Dr. Fred Johnson
How to Empower Your Self-Talk & Overcome Your Inner Critic
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
5 WAYS TO ADDRESS YOUR INNER CRITIC
We all battle the inner critic that lives in our heads. Negative self-talk sabotages our effectiveness and, in return, our ability to serve, impact, and lead those around us. In short, we get in our own way. However, there's hope. If you want to change your behavior, you must begin by changing the way you think. And that change is possible.
You will not be able to soak up the joy found in day-to-day life if you give in to the shame of your inner critic. The inner critic creates and sustains anxiety, and anxiety will not take you down the path of truth. Instead, anxiety builds bridges to worries and fears that you won't ever reach. Changing your self-talk can seem daunting, but it is a noble pursuit to change your behaviors and live a more fruitful life. Here are five ways to do just that:
1. BRING IT OUT OF THE SHADOWS
The first step is to bring the constant stream of criticism into the light. Become aware of your self-doubt and fears. There is valuable information to be had when you are willing to explore the veracity of the claims flying through your mind.
You are going to be afraid. Fear is not a sign of weakness; being dominated by fear is where you will get into trouble. Acknowledge your fears, don't let them claim ownership of you. When these thoughts seek to dominate your attention, slow down, take a breath, and begin to interrogate the truth of the claims presented in your mind. Trust your history. Trust your experience. You have made it through difficulty before. Looking at the worst outcome isn't easier than looking for the positive one.
2. PUT DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR INNER CRITIC
You are more than your thoughts. They do not define you. Creating distance between your thoughts and your identity is crucial to understanding the battlefield of the mind. One helpful way to do this is to name your inner critic.
Take a few moments to visualize the inner critic in your mind. What do they look like? Are they tall? What do they sound like? Is their voice grating to you? Name them. Create some distance. Separation creates the opportunity for greater control. When your inner critic takes control of the steering wheel and drives you towards destruction, put them in the backseat. Take control. The adult should be driving the vehicle.
3. STOP GIVING YOUR INNER CRITIC FUEL BY COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
Your challenge is not to become someone else. Your worst self is someone else. Your challenge is to become your best self. You will not be your coworker, but you can be the best you with your unique talents, gifts, and abilities. Comparison is the thief of authentic joy.
For some, these thoughts drive stubborn action; for others, they freeze them in their tracks. Carl Jung writes, "Shame is a soul-eating emotion." Compete with yourself each day and avoid the weight of shame in comparing yourself with something you shouldn't be. Redirect your attention to areas of life that align with your purpose and bring you joy when self-defeating thoughts seek to dominate your attention.
4. DON'T GIVE YOUR POWER TO OTHER'S EXPECTATIONS
Similarly, the expectations of others live outside of our locus of control. Shifting your focus and concerns to the areas in life within your control frees up your mind. You don't have to carry the world's weight on your shoulders. You may just have to carry the weight of your own.
When you feel your power slipping away, pursue honest feedback from a trusted voice. Your pursuit is a positive step that helps restore your locus of control. Consider the value of a coach who can help provide positive accountability. Whether a friend, therapist, or even a coworker, we all need timely reminders when our thoughts do not match reality. It will also support the first two steps; people reveal the falsehoods that we can't see when we're too close to a situation. They help us bring our inner critic into the light and create distance. This change doesn't have to be a lonely pursuit.
5. PRACTICE POSITIVE SELF-TALK
Perhaps most importantly, you may wonder what will replace these thoughts rattling around your mind. Compassion takes action. Move beyond empathy; learn to be compassionate toward yourself. Replace the negative thoughts with affirmations of your ability to handle situations. Trust your history. Failure isn't a shameful experience. We all fail. It's an opportunity to try something else.
You are enough to handle challenges. You are enough to address your inner critic. This behavior won't change overnight, but change is possible, and practicing these pivots will help you get there. Celebrate the progress you make. You can do it.