly to her is more beneficial than me raising my voice and I know that criticising her would certainly not help (it didn’t work on me!). I’ve found that talking calmly to myself (if I’m on my own), writing lists that oppose my critic’s view (i.e. planning against my doubts and fears) and yes, sometimes jerking me back into reality with “Snap out of it!” or “Bygones” as some of my keywords or phrases for jerking me out of negative thought spiral, are very useful. Whenever I say the word “Bygones”, it’s my way of saying “Time’s up!” to the critic and I have to refocus my thoughts.

Be honest about where you’ve overdone things in the past for your critic.
Bearing in mind things that you have done to your perfectionist standard, did it actually feel anywhere near as good as you anticipated that it would? Did you feel satisfied? Did you feel like you got the recognition that you deserved? I’ve actually found that I feel more satisfied by things that I cut myself some slack on. I’ve also found that things that I’ve worried about not being perfect, are loved by others.

You’re not really the best judge of your standards.

Use this information to remind you next time you’re tempted to fall into the same trap of listening to your critic’s advice.

Ask for help.

Your way is not the only way. Better to delegate instead of being a perfectionist martyr. I would rather have help that’s not ‘perfect’ than try to do everything myself.

Choose an area where you’re going to have super-high standards and then relax on the others.

You cannot be a perfectionist with interpersonal relationships. It’ll be exhausting at work but at least its better than trying to be The Perfect Girlfriend/Boyfriend.

Set deadlines.

I am the type of person who without a deadline, will keep looking for the lack of perfection until the end of time. Set a deadline, tell someone about it, be accountable and let it go once the deadline has arrived.

Do less for 7 or 14 days and see if it makes a significant difference.

Say NO a bit more, go at half throttle, instead of doing 10 edits, do three, and basically put half of the energy in that you normally would into your areas of perfection. Sit on your hands if need be and see it as an experiment. You will find that across a number of areas, it’s not noticed, which may annoy you, but it will show that you’re overdoing it. I’ve tested this theory when I take breaks during the summer – it turns out that I’ve been giving myself a hard time over very little. It’s only me who is worrying about my standards and everyone else adjusts around them.

Raise up your volume with affirmations.

A couple of go-to affirmations that you can use on repeat and when your inner critic chatter is high, just keep repeating them. Try saying them in front of the mirror or focusing on your breatj and the sound of your voice as you say them. I find that trying to count them off until I get to twenty repeats is a great distraction and regular repetition is good for your emotional health and rewiring patterns in the brain - check out the Headspace app (it's on IOS and Android) as well as the many resources online about mindfulness and affirmations. My favourite book on affirmations is Louise Hay's, "You Can Heal Your Life". If you haven't done so already, check out the affirmations guide in your Resources.

JOURNALING: How do you feel about the idea of being more in command of you? Does this excite you or scare you? Explore your feelings (remember no judgment) see if you can build on what's coming up with positive reinforcement and encouragement.

 

TASK: Try out some of the suggestions over the next week and make a note in your journal of how you feel during and afterwards.

Think of the times when you're feeling stressed by something and in need of comfort. What are the things that you can say, think and do that help you to positively feel better, even if it doesn't 100% remove the problem? What are the things that take you in the opposite direction of feeling positively better? Do the former.

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