Hushing Your Inner Critic

I was the guest Psychologist on Leigh Bennie’s “A Word on Psychology” show last night (Cape Talk/702 Talk Radio). The topic was “Hushing Your Inner Critic.” Interestingly, we did not have many callers but there was a flood of sms’s and emails to the studio. Understandably, it illustrates how difficult it is to admit our inner judgements and criticisms to a public forum. If we were to verbalise our inner critic to others, many would be surprised by how hard we are on ourselves. If we were to hear our negative self-talk coming from a partner or friend, we would be shocked by their disrespect and cruelty. But why is it acceptable to say these things to ourselves?

We all have an inner voice – sometimes the commentary can be positive, encouraging and motivating and other times it can be negative, judgemental and discouraging. The latter, often referred to as the inner critic, can at times be shrugged off or ignored. It can even be seen as motivating to change our behaviour if questioned and challenged appropriately. When we are in a vulnerable state or feeling depressed, this voice can be much louder and more prominent. We begin to perceive it as fact and place high demands on ourselves.

The key to changing your inner critic would be to understand what it is saying. How can we change or restructure our thinking without knowing exactly what we are thinking! Our inner critic is usually irrational, unrealistic and unhelpful. Get into a habit of writing down a list of your thoughts that are critical and nasty. Many of these are automatic and we are unaware of how often we think of them. Start to evaluate these thoughts by asking yourself three questions about each:

  • Is it an objective fact – is there evidence to support that it is true?
  • Is this thought helping me?
  • Is it logical?

If you answer no to these questions, start working on more rational, realistic and helpful statements about yourself. The reality is that we are not all going to be good at everything and that sometimes we have flaws that we would like to change. If we fail an exam, it would be rational to say that “I am disappointed by my results,” or “I need to work harder next time.” Failing an exam does not make us stupid, worthless or a complete failure (things our inner critic would say).

Translate your inner critic into self-statements that are motivating, realistic and helpful to achieving your goals. As Leigh said, “Wear an invisible crown!”